It's a big number, maybe a tough one to swallow. The number is an estimated $7,566,100. That is what Morrison-Mairle Inc. proposed for all the improvements at the water treatment plant (WTP) in Glasgow.
A few members of the community attended the public hearing that took place at the city council meeting on Monday, April 7. Jeremy Perlinski and Jeff Ashley gave an overview to city council members and those in attendance at the meeting of what was discussed at the first preliminary engineering report (PER) public meeting.
They showed a projected growth in Glasgow that would bring the population up to 3,700 by the year 2034. The growth would only raise the demand for water from a maximum of 1.5 million gallons per day (mgd), to 1.6 mgd. While demand isn't much of the issue for the proposed upgrades, Perlinski explained that some of the "guts" of the system were in need of repairs.
Some of the components in the WTP are from the original plant, built in 1966, when they were pulling water from the ground. The plant eventually hooked up to the Missouri River in 1987 to bring cleaner surface water through 15 miles of pipeline to the city. The capacity could provide 3 mgd. When the switch to surface water took place, much of the original components were kept to make the switch more cost effective. Another significant upgrade took place in 1995.
The intake at the river is currently owned by MARCO, or Boeing. The city pays for the maintenance of the intake pump, which also sends water to St. Marie. Issues with a lack of redundancy and reliability has brought some concern about the future of the WTP. More modern equipment also might help bring more efficiency in energy, a back up system was also suggested in the instance the city ever faces a power outage a back up energy source would be found.
Some ideas to fix the issues in the removal of solids from the water were to replace the existing equipment and place a new clarifier, or to create a new process that would include a contact adsorption clarifier. During the presentation they warned that replacing the existing equipment would require a building expansion and it wouldn't be an appropriate treatment process. The new process suggested would be more cost effective, and they added that cities like Helena, Butte and Libby were using a similar process.
Alternatives for the filtration system left four different options. The first option to replace the existing equipment would leave some piping and valves inaccessible, and Perlinski added that it would still need a complete rehab in 20 years. The second option was to have new media filters, which would require a building expansion but would be more cost effective in the long run. The other two options would be two switch to membrane filters, but those two options would mean a high cost operations to bring in high tech filtration.
Upgrades suggested would include upgrading the electrical controls, replacing critical components that date back over 30 years, and placing in a backup generator for power. The chlorine system, the high lift pumps and heating and lighting were also suggested for upgrades to make the WTP more efficient and user friendly for workers. The total costs projected for upgrades in the distribution system were $1,054,700. Costs projected for the recommended projects in the treatment system added up to $4,670,000. The projection of inflation and finances brought the full upgrades of the WTP to around $7.6 million.
Rebecca Beard took over the portion of the meeting that talked about funding and costs for the city of Glasgow. She reminded everyone in the crowd that she knew they might be thinking, "Show me the money." Beard explained that sometimes the more technical part of figuring out financing causes stress on many cities looking at a similar situation. She broke down the ranking criteria to go through TSEP (Treasurer State Endowment Program), which was created to help finance projects like the Glasgow WTP.
She also explained that there were several grants available for communities, but the target rates for water had a lot to do with being eligible. A grant from the RRGL (Renewable Resource Grant and Loan Program), Rural Development, DWSRF (Drinking Water State Revolving Fund), and the CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) program could provide possible potential to cutting down the costs of the project. A few of the grants were due by the first week of May, and the deadline for the CDBG had already passed.
Beard explained a few different scenarios could take place. In the first scenario, if the grants requested are received, the rate payers wouldn't pay much of an increase in the water bill. The average rate payer would pay around $41.09 a month.
"It's a pretty good scenario; you would end up right about where you are now," Beard said.
In the second scenario, if TSEP is not awarded the rate payers might see a slight increase. The average household might pay around $41.66 a month. In the final option, the rate payers would see a pretty big jump. In the worst scenario, without any grants awarded, the city could end up paying loans and interest. That would cause a $10 to $15 a month jump to rate payers, around $56.14 a month for the average household.
"You're in a good position to go for the grant funding though," Beard said. "If you could show community support for this project your chances are even better."
Beard also said that the Growth Policy plan and other projects the city has been working with will help with the grant process. Community members in the audience asked if those figures were locked into place. Beard explained that nothing could be locked in until construction bids were made and loans had been signed. Mayor Becky Erickson added that it was feasible the city could continue without raising rates.
"It's the community letters that go into the applications that can make a difference," Beard said. "Neighbors showing support can help look good to congressional officers and loan agencies."
The city council passed the resolution to accept the PER. The mayor added that letters were available at the city office for constituents to sign. These letters would need to be in by the last week of April to be included in the funding process.
Taking a tour of the WTP, you'll find that the current workers have been inventive with some of the older equipment – taking from other pieces of equipment to keep others going, for example. While Director of Public Works Bob Kompel explained that they aren't in a crisis situation, they could be looking at one in the future if the plant isn't upgraded soon.
He explained that after the wastewater treatment plan upgrades, they had let the WWTP fall into some bigger disrepair before the upgrades, which may have added on a few additional costs. The idea to upgrade the WTP sooner rather than later is to relieve some future stress and hopefully save on future costs.