Sewer upgrade approved

By BOB JOHNSON
Register City Editor

City commissioners approved an overhaul of the city’s sanitary sewer system Tuesday afternoon.
The work is expected to cost just over $3 million. City Administrator Judy Brigham told commissioners upfront costs would be paid with proceeds from two Environmental Protection Agency grants totaling $762,000 and a loan, with 2.51 percent interest for 17 years, from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Money for debt service will come from reserves and monthly sewer charges, which Brigham said were sufficient without any increase.
The work will entail examination of sewer mains by way of cameras sent coursing through them, rehabilitation of mains and manholes and improvements to pumping stations.
Corey Schinstock, assistant administrator, noted that much of the sewer system was a century old. Mitch Phillips, department supervisor, said infiltration by groundwater, which puts a burden on treatment facilities, was an obvious indicator of need for upgrades.
“We won’t know for sure how much work needs to be done until we look more closely at the mains with cameras,” Brigham said. “If we have to, we can adjust what we do,” to stay within approved funding, she said.

COMMISSIONERS, without explanation, weren’t receptive to two other proposals having to do with utilities.
Ordinances to create a monthly stormwater charge of $2 and raise water rates were tabled until April at the behest of Commissioner Craig Abbott. Commissioner Bill Shirley agreed. The ordinances were tabled at the Commission’s previous meeting.
The stormwater levy would provide money for structure improvements.
Brigham argued briefly for passage of the water rate increase, noting “the water fund is in the red,” because of unexpected expenses, including a cooler for ozone treatment apparatus at the water plant.
“We’re also selling less water,” a common occurrence among Kansas cities this year because of unusually wet weather, “and rates need to be adjusted,” she said. “Without an increase, I guess we’ll have to look to other funds,” which she didn’t specify.
On average, the proposed raise would increase the monthly charge for a single person using two units of water $2.18 to $22.50 a month and for a family using nine units $4.56 to $43.50 a month. Large volume users would see proportionately higher increases. Gates Corporation, for example, would pay $623.73 more for 2,751 units, putting its monthly bill at $6,657.40.

SOME improvements will be made to the levee that protects Riverside Park. The levee was built in the late 1930s.
A report said the levee had settled six to 10 inches in varying stretches on the north, west and south sides. Repairs are expected to cost $10,000.
The east portion, the old Santa Fe Railroad right of way, partially washed out in 2007. Although rebuilt, it is not quite as high as the older portion.
Commissioners asked if city crews could do the repairs.
“I have no doubt we can,” Schinstock said, “but it might be better to have the work contracted so we don’t take crews away from other projects.”
“If we can save money by doing it ourselves, we need to,” Shirley said.
Commissioners instructed Brigham to seek bids on repairs, which then will be weighed against city crews doing the work.