City floats $10.3 million bond issue

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Cassville moving on plans to revamp sewer, water systems

Voters in Cassville in April 2017 will have a large bond issue to ponder, as the city of Cassville is preparing to put on the ballot a nearly $10.3 million bond proposal as it prepares to tackle sewer and water system projects in the coming years.

The proposal, if approved by voters, would allow the city to seek revenue bonds for two projects geared toward cutting down inflow and infiltration issues with the city's pipes. First up is a five-year, $5.4 million plan to fix the ailing sewer system, aiming to reduce the total amount of water being processed by the city's wastewater treatment plant. After the sewer project, a $4.89 million proposal would replace more than 21 miles of water pipes.

The city's issues began in 2011, when previous administration and city council members signed a voluntary compliance agreement with the Department of Natural Resources, as the state said the city could no longer release untreated water from the plant's lagoon into Flat Creek. The agreement gave the city one year to form a plan to stop the problem, then four years to execute it.

Five years later, and after receiving an extension on the agreement, the city is looking to put in motion the possibility of funding the projects.

"It's never fun to bite the bullet," said Alderman Jon Horner. "But, if we keep kicking this can down the road, we will not be helping the citizens of Cassville."

Steve Walensky, city administrator, said he is not sure what punishments may come if the city fell out of compliance at the end of the agreement, but he has not been looking at that as an option. A financial advisor from D.A. Davidson, a bond and finance consulting firm, said the city could be fined up to $10,000 per day if it fell out of compliance, though he had never seen fines go that high.

What is still unknown at this point is the effect a bond issue would have on customers' wallets, as the city would likely have to raise rates to make bond payments. Accurate figures would not be available until the city locks in bond financing and interest rates.

The city has a 1.1 million gallon-per-day wastewater treatment plant, with an 18-acre lagoon to catch overflow, which is suppose to be sent back through the plant later when the capacity is available. Because of inflow and infiltration issues, mainly created by rainwater and groundwater getting into sewer pipes, the plant is processing about double what the water system is putting out.

In November, the plant processed 32 percent more water than what was billed to the city's customers, and there was a 37 percent loss in water going to its customers. Walensky said those numbers are about average, with heavy rains greatly inflating figures at certain times during the year.

In 2005, a study determined more than 200 pipe deficiencies, mostly in the downtown area, in the lower-laying parts of the city. This is also where the oldest pipes are located, and where the majority of ground saturation occurs.

To head off the problem, engineering firm Olsson and Associates proposed improvements that include pipe and joint pressure testing and grouting, lateral connection pressure testing and grouting, manhole rehabilitation and pipe machine testing, where joints could be sealed. Work would include some open-cut projects, cleaning and CCTV use inside the pipes, butting protruding tape and gaskets, curing pipes and private inflow and infiltration abatement. Projected costs include:

* $2.7 million on open-cut and trenchless repairs (trenchless repairs include grouting and other approaches that avoid digging to any pipes)

* $150,000 on cleaning and CCTV use

* $1.5 million on private inflow and infiltration abatement

* $1.05 million on non-construction and contingency costs

The trenchless repairs, which garner most of the $2.7 million projection, would have a 50-year design life. Work would also result in some savings at the treatment plant, as it would be pumping less, therefore, using less electricity.

The city has 93,000 linear feet of pipes that need attention, which accounts for about 52 percent of the city's 180,000-linear-foot total.

There are 18 open-cut areas, which would include the excavation of certain areas and total replacement of pipes. Most of these areas are in downtown Cassville.

That water line project, proposed after a study by Schultz Surveying and Engineering of Branson, aims to replace half of the city's 43 miles of water pipes to cut the water loss figures.

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