Urbana looks to build $14M to $19M plant

Sewer plant needed to grow, add jobs, Urbana council members say.

Urbana city officials want to build a new $14 million to $19 million wastewater treatment plant alongside its aging facility on Muzzy Road, a project that would be one of the largest in the city’s history.

The project is necessary for the city to grow and add jobs, some city council members said.

“It’s going to make it real difficult to attract industry if we can’t take their water,” said Doug Hoffman, a city council member.

But they will have to decide the best way to pay for the project, after bids for it came in well above its initial $14 million estimate.

The eight bids the city received came in as much as $5 million higher than estimates from the city engineer’s office, largely due to rising costs for labor and for raw materials such as concrete and copper, said Chad Hall, superintendent of the wastewater treatment plant.

Paying for the project will likely mean a rate increase for residents, phased in over the next three years, said Lee Williams, finance director for Urbana. It’s not clear what that rate increase might be, but Williams said the city wants to make sure it’s manageable for residents.

Once construction is underway, it could take about two years to complete.

The current wastewater facility is about 60 years old and showing its age. An upgrade and expansion was added in the early 1970s.

In addition, the current facility can only treat about 3 million gallons of sewage a day, and at times it’s not unusual for the current plant to treat as much as 2.6 million to 2.7 million gallons a day.

“We’re getting fairly close to our limits,” Hall said.

The city’s plan would construct a new sewage treatment facility located next to the current site southwest of the city limits on Muzzy Road.

Once built, the new facility would be able to treat about 3.5 million gallons of wastewater per day. The older plant would remain in place, and continue to treat a smaller amount of wastewater, likely about 1 million gallons per day, for a total of about 4.5 million gallons.

Initial plans called for much of the project to be paid for through loans from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s Division of Economic Financial Assistance.

It’s clear the project is needed, said Larry Lokai, a city council member. The question will be deciding the best way to move forward. Council members will likely continue to discuss the issue in the next several weeks.

“If we want to continue to have any kind of growth, we’re going to have to do something to that system,” Lokai said.

Other loans already on the city’s books are expected to be paid off within the next couple of years, Hall said, and the original idea was to use that revenue to help pay off the new treatment facility loans.

“There are so many different avenues that could potentially be looked at,” Hall said.

Council members will face some tough choices, Lokai said, but added that the costs will only increase the longer the project is delayed.

“You can pay now or you can pay later,” Lokai said.

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