Water plant upgrades could start in fall

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Representatives from the engineer firm in charge told the Hillsboro City Council at its March 1 meeting that the long-delayed upgrades at the local water-treatment plant will likely start around September.

Alan Luttrell and Don Hellar, representing EBH Engineers, said their plans for the upgrade are ready to go, and the remaining delays are a matter of waiting for routine approval procedures inherent to a project that will be funded through state grants and loans.

At the start of his presentation, Luttrell apologized for not communicating better with the city about the status of the project, and for the frustration it caused along the way about delays.

Luttrell said he felt the delays ultimately were worth it because of the quality of the final design.

“This is one of the best designs we’ve come up with,” he said. “And when it’s completed the (water-plant) operators will feel real comfortable with how it all works.”

As for the timeline, Luttrell said he expects formal approval of the design to come in a letter from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment either late this week or early next week.

From there, Rural Development, the funding agency, has 60 days to notify the city it can begin advertising for bids. Once the notice is published, bid-gathering will take 30 days, and then Rural Development will have 30 to 60 days to approve the awarding of those bids.

Once approved, the winning contractor will need a couple of weeks to order materials and mobilize its labor force before actually starting the $3 million project, Luttrell said.

Hellar, meanwhile, presented a broad overview of the project to the council. He said it will involve three separate components: the changes needed in the plant itself, the addition or replacement of water lines, and maintenance on the water tower located in the Tabor College athletic complex.

Mayor Delores Dalke said she hoped the task of painting the water tower would happen sooner than later.

“It’s a poor example of Hillsboro,” she said of the tower’s current exterior appearance. “It reflects on our image and it has to get done.”

Hellar said plans call for the tower to be painted a “tower white,” which is actually white with a blue tint added. The city’s name and logo will be painted at the top of the tower at a cost of $10,000.

In other matters, the council:

— heard from City Administrator Steven Garrett that “fruitful” negotiations are continuing with Cottonwood Cheese Co., which is considering locating its new processing plant in Hillsboro.

Garrett said the city’s response to concerns the company had about financing the construction of a pretreatment facility for wastewater was “met with enthusiasm.”

n authorized Mayor Delores Dalke to sign the appropriate release documents indicating that Hillsboro Industries had paid off past bonds with the city. The bonds were paid off several years ago, Dalke said, but the appropriate paperwork had never been completed.

The matter came to light, Dalke said, when the bond obligation appeared on the company’s property title during the negotiation of its sale to a group of local buyers, which is now in process.

The council also approved Resolution 2005-04, which is the public announcement that the obligation has been met.

— in response to a question from Councilor Byron McCarty, heard that the new lagoon system the city is developing for handling wastewater will generate little if any odor.

Unlike the lagoons residents recall from the AMPI days, new lagoons emit few odors, thanks to better technology. Key to the change, Garrett said, is installing an auger in each lagoon that prevents a massive turnover of water in spring and fall-which was the key reason old lagoons emitted the unpleasant odor.

“It will smell like a rose garden compared to what we experienced on the north edge of town (AMPI),” Garrett said of the new system.

— heard from Garrett that the city likely will receive around $7,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse expenses related to the January ice storm. Garrett said he is negotiating additional reimbursement for expenses related to restoring electrical power to homes.

— heard from Garrett that remodeling on the restrooms in city hall is scheduled to begin Monday, March 7. Because both restrooms have to be worked on at the same time, the city will be moving a “higher grade” portable restroom onto its parking lot during that period.

— heard about an improvement at the Sports Complex. City staff have replaced the girder-and-cable system in the parking areas with more eye-appealing barricades. Garrett said the work was completed in about one day.