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Village Council on water sourcing — Plant upgrade less expensive

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Renovating the existing Village water plant is doable and less expensive than the other two options being considered for sourcing local water, according to a presentation at Village Council’s Feb. 3 meeting.

“Nothing in the report says the plant should be scrapped,” said Scott Strahley of the Ohio Rural Community Assistance Program, or RCAP, who with engineer John Eastman of LJB prepared the cost analysis of the plant renovation. “It’s worth taking the time to do the rehab.”

The cost analysis of the water plant upgrade completes the information-gathering process that Council set in motion about a year ago when beginning a discussion on the best option for sourcing local water. The topic was discussion only at Monday night’s meeting, and Council tasked Interim Village Manager Kent Bristol with bringing to its Feb. 17 meeting a plan for moving ahead on the issue.

According to the RCAP and LJB report, the Village would pay about $1.38 million to renovate the 50-year-old water plant, compared to $3.2 million to build a new plant, and about $2 million to connect to Springfield’s system. The $1.38 million includes the cost of taking manganese, which causes periodic brown water, out of the local water, but does not include the cost of adding water softening, according to Strahley. The renovation would allow the plant to function efficiently for about 20 to 25 years, which is also the length of time that a new plant could be expected to function without major repairs, Strahley said.

Bristol stated that his main concern regarding upgrading the existing plant is the potential difficulty in maintaining service while still renovating the plant. However, while Eastman said he initially shared that concern, his research showed that there are ways to sequence the upgrades while still using the plant.

“There are challenges to sequencing but they’re not unusual,” Eastman said. “I can’t see any challenge that’s outside the norm that contractors handle.”

Strahley agreed with Eastman’s assessment.

“The technology is sound,” he said. “There are ways to put in redundancies in order to do the renovation.”

However, Village Superintendent of Water and Wastewater Joe Bates stated he remains concerned regarding potential difficulties with shutting down aspects of the plant’s operation, especially electricity, in order to renovate.

“These are a challenge to me as an operator,” Bates said.

Technology to provide softened water, which many villagers have in the past said they prefer, could be included in the renovation at an added cost, Strahley said. However, because the softening technique involves ion exchange, which means adding sodium to the water, there are potential health concerns, according to Council member Marianne MacQueen. And those concerns are a reason to consider contracting with the Springfield system, which, due to its larger size, is able to use a lime softening technology that does not involve adding sodium, and also does not have a salty taste, according to Council President Karen Wintrow.

“That’s a discussion we need to have,” Wintrow said, regarding whether the Village should opt to provide softened water, and if so, which sourcing option to choose.

Two villagers spoke to the issue of water sourcing, with Bill Firestone stating his concern that connecting to Springfield water pipes would lead to more development on U.S. 68 between Springfield and Yellow Springs. And Dan Reyes urged Council to consider the value of local control of water, given that it’s not clear how future leadership and political decisions in Springfield could affect the Village’s water contract.

Other items of Council’s Feb. 3 business, including the Village manager search process, Council goals and a discussion of the enterprise funds budget for 2014, will be covered in the Feb. 13 News.

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