CLINTON – Clinton City Council heard the needs of the water utility at a meeting on October 26, including considerations of borrowing money for the rehabilitation and improvement of water utility infrastructure. water and sewage. Added to this are additional expenses to meet the requirements of the new regulations.
The meeting was part of ongoing departmental budget meetings as the city prepares for its 2022 budget. Department heads met with the mayor and council in a series of weekly meetings, the October 26 meeting for the department. water, followed by the fire department budget.
The water department included a presentation on the implementation of its ten-year plan. The ten-year public service plan is an integral part of the planning of its operations. The current 10-year plan was put in place in 2017 and is expected to expire in 2028. Earlier this year, the city repaid its bond targeting water and sewer upgrades, which paid for a number of system upgrades. , such as the overhaul of the Pole Yard pumping station, and the installation of additional filtration.
The Pole Yard had failed in 2010, leaving sections of the county without water until the pump was repaired. Now, additional capacity is in place to supply water and bring the Pole Yard to the standby state. Filtration put an end to what had become not uncommon boil orders in the county, also in the early 2000s. A recent upgrade was also made to the department’s water meters, bringing greater accuracy. as well as the possibility of reading remotely.
The board heard from CWB Engineers representative Clint Bell followed by Crews and Associates representative Bob Wright on the current bond environment. Clinton Water and Sewer Department Director Will Hinchey was at the center of the presentation, clarifying the department’s needs going forward.
The problem can be broken down into three parts.
First, there are the 17 specific elements requested in the master plan. Second, there are the possible complexities of meeting new environmental regulations, and finally the costs of borrowing a bond or bonds to ensure the upgrades.
The plan has 17 specific elements in the water and sewerage system that are expected to be addressed by 2028. Additional complexity occurs here, as supply chain issues have created delays and increased costs. construction costs.
Both Hinchey and Bell explained to the board that the 17 elements were not a particularly high number for a municipal water supply system, but rather the average of the elements that a water system typical of the size Clinton was facing.
The two also expressed that the plan is subject to change.
The list has been broken down into water system, sewage system, and combined upgrades, with the water system being 10 items on the list.
Water System: Highlights
The updated water system includes improvements to the water treatment plant over the next two years, including the upgrade of “Clearwell”, the purified water staging area, to $ 250,000 each.
Burnt Ridge’s water system tank replacement is also slated for 2022, at $ 500,000.
The replacement and rehabilitation of the water line continues throughout the plan. Hinchey said lines on Highway 95W and Razorback Road were a high priority.
Subsequent years included maintenance and repairs to the million gallon tank near Clinton Hospital. The tank currently has a leak and will require, with the leak being repaired, routine maintenance, scheduled for 2023 at $ 350,000.
Sewer System: Highlights
Significant expenses are noted in the sewer network plan, with the rehabilitation of manholes planned for 2023 at $ 700,000, and the rehabilitation of the sewer lines in progress at $ 650,000 in 2023 and $ 500,000 by year until 2027.
The “manhole rehabilitation” is also on the agenda here, budgeted at $ 700,000 in 2023.
From this 2023 is a particularly expensive year according to the master plan, at $ 4,300,000 for planned projects.
Combined water and sewer system
The plan also included an upgrade in 2022 of the combined system, system mapping, to $ 75,000 and an upgrade to the computerized operating system, also to $ 75,000 in 2022.
Leak rate and infiltration
Central to the issues of updating lines, fixing leaks, and strengthening and repairing the system is the issue of “leak rate”.
Hinchey reports the system’s leak rate to council each month, with October’s report to city council being 25%. This means that 25 percent of the water transported through the water and sewer system is not billed. The number has reached 50 percent in the past, reflecting, for example, a broken water pipe.
And if the leak rate is water lost, then seepage is the amount of water entering the system from other than the pumps that draw water from Greers Ferry Lake. This stems, for example, from leaking manholes or faulty sewer lines.
A possible additional expense may arise from the need to meet recently imposed requirements to remove Cadium from the water supply and to repair a sewer line east of town.
The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality has asked the water department to reduce the levels of cadium in its water. As Hinchey explained, the cadium at the levels found is harmless to humans, but harmful to fish. ADEQ, which deals with environmental concerns, unlike the human question of the water mandates of the Ministry of Health. Since Clinton draws its water from Greers Ferry Lake and returns the water to the lake after treatment and filtration, ADEQ wants the cadium removed from the water.
Since cadium is at a very low level, filtration to remove it is potentially expensive, Hinchey told the council. (Planting Kudzu is a natural way of filtering cadium, but it takes up to 100 years to be effective, “Hinchey said, adding with a smile,” Everyone would be happy if I planted Kudzu all over Clinton. ” )
And if the City refuses to respect the mandate of ADEQ, the agency “Will send someone who [put a Cadium filtration system in place]. You don’t want that, ”Hinchey said.
Hinchey made several proposals to ADEQ apart from installing an additional filtration system to treat the cadium levels. The primary consideration here is the potential for unfiltered water to leach into the water system by seepage and carrying cadium with it.
The city had previously faced a similar situation with mercury levels dropping to acceptable levels “on their own,” as Mayor Richard McCormac put it, as less untreated water seeped into the city. the system as improvements were made to the system.
ADEQ, which had not returned phone calls at the time of going to press, has yet to respond to Hinchey’s proposals to lower cadium levels.
East of Clinton is a sewer line that exposes itself as a bank of earth is washed away, the result of a stream that has changed course over decades. The line should be redirected.
The best-case scenario is digging a path through a nearby mountain for the replacement line, an estimated expense of $ 1.6 million. The second option would be to raise the line around the same mountain, an estimated expense of $ 1.3 million, with the additional expense of replacing the pump every 10 years.
McCormac said he was looking for funding options for this project, including a possible federal grant for at least a significant portion of the repairs.
Hinchey said he had organized an emergency response to a line break (which is not planned), including the use of a temporary pumping station. The department continues to “keep an eye” on the line’s exposure, currently for just a few feet of line, Hinchey said.
Finally, the taking into account of obligations, including the amount of obligations, is based not only on the city’s capacity to pay the bond debt, but also on the cost of this debt and on its evolution in the years to come. If bond prices rise, it would be better to borrow for all projects now, but then the city would be more in debt than if it borrowed in two bonds, one now and one in five years. But if the cost of borrowing goes up, it could actually cause a loss.
Until the decision was taken to increase water tariffs in 2019, the city was unable to properly serve its obligations. At the time, the tariffs were not sufficient to cover the operating expenses of the water service and the surety service. The city council was informed in 2019 that the income had to be 20% higher than the debt, or 120% of the income, in order to meet its debt.
At one point, the city was able to do this at a lower rate due to the fact that the ConAgra factory was a large-scale customer. When this factory closed, revenues fell below 120%.
Now the city is at an estimated rate of 152.11%, or 52.11% above the breakeven point, making it a viable candidate for bond issuance to fund repairs and upgrades. system level, Wright said.
Essentially, Wright’s presentation was intended to give the board a framework for making liaison decisions.
The decisions included the percentage rate for a bond, which is currently on the rise.
“The rates are starting to influence us,” Wright said.
Add to that if the board wanted to borrow money for the whole plan, budgeted at $ 12,775,000 through 2028, or, say, two bonds for less money, the second later in the timeline so that the city had an initially lower bond payment while system upgrades were undertaken.
A final element of board and department planning is the possible cost escalation reflecting recent changes in the supply chain.