Work to begin soon at Otsego waste water plant

By: 
Ryan Lewis

Otsego officials are pleased a project to improve the city’s wastewater treatment plant is moving ahead.
Mayor Cyndi Trobeck said city commissioners officially awarded the bid for approximately $1.3 million to Davis Construction at their meeting Monday, Oct. 2.
“The goal is to modernize,” Trobeck said. “The plant is old now. We don’t want to end up dumping sewage into the river. These are improvements we really needed to happen.”
With the bid in place, crews are expected to be on site on or about Oct. 23, according to city treasurer Matthew Storbeck.
“Davis Construction is estimating completion by the end of May, Storbeck said.
A state-administered low-interest loan program will fund the project, to be paid back over 20 years. Davis Construction was the low bidder on the project and was selected preliminarily in July.
The project includes installing new equipment to disinfect the water; replacing blocked or aging equipment on the storage tanks; replacing the aforementioned electronic controlling system; expanding and renovating the lab where the water is tested; and replacing sewage pumps with dry-pit pumps with variable frequency drives.
The city will spend another $300,000 of its own in addition to the project, for improvements not covered by the state loan. One of the main pieces of that portion of the work involves controls for the system that could be accessed remotely through computers. Such a system couldn’t be covered by the state loan. So, the city worked with Davis Construction to remove a control system from their bid, among other things, reducing the scope of the work by approximately $137,000.
In addition to the remote monitoring system, the city is also replacing a lift station at North Street. Storbeck said the current small building’s roof is deteriorating but is too dangerous for city crews to replace due to its proximity to a power line.
So, part of the project the city is paying directly for will move that station underground so it will be easier access.
Wastewater treatment superintendent Luke Keyzer said, “The facility should be operating normally throughout this project. There may be a few minor switchovers, but we will be using bypass pumps to compensate for this.”

Rate changes loom
Storbeck said the rates that supported the city’s aging water and sewer infrastructure had not been enough to provide money now to replace failing components.
“(We) had hoped some of our commodity sales and use would have increased over the past few years. That hasn’t happened,” he said. “And now, with aging key components of each system requiring additional maintenance or replacement, the additional funds are necessary.”
He estimated that total average residential rates, including water and sewer, increased approximately 15 percent for the 2017-18 budget which began July 1. Usage will vary and will affect the size of the increased utility cost.
“We knew this was going to be significant,” Storbeck said. “The last major upgrade to the wastewater plant was in 1989.
“Users can anticipate similar increases next year.”
Specifically, the sewer commodity charge per thousand gallons of use went from $6.56 to $7.15, a 9-percent increase. Readiness to serve fees increased 65 percent, up from $20.38 per quarter to $33.63 per quarter for typical residential service. He estimated the average residential increase for sewer utility costs was 17 percent.
The water commodity charge per thousand gallons of use went from $1.92 to $2.04, a 6-percent increase. Readiness to serve fees increased 20 percent, up from $12.82 per quarter to $15.38 per quarter for typical residential service. He estimated average residential water utility costs went up 10 percent.
“Over the next budget year we will start planning to begin repayment of the Sewer Fund debt for the current project and improvements to the water system to maintain required service levels,” Storbeck said, stressing that revenue raised for the sewer fund could only be spent on waste water treatment and likewise for the water fund.
Contact Ryan Lewis at rmlewis@allegannews.com or (269) 673-5534.

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