Area residents can take their pick of reasons why they should be interested in plans to build a new sewage treatment plant on the Wakarusa River: the environment, the city's future growth, or perhaps, because at nearly $80 million it will be the largest city project in memory.
"I don't know that we have ever built something with that type of price tag," said Debbie Van Saun, assistant city manager who is overseeing the project.
Members of the public will have a chance to learn more at a meeting at 7 p.m. today at the South Junior High School auditorium, 2734 La.
Van Saun said that officials from the city and from the engineering firm Black & Veatch would be on hand to provide a "Wastewater 101" overview of why the plant is needed and how it will operate. The officials also will answer questions.
Van Saun said, though, that the big question of exactly where the plant would be hasn't been answered yet. Leaders want to hear from the public before they get serious about selecting a specific site, which could be upward of 100 acres, Van Saun said. The city has said that it would look at sites up and down the Wakarusa River from the Clinton Dam to east of Lawrence near County Road 1057.
"We want to start an education process," Van Saun said. "We want to hear some of their fears about appearance, about odor, about the acceptability of a treatment facility. And we also want people to know that there is technology that has made the process friendly to the environment and to neighbors."
The city already has appointed a citizens advisory group to be involved with the entire process. It includes representatives from various environmental, neighborhood and agricultural groups, in addition to Kansas University, Haskell Indian Nations University and the Lawrence public schools.
"We probably will have the same concerns that the general public would have in terms of cost and consequences to neighbors," said Michael Campbell, chairman of the Wakarusa group of the Sierra Club and a member of the advisory committee.
What: "Wastewater 101" overview When: 7 p.m. today Where: South Junior HIgh School auditorium, 2734 La.
But Campbell said he was sure environmental issues also would spark a lot of discussion.
"We're interested in making sure that they have the most up-to-date technology so that it can be treated in the cleanest way possible," Campbell said.
Van Saun said city officials also wanted to drive home the need for the project. Current projections call for the city's existing sewer plant to reach its capacity once the city reaches 100,000 people, which is expected by 2011. Van Saun said the additional plant was needed to ensure the city could keep issuing building permits after 2011. The new plant, which is scheduled to open in early 2011, is designed to allow the community to grow to 150,000 people. Current projections call for the city to reach that size by 2025.
All of the sewer projections are based on a 2003 study conducted by Black & Veatch. That is the same study that has been questioned by developers as providing population projections that are too low. City officials have put restrictions on issuing new building permits in the northwest area of the city until further studies are done for that area of town.
But Van Saun said she was confident that the city had good information to work with to develop the sewer treatment plant.
"We haven't seen anything to indicate that we're on a path that is inappropriate." Van Saun said.
She said the city hoped to have the number of potential sites narrowed to two or three by mid-2006. Once a site is selected, receiving the necessary state environmental permits and designing the facility will take upward of two years. Construction is expected to begin in 2009.
The project is being paid for through sewer fees. City commissioners at the beginning of this year increased sewer rates by 9 percent.