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Rushford looking at more infrastructure upgrades

By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Jun 29th, 2012
Posted in Rushford Government

Already having completed countless upgrades in just the last 5 years, since the flood of 2007, Rushford is continuing to have to consider further upgrades to both its wastewater and electric systems. Bill change and Jim Stremel, of BDM Consulting Engineers and Surveyors were on hand to give a detailed analysis following a water modeling study of the city. While much work has been completed in the last seven years, including a new wastewater plant in 2009, and water main replacements in 2005, 2006, 2007, with more scheduled in 2014, it appears that there is still much to do.

“You’ve done quite a bit to improve existing system,” noted Chang. “You have sufficient supply and storage and meet both primary and secondary drinking water standards. But there are still issues and they need to be addressed. Our goal in this study was to identify the deficiencies in the water system, develop options for improvements, and evaluate the costs and benefits for each option.” Chang’s model, based on current demand information, led to eight exclusive scenarios.

Four of the scenarios look to solve low fire flow issues, including those on Mill Street, between Park and Harry Streets, the southwest industrial park, along Industrial Road, the Southview Court area, and on Home Street. In all three cases, an upsize in the underground pipe would remedy the situation, along with a loop from both Southview Court to Stevens Avenue and from Home Street to Humble Avenue in the latter two. A volume rather than velocity issue, the size increases would vastly improve the areas. The Mill Street issue currently stems from 6 and 8 inch sand cast pipes that date from the 1890s. That project is already included in the upcoming Highway 43 project work, scheduled for 2014. The price tags for the other three projects are $75,000 (Industrial Road), $65,000 (Southview), and $95,000 (Home Street).

Three further issues highlight low velocity in east Rushford and the Center Street areas, as well as low pressure in the Home Street and Enterprise Avenue area. A direct pipe, along with a booster pump was recommended to solve the east Rushford issues, at a cost of $350,000. For Center Street, a 6-inch pipe loop from Hillcrest to 1st Street would remedy the issue at a cost of $95,000.

The low pressure issue is the most costly, at an estimated $400,000, but it would create a separate pressure zone for the area, which services the entire Good Shepherd Lutheran Nursing Home and Assisted Living campus. Currently, the pressure measures at only 46 pounds. 75 psi is recommended. “In hindsight, the 2000 water reservoir should have been 20-40 feet higher to compensate for needed pressure in the area,” noted Public Works Director Jeff Copley. The tower would need to be isolated and put in a separate pressure zone to rectify the issue.

The last issue, the only to focus on water quality, is in the Jerusalem area of Rushford. A booster pump, likely located at the city garage, would vastly improve the quality. However, the equipment would easily run $250,000 in construction costs. A second alternative, a booster pump at Mill and Elm instead, could also work, but it could be even more costly and would require the acquisition of property easements.

In total, all eight scenarios would cost an estimated $1,230,000. At least four of the scenarios could be handled by the Public Works Department. However, the remaining three, the most expensive, cannot. The water quality issue in Jerusalem may qualify for PFA (Public Facilities Authority) funding. “We’ll apply where eligible,” stressed City Administrator Steve Sarvi. “We won’t leave any stone unturned.”

For now, the city will consider the plan, update the water rates, and evaluate the potential rate impacts by the proposed improvements, prioritizing the issues and planning for the future. “My advice,” added Sarvi, “Is to make it right with existing businesses, focus on water issues in Jerusalem and Brooklyn, and pull trigger on north end when we need it.”

Copley agrees, but stressed that the current lack of pressure in the north end is a critical issue, citing a ripple effect. “It has the most potential growth for city and I think we should maximize the benefit. With no pressure, we can’t bring in new industry. No industry, no jobs.”

In regards to the wastewater treatment plant upgrade, it is nearly complete. Committed to the project three years ago, Public Works has worked diligently to make the most of it, including netting the city a savings of $29,938.92. As luck would have it, the savings are only temporary as a damaged mechanical screen in the headworks building will need to be purchased, at an additional cost of $68,495.26. Thankfully, the MPCA, the regulatory agency, and PFA, the funding authority, are supportive to include this equipment in the current project due to the urgency of the issue. In addition, the replacement is already approved under existing PFA funding to the city.

“I waffled back and forth and back and forth on whether or not to purchase this equipment,” noted Copley. “If we decide to do Phase 2 of the Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrade, it may not be needed.” Should the city opt to go forward with Phase 2, it could take as much as two years to get the project off the ground and the equipment will not hold up for that duration. “I feel like there should be an easier way, but there isn’t,” added Copley.

“Jeff, it stops hurting when you stop beating your head against a wall,” responded Sarvi, who along with City Clerk Kathy Zacher, recommended that the city move forward with the equipment purchase.

Further costs continue to roll into the city as electric provider Dairyland Power has passed down significant wholesale rate increases and the city still has five years’ worth of electrical infrastructure or upgrades to complete. The Rushford Municipal Electric Commission (RME) has recommended a electric rate increase of 7.2 percent to cover both. The electrical fund is finally trending in the right direction, but the RME would like to continue those trends while completing the work and piggybacking on wholesale rate increases. “We’re trying to reach the balance point in upgrading the system. We’ve been fortunate, frugal, and opportunistic. We need to make sure electric fund stays viable,” added RME member Vern Bunke.

The plan would include $150,000 per year for projects and is paid for by a $50,000 payment in lieu of taxes and the rate increase. To the individual, or single phase user, the change will be roughly 4 per month in the non-summer months and $15 per month in the summer, or higher rate, months. RME had hoped to make the rate increase retroactive to June 1st, since Tri-County Electric began their rate increase in May and the summer rate jumped in June. However, the council opted to make the increase effective July 1st. “I don’t like making increases retroactive. If people know something is coming, they can plan for it,” cautioned Councilor Mark Honsey.

The next regularly schedule council meeting is Monday, July 9th, at 6:30pm, at city hall. The public is encouraged to attend.

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