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Optimism around Salem treatment plant funding

SALEM — A representative of Alfred Benesch Engineering said he’s optimistic about the city’s chances to secure some type of funding to upgrade the water treatment plant on Gamble Road.

“There’s money out there,” Jim Rhoades said.

Salem Utilities Commission members met in special session Thursday to further review project recommendations for the work needed to improve water plant operations and meet regulatory requirements besides replacing outdated equipment.

During a previous meeting, Benesch Engineering personnel presented their project scoping study for water plant upgrades which included an overall estimated cost of $14.5 million.

Options included doing all recommendations in one phase or breaking the work into three phases. Phase 1A would cover electrical service and generator upgrades for $2.9 million, followed by Phase 1B for process optimization improvements for $3.8 million, then Phase 1C for treatment and organics removal improvements for $7.9 million. The goal is to improve plant performance and reduce organics in the water by improving filters and limiting contaminants.

Brent Hall of Benesch Engineering said they need to get the scoping study approved so it can be submitted to funding agencies to get a better idea of what they’re willing to do for the city.

During discussions, Rhoades said when they ask for funding, they’ll try for the full project. He said the city isn’t coming in with a wish list, but with a detailed study, putting them at an advantage. The study shows what’s needed and why it’s needed along with the cost estimates.He suggested moving a few of the items from Phase 1C to Phase 1B and to focus on doing Phase1A and 1B together, seeing how the improvements work, then doing a pilot study to see if Phase 1C is still necessary. But he still said the plan will be to shop the entire project cost with all phases.

He agreed to revise the numbers and then the commission will hold a special meeting in a couple weeks to take action on approving the scope so the document can be shopped to funding agencies. Rhoades estimated design and permitting for the project in a year and bidding and the start of construction in two years.

City Utilities Superintendent Don Weingart mentioned that during a meeting he attended recently, it was mentioned that a full-year pilot study was going to be required for some of the carbon removal process that’s part of Phase 1C. Rhoades said he was aware and the study could be done after the first two phases are finished since the plan is to hold off on Phase 1C pending how initial improvements go.

In other business during the regular commission meeting, commission members heard updates on several projects, including the Snyder Road sanitary sewer line. The commission approved some additional work on the project which carries a cost of $36,000.

A water rate study is expected to be presented to the commission in June with recommendations for increases to the water rates.

Weingart also reported information will be included in June bills regarding the requirement to inspect water back flow devices.

The next regular meeting of the utilities commission will be 4 p.m. June 17 in council chambers.

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