By Jeff Gallatin
City Council officials are planning to call a special meeting of the Environmental Control Committee for Tuesday to get additional information on the projected $6 million increase in costs for the EPA-mandated sewer and treatment plant upgrade under way in the city.
During council’s Aug. 14 committee sessions, City Engineer Pete DiFranco and officials from Hazen and Sawyer, the firm working on the project, said cost projections for the already underway, multiyear project have increased from $39 million to $45 million. DiFranco said there should be no need for any rate increases to citizens, saying current city projections show the city should have the money to cover the additional cost.
Paul Schumann, chairman of the Environmental Control Committee, said Monday the size and scope of the project and it’s expected impact on city services make the need for additional information on the project necessary.
“It’s going to affect a lot of people and we didn’t have a lot of time for discussion last Tuesday, so we felt that there should be time for additional discussion and questions,” Schumann said.
He noted that the projected increase will include new work.
“One key part of this is that about $2 to $2.5 million of this will cover new work in the north end of town (on the Chapel Hill work and related work) project, which is absolutely necessary to provide proper services for that part of the city,” Schumann said. “We as a city added those in as part of the response to dealing with the flooding and sewer issues last year. We also understand that changes can occur and we just want to make sure that there is enough information so that people can understand why this is being done.”
Schumann noted that several residents had questions about the project at a special Aug. 15 meeting in the Community Cabin, at which engineers gave a project update. Several residents expressed concern about flooding or the potential for flooding if there are heavy rains this fall, with one woman noting there are projections for heavy hurricane activity, which could cause major rainstorms.
“We’re working on the issues,” Schumann said. “We want people to know that. The administration and the council all are trying to deal with the issues.”
Council Finance Committee Chairman Paul Barker said he just wants to make sure everything is being done properly.
“There really wasn’t a lot of time last Tuesday and we just want to make sure that the engineers give us a good explanation for why this is necessary,” he said.
Barker cited as one example the need for additional building on top of already existing facilities.
“We were told that there would be use of already existing foundations and buildings,” he said. “I think you would expect that there would be additional costs for something like that and I want to see how they were figured into the project.”
DiFranco said the design phase for a project of this size and scope is typically 12 to 15 months. However, the North Olmsted project was expedited to eight months in order meet EPA deadlines. He added that because variable interest rates have declined from 3.81 percent in December 2011 to the current (as of mid-August 2012) rate of 2.63, and due to the available financial reserves planned for under the current sewer rates, no additional rate increases for North Olmsted residents are anticipated.
DFranco broke down the costs for the projected $6 million as follows:
1. Approximately $2 million – 1,120 new feet of 24-inch-diameter parallel relief sewer in Chapel Hill Drive (not previously planned for this project) and increased size of equalization basin (EQ) at the Dover Pump Station site from originally planned 360,000 gallons to currently proposed 635,000 gallons.
2. Approximately $1 million – Cost of sequencing/staging and temporary facilities to maintain WWTP operations during construction while meeting strict EPA permit deadlines.
3. Approximately $2.5 million – Additional contractor labor costs associated with sequencing, staging, temporary facilities, EPA timeframe requirements, etc. Input from a former contractor (considering actual manpower) was utilized for current estimating of this component.
4. Approximately $1 million – Additional unanticipated facility improvements such as larger structure foundations needed due to existing soil conditions, primary clarifiers modifications, etc.