City commissioners agreed Tuesday to put a project that is designed to boost the city's sewer capacity on the fast track.
Commissioners at their weekly meeting selected the engineering firm Burns & McDonnell and the construction firm Garney LLC to enlarge the sewage pump station near Sixth and Kentucky streets.
By hiring an engineering firm and construction company to work simultaneously, work on the project should be completed several months early.
"We've had a failure at that station in the past, and it is a key part of our sewer conveyance system," said Commissioner Mike Amyx, referring to a rain storm this summer when the pumps didn't work properly and allowed untreated sewage to flow into the adjacent Kansas River. "To not allow this to move on a fast track would be a big mistake."
Officials in the city's utility department have said that in addition to mechanical problems, the pump station - which is more than 50 years old - has shown signs of being overloaded. The pump station has created concerns about the city's ability to accommodate growth in the northwest portion of the city because the station moves much of the sewage from that area of town to the treatment plant in East Lawrence.
The pump station is scheduled to be completed in early 2007. Originally the station wasn't scheduled to be completed until late 2007 or early 2008, but the project was pushed forward after the city began placing conditions on new development plans saying that building permits can't be issued until the city further studies the area's sewer system.
Dave Wagner, the city's assistant director of utilities, said plans call for the pump station to be enlarged from its current capacity to pump 8 million gallons of sewage a day to 18 million gallons a day. But Wagner said engineers will look at making the station larger, depending on what an ongoing study of development patterns in the northwest part of the city show.
"We don't want to make it a whole lot bigger than it has to be, but we definitely don't want to make it any smaller than it needs to be," Wagner said.
The project has an estimated cost of $1.6 million, and it was budgeted to be paid for through previously approved sewer rate increases.