Archive for Saturday, February 17, 2007

Water treatment plant expansion to cost $4M more

Increased price tag at Clinton site could affect consumers’ bills

February 17, 2007


Expanding water treatment plant will cost about 4 million dollars more than expected

CIty staff now estimates the project at the Clinton Water Treatment Plant will cost more than 19 million dollars. Enlarge video

An expansion at the city's Clinton Water Treatment Plant will cost about $4 million more than expected, causing city leaders to look at whether water rates will have to increase more than planned.

City staff members said they were optimistic that residents' water and sewer bills would not need to increase any more than what city commissioners already have approved, but they said they couldn't yet rule out that possibility.

"What we've been able to gather so far is there might be some shifting that we can do to avoid a rate increase," Assistant City Manager Debbie Van Saun said. "But we can't speak definitively to that until we get a little further along."

Water rates have been increasing by about 4 percent per year since commissioners approved a five-year rate plan in 2004. Sewer bills have been rising even more, at about 9 percent per year.

New estimates for the plant expansion now call for the project to cost $19.1 million, up from an estimate of $15.4 million. The approximately

$4 million cost increase for the water plant expansion is related to everything from trash to safety improvements, Van Saun said.

She said the city is now budgeting $500,000 to remove solid waste from the site. The site was used as a city dump in the early to mid 1900s, city leaders said.

Van Saun said the city was aware of the dump, but was unable to estimate how much it may cost to remove the soil from the site until more tests were completed. Those tests now have been completed, she said.

"There's nothing really dangerous there, but it is not your basic digging in a greenfield out there," Van Saun said.

Chris Stewart, the city's interim director of utilities, said additional safety improvements to the site that were not anticipated will cost another $500,000. Stewart said he's recommending that the city use a new treatment system that relies on a liquid form of chlorine. Currently, the plant uses a gas form of chlorine that is stored under pressure in 1-ton tanks.

Stewart said if those tanks were to ever rupture or leak, it could cause significant concerns for workers and neighborhoods surrounding the plant being exposed to the chlorine gas.

"Chlorine gas itself is a pretty dangerous product," Stewart said. "You have to be real careful when you are dealing with it. We spend a lot of time training all our employees about it.

"I think it is absolutely worth the $500,000 increase. It will pay dividends because we'll have a safer product."

Other causes for the cost increase, according to city staff members, include:

¢ $600,000 increase in steel prices used for construction of the plant.

¢ $200,000 increase in site work related to widening the roads on the property to create easier access for trucks that enter the site.

¢ An inflation rate of about 7 percent for labor costs related to construction of the plant.

Van Saun said city leaders won't have a definite answer on the rate question until they receive bids for the plant. Bids are expected to be received in either March or April. Construction would start shortly thereafter. The project would be substantially completed by July 2008.

Stewart said the expansion would increase capacity by about 15 million gallons per day at the plant, located southwest of Bob Billings Parkway and Wakarusa Drive. Stewart said the plant - one of two in the city - is expected to meet the city's water capacity needs through at least 2015.

City commissioners will review plans for the plant at their 6:35 p.m. meeting on Tuesday at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.


cowboy 10 years, 8 months ago

a 33% cost overrun from the budgeted amount ? Someone is responsible for this and should be gone. Either our planning staff and accountants are entirely incompetent , or the city just does not care whether it manages the public business in a professional manner. Whichever is the case someone or many heads should roll on this issue.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 8 months ago

The whole thing is yet another externalized and subsidized cost of growth.

cowboy 10 years, 8 months ago

That is pretty obvious Bozo , it however is subsidized on our monthly water bills which for years have been arbitrarily increased . The issue that bothers me is that the city cannot or cares not to accurately estimate project costs. Four million is not chump change. If I were a project manager in private industry and could not predict metal costs , labor rate increases , and had not presented a complete picture of project components , I would not be employed very long.

ChasL 10 years, 8 months ago

"Van Saun said the city was aware of the dump, but was unable to estimate how much it may cost to remove the soil from the site until more tests were completed. Those tests now have been completed, she said."

So what part of that doesn't make sense??

Mike Blur 10 years, 8 months ago

Too bad Lawrence can't lean on an external source of revenue like Communist China, who helpfully funds Dubya's random (randumb) reckless spending.

cowboy 10 years, 8 months ago

If it were your money , and it is , don't you think you would want to know the cost prior to starting the project and getting funding approved ? Can you spell amateur hour ?

cowboy 10 years, 8 months ago

Quote Oct 10 , 2006 LJW

" But city staff members are sticking to earlier projections that sewer rates will not have to increase any more than already planned to pay for the trio of projects. Assistant City Manager Debbie Van Saun said the city should be able to absorb the costs without an additional rate increase because none of the projects came as complete surprises to the city."

KsTwister 10 years, 8 months ago

Just a thought, steel prices did shoot up when gas prices did but they also dropped back down. I hope citizens are not being duped---like that could not happen in Lawrence.

Godot 10 years, 8 months ago

Good point, KsTwister, and I also was unaware that labor costs had risen 8%. Is that simply taking into account the effect of the increase in the minimum wage that the commission is contemplating?

budwhysir 10 years, 8 months ago

Can this be serious?? With all of the research groups, engineers, and estimators that work on these types of projects, wouldnt someone be responsible for a 4 million dollar oversight???

Or is it possible that they new about this figure prior to the acceptance of the project and now is a good time to suggest a price increase with everyone paying so much for natural gas for heating during this cold season.

Wilbur_Nether 10 years, 8 months ago

cowboy's math is off. An increase of $3.7 million from the original $15.4 million estimate is a little over 24%--well below the 33% cowboy claims. I suspect the fluctuations in prices of petroleum products, changes in safety practices, labor expenses, and the like really weren't foreseeable in 2004.

If it seems amateurish, perhaps cowboy could recommend some professionals who would provide more accurate long-term cost forecasts. And who would do so at the price cowboy is willing for Lawrence and Douglas County to pay.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 8 months ago

All comments and concerns are somewhat valid as these situations should raise questions. However with cost of supplies and transporation constantly flucuating2004 cost estimates could hardly be expected to be the same in 2007. So much steel is imported while bearing an american name. In the forum Thursday night it was suggested by a sitting commissioner our sewer costs could increase by 50% at this point in time.

How much growth can current residents afford considering the real estate industry leaders are pushing for a 250,000 won't come for free. I have a cynical feeling the new sports complex is more about selling Lawrence than about our children.

I now have the same feeling about how that $50 million dollar library surfaced out of the clear blue when the initial estimate was around 17 million which came down to 30 million only to discover from the Tuesday night CC meeting that 10 million of that is for parking. How does a 17-20 million dollar library need 10 million dollars worth of parking? For the new retail planned for downtown? Let the retail developers pick up that tab if all is such a great plan. Build the retail on top of the botton floor parking lot with elevators.

cowboy 10 years, 8 months ago

Im ashamed of myself for even looking at 4 mil . Send me off to the pygmy island lord , or...give me Van Saun's 100,000 annual salary and I can show you what project management and cost controls really are.

Wilbur_Nether 10 years, 8 months ago

Dambudzo wrote that "Nether and on_the_bus have conviced me that 4 million is nothing to get upset about," which missed the point of my post. I was taking cowboy to task for overstating the situation, and suggesting that the inflationary and other influences driving up the costs may not have been foreseeable at the time the estimates were made. Hindsight, as the expression goes, is 20/20.

cowboy 10 years, 8 months ago

wilbur , 4 million is 33% of the original cost , buy a frigging calculator , 4 million is 25% of the now estimated cost.

Any competent project manager can estimate inflation , material costs , currency fluctuation a hell of a lot closer than 33%.

these 100 grand a year administrators are not earning their keep.

Wilbur_Nether 10 years, 8 months ago

cowboy wrote "4 million is 33% of the original cost , buy a frigging calculator , 4 million is 25% of the now estimated cost." Which is incorrect.

Let's deal with my own calculations first. I used an online calculator ( The article noted that " for the project to cost $19.1 million, up from an estimate of $15.4 million." The difference between the current estimate and the initial estimate is $3.7 million. That difference, 3.7, is 24% of 15.4.

Let's also look at cowboy's numbers. 33% of $15.4 million would be $5.1 million (and some change). Yet cowboy is claiming $4 million to be 1/3 of $15 million. "25% of the now estimated cost," to quote cowboy's eloquent phrasing, would be 1/4 of the $19.4 million figure, or just under $4.9 million. $4 million is 25% of $16 million, not of $19.4 million.

No one is arguing that a difference of $3.7 million in a $15.4 million project is trivial. But let's at least deal with the real numbers and the real percentages...not fictitious numbers that sound impressive.

cowboy 10 years, 8 months ago

Wilbur is absolutely right , I was mistakenly dealing with a twelve million dollar number , I stand attacked and humble.

i am immediately catching a flight to the pygmy island where I shall sit and ruminate for about ten minutes.

The project management still sucks though !

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