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by Mark Cheffey
The city of Palmyra is hoping voters April 4 approve Proposition 2, a $15 million no tax bond issue to fund water and sewage system improvements.
According to Brent Abell, Palmyra Board of Public Works superintendent, passage of Proposition 2 by a simple majority of Palmyra voters, in particular, will allow the city to extend the life of the city’s existing sewage treatment plant and allow for future community growth and economic development.
Right now, Abell said, the aging sewage treatment plant is nearing its maximum capacity, but the improvements to the sewage collection system and the plant itself are expected to provide more capacity without the need to build an entirely new treatment plant with a much higher price tag.
“This will give us capacity for growth,” Abell said, noting that it would allow for industrial, commercial growth and even residential growth.
“It would allow for potential growth in housing, and we need more housing for the workforce,” Abell said.
While the bond issue will not result in the raising of taxes, it will have to be paid for through boosts in water and sewage rates.
However, Abell explained the bond issue will allow the city to seek and obtain outside funding, including so-called free money, in order to keep those rate increases to a minium.
Abell said the bond issue will fund a number of specific projects designed to make the sewage collection and treatment system more efficient.
With the collection system, the city is wanting to clean the entire system and provide video in order to determine if the system can be lined or fixed in order to cut down the amount of non-sewer water infiltration.
“We anticipate that after the lining of sewer mains and manholes we will increase the sewer capacity at the sewer plant,” Abell said. “We have a 500,000 gallons per/day capacity, we currently are at 95 percent loaded.
Combined with upgrading the sewage treatment plant’s aeration system, the improvements could bring the plant usage down to 60 percent loaded.
“These two improvements will allow for future growth,” Abell said.
There are also plans to upgrade the plant’s electric panels and controls and rework the screw press sludge machine and screen trash collector.
Also planned are retrofitting of the plant’s outdated clarifiers and adding a small building over the screen trash collector to keep it from freezing up in the winter.
“All these projects extend the life of the plant,” Abell said, noting the plant was built in 1981 and still has much of the original equipment.
On the water side, the bond issue will fund installation of a redundant raw water line from the wells located roughly 1.5 miles away.
“This would get us out of the flood plain, allow us to replace our last well, No. 4, the last of 4 wells to complete,” Abell said, who also indicated a lime feeding machine at the water plant would be replaced.
Abell said the improvements should allow residents to notice an improvement in water quality.
“Residents will see more consistency with water quality,” Abell said. “Adding a newer lime softening machine will help with hardness, iron and magnesium levels.”
Conversely, failure to fund the improvements could result in future problems for the city, according to Abell.
For example the lime feeding system, Abell said, is the main part of the treatment process and is over 47 years old with parts difficult to find.
“If this system fails, the city cannot produce potable drinking water,” Abell said.
The city has also had a recent failure to its sewage treatment system that required an expenditure of $750,000 to repair.
“The sewage treatment plant is beyond its useful life and is starting to fail and needs modernization,” Abell said.
Passage of the bond issue will not only give the city a direct line for funding the needed projects, but also put it on solid footing toward obtaining outside funding.
“The city has made, and will continue to make, application to various state and federal funding agencies for financial assistance in the form of grants and low-interest loans,” Abell said. “To be eligible for these grants and loans, the city must indicate its ability to contribute to the cost of project. This indication is accomplished through the authorization and issuance of bonds.
“The amount of bonds issued will be based on what is needed to successfully complete the proposed improvements.”
Abell said water and sewer rates will be adjusted “only if, and to the extent, necessary to provide for proper maintenance and operations, and to meet all state and federal regulations.”
Based on preliminary estimates, the average per month user’s water bill will increase by 20 percent and the average per month user’s sewer bill will increase by 38 percent.
And Abell noted the city will continue to make applications for the grants and low-interest loans which, if received, may lower the anticipated monthly user rate.
“However, if the city was forced to finance the project on its own without state or federal assistance, it is estimated the average monthly water and sewer bills would increase by 26 percent and 46 percent respectively,” Abell said.