Hurry every chance you get.
That's the general message that city leaders have given crews that are designing a new $76 million sewer plant that is needed by 2011 to ensure that the community can accommodate additional growth.
"We have a drop-dead date here, and this is an issue that you really don't want to drop dead on," City Commissioner Sue Hack said.
Meeting - or beating - the deadline is important because current projections call for the city's existing sewer plant to reach its capacity once the city reaches 100,000 people, which is expected in 2011. Assistant City Manager Debbie Van Saun said the additional plant - which would be built somewhere along the Wakarusa River - 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.
But the need for speed leaves staff members and engineers conducting a balancing act. They want to speed the process up, but also realize that the project - thought to be the most expensive ever undertaken by City Hall - will impact the community for decades to come.
"There could be some real long-term consequences if we just focus on meeting an artificial deadline," City Commissioner David Schauner said.
Thus far, though, staff members have said they believe they can both speed the project up and maintain its quality. Currently, engineers believe that the project is about three months ahead of schedule. They believe that it can be sped up more by choosing a builder earlier than normal and allowing that builder to work side-by-side with the designers, which should accelerate the process of receiving bids from subcontractors who will help build the plant.
At the moment, city leaders are searching for the right location to build the plant. The location could need to be several hundred acres, which will make finding and buying a piece of property an extended process. City commissioners haven't yet publicly narrowed down the area where they are looking for property, other than to say that it will be along the Wakarusa River.
How quickly the city is able to find a site will play a large role in how fast the project moves forward. The project requires a multitude of state and federal permits. Design work on the plant can't begin until a specific site is selected. Design work is expected to take two years, and construction would take another two years.
In looking for a specific site, the city is considering issues such as appearance odor, environmental issues and how the plant would fit in with its surroundings. One of the reasons the site could be several hundred acres is because it will have a significant amount of property to buffer it from neighbors.
The project is being paid for through sewer fees. City commissioners at the beginning of this year increased sewer rates by about 9 percent, on average, to begin accumulating money to pay for the plant.