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Ashland opens budget tap on $23 million water plant

The City Council has approved the first phase of a new water treatment plant that can process 7.5 million gallons a day.

The treatment process will happen solely in the new plant which will be much more efficient than building a second plant to supplement city’s current facility, Director of Public Works Paula Brown said.

The cost of the first phase, or the preliminary engineering phase, is $1,003,576 and includes developing three treatment alternatives and a recommendation for the best alternative for the city’s site and treatment requirements, and preliminary design of the first phase of the building, including geotechnical analysis and cost estimates, according to a staff report.

Brown said the ability to hold and treat 7.5 million gallons of water per day would be adequate to supply the city during peak demand times.

“When you look at peaking and fire needs and all those other capacity issues, you go well above your daily average,” Brown said. “We want something that’s sized appropriately for the future.”

She said in the past summer there were days in which city water users went through 5.5 million gallons a day, even though it was a low water supply year and many residents were trying to conserve.

“If we’re going to build something, we’re going to build it right so that it is sustainable into the future,” Brown said.

In response to a question at the Oct. 6 council meeting, Brown said having the city own and maintain its own water supply, rather than rely on an outside source, was comparable to being a home owner as opposed to a renter.

“If your landlord decides to up the cost, then you either have to pay it or move, but we’re not going to move as a city,” she said with a chuckle.

Switching from two treatment plants to one will be much more efficient for the handful of employees that work at the treatment plants by having them all in the same location.

“In a city of our size we only have a certain amount of people that can actually manage plants and you can’t move them around all the time,” Brown said. “Having two plants is inefficient, ineffective and costs more money.”

Plans call for the new plant to be located in the Lower Granite pit, near Reeder Reservoir. The site is currently used as a storage area.

The two current treatment plants may be removed, gutted and repurposed or used as holding tanks as a part of a pre-treatment process.

Public Works employees were scheduled to meet with the design engineering firm, HDR, this week to begin planning.

“They’re a huge company in the U.S. and overseas as well,” Brown said. “They will appropriately fast track the preliminary design.”

After the drafts are finalized and permits are granted, if everything goes smoothly, construction could begin by the end of 2019 or the beginning of 2020. The development will take about two to three years to finish.

The budget for the entire project is about $23.3 million. The preliminary engineering phase will also determine if that’s an accurate cost estimate.

The budget includes construction of the plant and a 2.6-million-gallon reservoir, although Brown said the city may not need the added reservoir. She said the whole project potentially could cost a “few million dollars more” than estimated, but that won’t be known until cost estimates come in as part of the preliminary engineering phase.

“We don’t think we’ll need to build another reservoir, but we’ll look at how much flow we need to hold in the system for fires, and that’s the biggest reason we would need to add a reservoir,” Brown said.

The new plant will be built to withstand earthquakes and would be out of areas prone to flooding and wildfires.

Brown said she’s relatively confident that customers’ water rates will not have to be adjusted to accommodate the new plant because they have been raised in past years in preparation for the new plant.

Contact Daily Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.

(Oct. 18: Story edited to reflect that the efficiency comparison between one plant and two plants was between the now-adopted plan and a previous plan to build a second plant. Ashland currently only has one water treatment plant, not two.)

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