Archive for Wednesday, May 20, 2009

City takes step to restart sewer project

May 20, 2009


As city commissioners struggle with when to restart efforts to build a new $88 million sewer plant south of the Wakarusa River, they’re close to enlisting a new set of eyes to help them.

City commissioners on Tuesday took another step toward officially moving away from Kansas City-based Black & Veatch, the giant engineering firm that has designed much of the city’s sewer system over the last several decades.

Commissioners at a Tuesday afternoon study session received a staff recommendation that the engineering firms of Burns & McDonnell and BG Consultants be selected to conduct the next master plan for the city’s sewer system.

“I think it is valuable to have a firm with a little bit different outlook and experience, but that is not meant to slight the work of Black & Veatch,” City Manager David Corliss said.

The change comes at a monumental time for the city’s sewer system. The city already has purchased about 500 acres of ground south of the Wakarusa River to construct a new sewer plant. Originally, the city was convinced the plant needed to be built by 2010 in order for the city to serve population growth. But as evidence mounted that the city’s growth rate had slowed significantly, commissioners put the brakes on the project.

Now they want guidance on when they should restart the project, although staff members continue to remain confident that the project will be needed in the near future. Corliss said he expects the project will need to be restarted in the next five years.

The master plan also will be used to help set future sewer rates in the city. The last plan was completed in 2003, and the city has budgeted $325,000 to create a new plan.

The recommended change in consultants also comes after major concerns were expressed about the adequacy of the city’s sewer system in northwest Lawrence in 2006. Concerns over whether the city had underbuilt the sewer system in growing northwest Lawrence were a factor in the forced resignation of then-City Manager Mike Wildgen.

Corliss, who was an assistant city manager at the time, said those sewer concerns did play a role in the most recent evaluation Black & Veatch received by a staff committee studying which company should do the sewer plan work. He said that the sewer crisis highlighted some areas where the master plan could be improved.

Commissioners said they agreed the current plan was out of date and needed to be replaced. “I think getting a wastewater plan done is pretty important right now,” Mayor Rob Chestnut said.

But commissioners stopped short of saying they were ready to give the work to Burns & McDonnell. They agreed to put the issue on their agenda for next week.


cowboy 9 years ago

This smells funny ! Why are they considering abandoning the body of work that Black & Veatch performed already and spending 325k in additional consulting ? One would think that after the last go around on sewer capacity studies and the engineering of the proposed new plant that they should have a very clear focus of the capacity and growth needs.

I find it kind of funny that while the city spews this drivel about protecting farmland they have themselves bought 500+ acres of bottom land to turn into a sewer plant. In a major flood plain I might add , the entire site was under water last week !

LogicMan 9 years ago

Wasn't this a "shovel ready" project? Were fed funds sought for it when the getting was good?

gccs14r 9 years ago

Maybe they should see how the recession shakes out to see if there are even as many people here in five years as there are now, rather than assuming that the population will increase. Besides, the $325k could be used to repair existing streets, or pay salaries, or set aside so we don't have to have taxes go up as much or as often in the future. Just because a few bucks show up on the balance sheet doesn't mean they have to be spent on a pet project.

cowboy 9 years ago

This wasn't quite shovel ready as they had not bought the pipeline right of way's from the property owners for the huge pressurized poop line .Nor had they built and or improved the roads necessary to move the dirt / rock / materials into the site. They may have figured out it's not such a great site due to the flooding.

The above post does have a good point in that the city / county was the big loser on stimulus money by not having the by-pass and this plant ready to go. This was a missed oppportunity of the century from a dollars standpoint.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years ago

Isn't it common to build sewage treatment plants in the flood plains of the rivers they will feed into, such as the one in NE Lawrence next to the Kaw?

flowergirlforever 9 years ago

Boy... sounds like someone has a new friend at B Mac and wants to give them some business instead of continuing work that has already been done with tax payer monies already paid. You gotta love politics it is always about "who's your buddy"!

cowboy 9 years ago

Bozo there is a slight difference between flood plain and flooded plain. This is a regularly flooded plain. none of the engineers from B&V were out on this ground unless the weather was really nice. I'm no engineer at all but I find it absolutely boggling that this site was chosen. I'm there every day taking care of our horses and it floods big time every spring and is not accessible at all during those periods which last a week not just a day or so . One of the older neighbors says he's seen tractors left in the field completely submerged. Guess time will tell.

Linda Aikins 9 years ago

I think it was more that a former assistant city manager and assistant utilities director was buddy-buddy with B&V and now that she is gone, B&V has no support and apparently did not have a very good plan...

papaya 9 years ago

There's virtually no money to be made in Lawrence from an engineering firm's perspective. They won't waste the marketing dollars to nurture a relationship with Lawrence unless there's a multi-million dollar project on the horizon. So, it appears B&V neglected to pre-position, and other firms slipped in and began buzzing in the city's ear.

Also, I work for the world's no. 1 pure design engineering firm so I'm getting a kick out of these replies.

Linda Aikins 9 years ago

Perhaps, papaya. But B&V has done work for Lawrence for lots and lots of years so their pre-positioning was already in place. And apparently other firms did "waste" the money because as you said, they slipped in and began buzzing in the city's ear.

I'm not sure where or for whom you work, but I don't think it's around here. Glad you are enjoying our little newspaper.

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