Update on the Waste Water Treatment Plant Project

The long awaited Waste Water Treatment Plant Project is ready to be advertised for construction bids. Of course, as with all the good things, the preparation for this step did not come easy.

The project, which will bring great relief to our waste water system, and that will bring Vernonia into compliance with state and federal standards can be broken down into three major components:

1. Raising the dikes

2. Construction of the building and treatment units

3. Installation of the subsurface discharge (on the Banks-Vernonia Trail)

Recently City representatives have been meeting with Engineering Companies and USDA to establish a draft schedule for the upcoming Wastewater Treatment Plant Improvement Project.  The Request for Proposal (RFP) is ready to bid and it only needs a final review of compliance from USDA. It is anticipated that the project will begin in early March 2015.

There has been some recent discussion of the length of the construction contract with a potential preferred option of sixteen months over an eight month schedule. There are two concerns with the proposed eight month construction schedule. The first concern is that poor weather could prevent the contractor from completing the work in the proposed time. The second concern has to do with the amount of resources that a contractor needs to have to complete the project in eight months.

Also, by selecting an eight month construction schedule the City would be favoring larger contractors that have the resources to manage the three construction components simultaneously. Smaller, local contractors would not have the experience or resources to complete this type of project in eight months.  

The City has been informed of the fact that there are a couple of things that will need to happen in order to complete the checklist items required prior to construction.  The City must engage a Bond Counsel to draft the bond documents for the USDA revenue bonds.  This has been done each time the City has borrowed money from USDA.  Of the last three tasks that need to be completed, the following is the most time sensitive:

The Bond Counsel will draft an ordinance that will need to be read at the next Council meeting (December 15th).  At the end of the 30 day period the City will provide a certificate that no petitions or remonstrance were filed at which time the Bond Counsel will draft the bond documents for USDA review.

The City Council will need to decide between the following two options:

1. Advertise for bids as soon as USDA’s approval of the RFP is received (approval has not yet been received)

2. Advertise after the ordinance goes into effect (Jan 15th, assuming an Ordinance adoption on December 15th, 2014))

USDA has informed the City of the fact that it will not keep the City from advertising before the ordinance is in effect (30 days from adoption), but in the unlikely event that concerns and petitions were to be filed to halt the project, the City could be at risk of losing any money already expended on the bid process.

Based on previous similar situation, staff is of the opinion that there will be no objections to the revenue bond ordinance.  The Community is well aware of the project and there have been numerous publications referring to the use of USDA bonds to fund the completion. The Council, as always, is welcoming comments from the public in order to articulate a comprehensive strategy for this very important project that is going to benefit the entire community.  Also the City is, through its Weekly Departmental Updates (which are also posted on the City website) and periodical comments and analysis at Council Meetings (the first and third Mondays of the month) interested in keeping the community informed of every development pertaining to the Waste Water Treatment Plant Project.