Monday, December 22, 2014
   
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Sewer upgrade estimated at $2 million

City council discusses how to afford improvements.

Gothenburg City Council members will have at least a couple of big-ticket items to grapple this budget season.

Whether or not to set money aside for the rehabilitation of Lake Helen is under consideration as is an estimated $2 million in sewer improvements.

Problems with the city’s aging sewer system is known but the council learned more about specifics at an Aug. 16 meeting.

Pipes and groundwater infiltration are worse than what engineers thought.

“There’s a lot of clay pipe that is cracked,” said Reed Miller, owner of Miller & Associates Consulting Engineers of Kearney.

Miller presented his company’s opinion of probable construction costs based on results from a remote-controlled sewer camera that filmed problem areas this summer.

City services director Shane Gruber said ground movement, by freezing and thawing, has damaged pipe.

That has caused groundwater to permeate pipe in some areas.

After the meeting, Gruber said groundwater mixes with sewer water and runs through the wastewater treatment plant.

If improvements are made, he said the biggest cost savings will be seen at the wastewater treatment plant.

“It will not be running at full capacity and it’s life expectancy will be increased because we won’t have to treat as much,” Gruber explained.

During the meeting, Miller said one of the worst leaks is by the viaduct where—through filming—officials could see sand filling the sewer from groundwater pressure.

While talking about solutions, Miller said the city could save money by lining some of the damaged pipe.

Some of the clay pipe would be replaced with less corrosive PVC (polyvinyl chloride) which is a type of plastic.

Miller cautioned about possible repercussions when the leaks are fixed.

Dewatering would occur during the repair stage which, he said, could force groundwater into basements.

To help pay for improvements, Miller said grants and/or low-interest loans might be available through entities such as the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality and the United States Department of Agriculture.

“They’re getting tougher to get,” he said.

City administrator Bruce Clymer said the wastewater treatment plant will be paid off in December which could free up some money.

Clymer said he couldn’t say sewer rates wouldn’t be affected by improvements but maybe only minimally.

Compared to other communities, he said local rates have been fairly high—$34 monthly on average—mostly because of payments for the wastewater treatment plant.

However Miller said the USDA won’t consider awarding grants to communities until rates are $36 or higher.

Clymer said the council would talk more about improvements and how to pay for them during budget talks.

Members voted to meet Thursday at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the budget in city council chambers.

Public hearings on the 2011-12 budget, tax request and levy will be Tuesday, Sept. 13, at 7 p.m.

On a related matter, the council also considered a Gothenburg Airport Authority request of $41,905 that will be included the budget.

The request is $24,983 less than the 2010-11 amount of $66,888.

In other business, the council:

granted a request from residents involved with Eagle Crest Academy, 1710 Ave. A, to approve an Eagle Crest Subdivision.

Clymer said there had been a lot split but the area was never divided. Residents want to subdivide to sell a building no longer used by Nebraska Public Power District.

approved a request from the Gothenburg Volunteer Fire Department for a special license to sell alcohol at the fire hall during Harvest Festival on Sept. 17.

learned that NDEQ officials will begin taking samples of Lake Helen this week or next.

Shallow water, warmer temperatures and nutrients have caused fish to die and a toxic algae to grow. The first step in fixing the problem is to gather water samples from the lake to identify pollutants, their amount and the cost to fix the problem.

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