Government

$14 million phase of Cedar Rapids water plant up for vote

Projects are intended to extend life span of 89-year-plant

Lime and other particles settle to the bottom of one of the clarifiers as part of the water treatment process see July 5, 2016, at the J Avenue NE Water Treatment Plant in Cedar Rapids. The City Council is scheduled to consider the second phase of a five-phase effort to extend the life of the nearly 90-year-old facility. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Lime and other particles settle to the bottom of one of the clarifiers as part of the water treatment process see July 5, 2016, at the J Avenue NE Water Treatment Plant in Cedar Rapids. The City Council is scheduled to consider the second phase of a five-phase effort to extend the life of the nearly 90-year-old facility. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids officials say nearly $14 million worth of improvements are needed as part of a larger plan to extend the life of the 89-year-old water treatment plant on J Avenue NE.

This would be the second part of a five-phase, 10-year project to modernize the aging plant at 761 J Ave. NE that supplies about two-thirds of the city’s water.

“It’s a major redo,” said Scott Olson, a City Council member and chairman of the city’s infrastructure committee. “We are taking this decades-old plant and gradually rebuilding to make it more energy efficient and up to today’s standards.”

The council is being asked to approve the basic outline of the project that’s estimated to cost $13.8 million. The council meets starting at 4 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 101 First St. SE.

A contractor could be hired next month. The project is slated to begin May 1 and be complete by July 31, 2020.

Key features of the project focus on improving the processes of removing solids and softening water.

“The purpose of the project is to upgrade aging equipment, like the No. 3 softener mechanism that’s been there for decades,” said Bruce Jacobs, the city’s utility engineering manager. “Elements of that machine have been rebuilt multiple times and it’s time to replace it with something that’s more modern.”

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The project is being phased to minimize operational impact and cost to ratepayers, according to the city. Ratepayers could see increases of 2 to 6 percent per year over the next five years, according to a staff report. This is in line with what ratepayers have faced — increases of 3.5 to 6 percent — over the past five years.

The plant originally was constructed in 1929 and saw additions in 1949, 1969 and 2009. In 2011, consultant Strand Associates identified numerous improvements that could be made to extend the life of the plant.

The northeast plant has the capacity for 40 million gallons of water per day, and typically processes 23 million, Jacobs estimated. A northwest water plant has a capacity of 20 million gallons per day and processes about 13 million, he said.

The second phase cost is projected to be split between the fiscal 2018 ($650,000), 2019 ($7.8 million) and 2020 ($4.95 million) budget years.

All told, the five-phase project could top $40 million. The $7.5 million first phase occurred from 2012 to 2016. Upcoming phases include a $9.9 million third phase and a $12.7 million fourth and fifth phase.

“This is all about increasing the efficiency and replacing equipment before it fails,” Jacobs said.

l Comments: (319) 339-3177; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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