$8 million wastewater plant project approved
Council OKs project on 4-3 vote; effect on sewer bills unknown
An $8 million improvement project at the wastewater treatment plant was initiated by the Fort Dodge City Council Monday despite concerns about what its hefty price tag may do to the sanitary sewer bills of residents and businesses.
The council voted 4-3 to hire Woodruff Construction LLC, of Fort Dodge, to do the work at a cost of $8,312,700.
Councilmembers Kim Alstott, Dave Flattery, Cameron Nelson and Lydia Schuur voted yes. Councilmembers Neven Conrad, Quennel McCaleb and Terry Moehnke voted no.
“I don’t see prices coming down,” Alstott said before the vote. “I think if we wait, it’s going to cost us a lot more.”
Woodruff Construction will perform these tasks:
• Build a new lab and administration building.
• Construct two odor control units.
• Make some improvements to the sanitary sewer lift station in the ag industrial park called Iowa’s Crossroads of Global Innovation. A lift station pumps wastewater to the plant on Avenue O.
Jensen Builders Ltd., of Fort Dodge, submitted the only other bid of $9,585,000.
McClure Engineering Co., of Fort Dodge, had estimated that the project would cost $6,195,000.
Chad Schaeffer, the city’s chief development officer, said communities are seeing a 20 percent to 30 percent increase in construction costs.
He told the councilmembers that they could postpone the project to see if the costs will come down, but he recommended against doing that. He said he doesn’t think construction costs will come down soon.
“We’re very cognizant of the costs and their possible effect on rates,” Schaeffer said.
Councilman Terry Moehnke asked if alternative construction methods were considered.
Schaeffer said the staff wants a building that will last and look good, so concrete block construction was chosen. He said a metal building would not last in the corrosive atmosphere of a wastewater treatment plant.
The project will be paid for with a state low-interest loan that will be paid off with revenue from sewer bills.
No specific information on how the project will impact sewer bills was presented Monday..
However, Moehnke estimated that the council will have to raise rates by 6 percent in January.
“I’m not comfortable with raising the rates that much on the whims of the construction industry,” he said.
Flattery said the loan could perhaps be paid off over 30 years to reduce the impact on ratepayers.
The current lab at the wastewater treatment plant is on the second floor of a 60-year-old building, according to Schaeffer.
In a report to the council, he wrote the lab measures less than 800 square feet, while the recommended design standard for a lab in a community like Fort Dodge is 2,400 square feet.
He told the council that the lab is “completely too small.” He added that while the lab is too small, the amount of testing done in it has increased considerably.