May 1, 2013

Council tours water plant, told upgrade needed

The Express-Star

CHICKASHA — Council members got a first hand look at the state of Chickasha’s Water Treatment Plant, an ageing structure that will need an upgrade sooner rather than later, according to an engineering, architecture and consulting firm.

In a work session on Monday, council members took a tour of the treatment plant and reconvened at city hall shortly afterwards for a presentation by Oklahoma City-based firm Guernsey. There, they were consulted on how best to approach improving the facility, which is close to its 50-year limit, said Guernsey Vice President and Manager for the Infrastructure Department Karl Stickley.

“The treatment plant is reaching its age limit,” Stickley said. “For things built back in the 1960s, 30 years is a good time to look at an upgrade, and 50 years is the time when something needs to be done.”

Stickley, who handles civil engineering projects and specializes in water resource planning, added that the facility still had about 10 years left in it to operate, but his presentation prioritized bringing in new clear wells soon, along with some other upgrades to the water system. He also pointed out the city already has a good location available just across D1345 Road, where the ground’s elevation would keep a new plant out of the flood plain.

“Right now as they are working out the plan, the clear wells need to be replaced in the next few years,” City Manager Stewart Fairburn, who also took part in Monday’s tour and presenation, said. “That’s what we’ll be looking at first. They’ve given all of the treatment plant 10 years, so between here and there, we’ll have to be looking for ways to fund that.”

A continuance vote on a ¾ cent sales tax to fund capital improvement projects will come up in August, and the clear wells will be on the list of CIPs to utilize that potential line of money, Fairburn said.

“We are anticipating having clear wells as part of that CIP,” he said. “Also, sewer and water line improvements are also on the project list. They identified some other fairly low cost improvements that we’ll make, but all of those together can add up to a big cost. It will take many years.”

As for the bigger projects like the water treatment system and raw water line replacement, Fairburn said the city will stick to the 10 years Guernsey has given them. During that time, the city will determine where the millions of dollars it will take has to come from in order to completely repair an ageing, yet valuable, system.

“We’ll have to start working on identifying ways to fund those right now,” Fairburn said.

City Council and staff will converge in May and June work sessions to begin budget planning, and Fairburn said clear water wells and other water and wastewater system improvements will be part of the discussion.