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Archive for Friday, November 6, 1998

November 6, 1998

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City officials hope to have an upgraded and expanded Wastewater Treatment Plant up and running by the end of 2002.

Lawrence city commissioners are getting ready to pour $40.5 million into upgrading and expanding the city's sewage treatment plant.

Now they just have to find the money.

Commissioners, city staffers and engineering consultants are reviewing plans for major water and sewer projects planned for the next five years, and met earlier this week to compare notes.

The biggest project on tap: Expansion of the city's Wastewater Treatment Plant, 1400 E. Eighth, to satisfy the city's growth, meet governmental regulations and maintain quality service.

"It's big," Commissioner John Nalbandian said. "It's big dollars, and the impetus comes from growth, regulations and maintenance. The kicker is, how are we going to pay?"

To help them decide, commissioners likely will hire Black & Veatch to compile a rate study that outlines financing options for the project, targeted for finished construction by the end of 2002. The rate study would need to be finished by spring, so that commissioners could establish new sewer rates for the city's 2000 budget.

The last time the city hired Black & Veatch to do a rate study -- it cost $49,000 in 1995 -- the consulting engineers recommended increasing overall utility rates by about 6 percent a year. Combined, city water and sewer service rates have increased between 6 percent and 8 percent a year since 1990, Nalbandian said.

"If we keep increasing utility rates 8 percent a year," Nalbandian said, "and it's needed -- and I'm not saying it's not needed -- at some point someone's going to say, `What's going on here?' "

Steve Phillips, a Black & Veatch partner and project manager for engineering city sewage projects, said the expanded and upgraded plant was necessary for three simple reasons:

  • Growth. As the city expands, its residents and businesses run more faucets and flush more toilets. The southeastern area of town already has grown from 7,600 residents three years ago to nearly 10,000 today.
  • New regulations. The city's current wastewater permit expires Dec. 31, and the new one is expected to require that the city step up its ammonia-removal efforts. That means more filters, aeration basins and other costly plant components.
  • System reliability. The plant hasn't had any major upgrade since 1975, and it's showing its age. New equipment is recommended.

-- Mark Fagan's phone message number is 832-7188. His e-mail address is mfagan@ljworld.com.

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