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BE council looking at big projects

By Staff | Jan 24, 2016

Some big bucks.

The Blue Earth City Council spent much of their meeting last Monday night discussing several projects which have some large price tags attached to them.

Those include the need to update the city’s wastewater treatment plant at a proposed cost of up to $5 million, an additional project at the airport at an estimated cost of $575,000 and an improvement to the parking lot at the Ag Center which could cost as much as $287,000.

Not all of the funds required for these projects would be local money, however.

Here is a rundown on the specifics for each one.

Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrades

The city recently had a study done on the condition of the wastewater treatment plant to see what shape it is in and what upgrades it needs.

Kristopher Swanson of Bolton & Menk, Inc., presented the results of the study at a work session held before last Monday’s meeting.

“The majority of the infrastructure at the plant is between 30 and 50 years old,” Swanson said. “The main control building, for example, was built in 1963.”

He reported on all of the infrastructure at the plant, when it was installed, what kind of shape it is in, and whether it needed repair or replacement.

Some of the items are so old that replacement parts are impossible to obtain, he said.

In the end, he presented three possible alternatives.

The first was to just rehabilitate all of the treatment plant infrastructure as needed.

Alternative No. 2 was to construct a new influent lift station and pretreatment building, rehabilitate all other items as needed and to demolish the main control building.

“Alternative No. 3 is to do nothing,” Swanson said. “But doing nothing also has a price tag, as the equipment eventually wears out and quits working.”

The total estimated cost for alternative No. 1 was $4.425 million. For alternative No. 2 the cost estimate was $5.15 million.

“We recommend the city pursue alternative No. 2,” Swanson said. “It would eliminate safety concerns, access and maintenance issues as well as create space for future filtration expansions.”

He said a funding possibility for the work could be the a low interest (1 to 3 percent) loan from the Clean Water Revolving Fund.

City administrator Tim Ibisch pointed out that a payment on such a loan would be about $300,000 per year.

“We do have a bond payment of $200,000 that will end in a couple of years,” Ibisch said. “We would have to find and add another $100,000 to that amount.”

Swanson’s proposed schedule was approve the plan and hold a public hearing in February, submit the plan to the state in March, design from July to February of 2017 and have the actual construction period be May 2017 to December 2018.

Since it was a work session, it was discussion only and no action was taken by the council.

Airport project

The council did decide to go ahead with a proposal to remodel and expand the current arrival/departure building at the airport, as well as build an additional storage building.

The addition onto the current building would be 14 feet by 40 feet, while the new storage building would be 40 feet by 40 feet.

Total cost of the expansion is estimated to be $575,000 with federal funds covering $517,000 of that amount and the state and city splitting the other $57,000 or about $28,000 in local money.

Ag Center parking lot

The council heard a recommendation from their economic development authority to proceed with a new parking lot at the Ag Center, which the EDA now owns.

They voted to proceed with developing the plans for the project.

The Ag Center parking lot has an estimate of $98,070 for making some water quality improvements, plus $188,960 for the actual bituminous paving for resurfacing the lot.

The Soil & Water Conservation District office, housed at the Ag Center, had applied for a grant for the water quality work that involves the surface water drainage. However, the grant was not received.

They still could have approximately $54,000 to go towards the project. Without it the project may not include the drainage work.

Ibisch said the rest of the project could be paid for out of EDA or city funds, with the intent to repay that money with the income generated from rents at the Ag Center, much like was done at the Fitness Center for their new addition.