City could face major sewer plant expenses

The Hillsboro City Council took care of routine business at their Oct. 17 meeting, but got first word about a potential challenge in the future that would be anything but routine.

As a point of information, City consultant Al Reiss, of Reiss & Goodness Engineers, Inc., of Wichita, told council members the city-like many cities across Kansas- may face major expenditures to improve its sewer plant if new regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency are enforced in the state as currently projected.

The EPA regulations are intended to clean up streams and rivers around the country by raising acceptable standards for treated water released by sewer plants like Hillsboro’s.

“Your sewer plant right now will not meet those kinds of standards,” he said.

Reiss said the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, plus many state legislators and other public officials, are fighting the EPA regulations as proposed for Kansas. That is buying communities some time, and perhaps a reprieve.

“The state board of health has not wanted to move ahead and force people to spend this much money because they really don’t agree with the EPA that the streams we have here in Kansas are recreational, where you have body contact sports and fishing 365 days a year,” Reiss said after the meeting

“We don’t have any streams like that, except a few of the bigger rivers. But yet we’re getting hit straight across the board for the whole United States. We’re in the middle of that even though the conditions are different here than they may be back East.”

Reiss said it is unclear what the status of those new regulations are in Kansas at the moment, but they are starting to be enforced in Oklahoma, which is in a different region than Kansas.

“They’re enforcing them in all the states, but they’re in different stages of enforcement,” he said. “Here in Kansas, we’re a little late on their enforcement list.”

Reiss said because of the resistance in Kansas, it is too early to know what the impact of EPA’s efforts will be for Hillsboro.

“Even what sounds like a minor change on these requirements might not be possible to meet (with the current treatment plant), or would take considerable money to build a plant that would meet those requirements,” Reiss said.

“It isn’t that we can’t build (plants that comply). The idea is we want to keep costs down, both capital costs and operational costs.”

In matters requiring their immediate attention, council members:

n approved a recommendation from the Hillsboro Recreation Commission to build a 30x44x9 open picnic shelter at the Sports Complex.

“I believe this is one of the top needs out there,” said Lonnie Isaac, HRP program director.

Bartel Construction estimated the project would cost $14,100. The money will come from funds already accumulated by the HRC from city funds already budgeted for HRC and from program revenues.

The proposed deadline for the project would be mid-March.

n accepted a low bid from Middlecreek Mining Corp., Peabody, of $54,225 for water improvements in Prairie Pointe, and a bid of $163,571 for street improvements from APAC-Kansas, Shears Division, Wichita. The street project will be scaled down to meet the engineer’s estimate of $152,118.

n approved pay estimate No. 5 from Mid-States Energy Works, Inc., for $105,046 to cover construction expenses at the city’s new electrical substation. The total contract for the project is for $382,360.

n were informed of a potential grant to resurface the runway at the municipal airport. The grant would be for $15,000 and the city’s share would be $26,000.

n agreed to go with a Rural Development grant to help fund water-plant improvements that could cost the city around $1 million. The grant, which would be around $300,000, will be funded in May at an interest rate of 4.78 percent.

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