Joint meeting ends with call for plans on wastewater plant

It was the Maple Lake City Council’s turn to visit Annandale City Hall on September 26 as the two communities continue to explore the construction of a shared wastewater treatment facility.

Council members from both cities listened as Brad DeWolf from the consulting engineers and land surveyors company of Bolton and Menk, Inc., presented a project update for the Annandale/Maple Lake Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility.

DeWolf said since both communities are nearing capacity for their current wastewater treatment facilities and both are in need of upgrades, an opportunity is presented to take advantage of the benefits included in a joint facility. The benefits listed by DeWolf included reduction in operation and maintenance costs, maximizing use of personnel for wastewater operations, and providing a reliable, flexible and cost effective treatment plant for both communities.

DeWolf said the proposed Class A treatment facility would move both communities up on the Public Facilities Authority financing list for low interest loans that range from two to three percent for 20 years. In 20 year’s time, Annandale is expected to increase in population from the current 2,684 to 4,304 and Maple Lake is expected to grow from a population of 1,633 in 2002 to 3,133 in the year 2022. DeWolf said that the fully mechanical treatment plant will be designed to accommodate a future expansion that could double capacity at a cost of $2.5 to $3 million, far less than the original construction price of $9,275,000.

Both communities would maintain wastewater collection facilities and liftstations to pump wastewater to the treatment plant which would be located on a ten-acre site between the two cities. DeWolf said two sites have been selected, with the final decision awaiting negotiations with property owners. Piping to the plant would be installed in highway and county road right-of-ways. Along Highway 55, installation would be on the south side of the highway, which DeWolf said will be safe from future expansion of the highway because of its location near the railroad tracks.

Pumping facilities in Annandale and Maple Lake would send the wastewater to the new plant for preliminary treatment, then on to aeration basins, clarifiers and disinfection for surface water discharge and biosolids treatment with storage on reed beds for future land application.  Of the total $9.28 million project costs, the City of Annandale would be responsible for $3.34 million, Maple Lake for $2.04 million and future users paying water and sewer access fees would provide $3.9 million.

Wastewater user fees would be set in January at a $5 monthly base fee and $1.50 user rate that would climb to a maximum in 2009 of a $15 base rate and $1.70 user rate.

In a comparison of rates in other communities, Howard Lake currently has a monthly base charge of $6.32, a usage fee of $4.87 and a total monthly charge for a 6,000 gallon water user of $35.54. City Developer John Meyer estimated that updating and expanding Maple Lake’s current plant would result in average monthly residential costs of $28.21 and monthly charges for the joint city proposal would be $28.06.

“Even with the expansion, I think both cities are in good shape compared to what sewer rates in the industry are now,” DeWolf said.

Maple Lake council member Mike O’Loughlin pointed to rapid growth in the eastern portions of Wright County and asked if anticipating a growth rate of 30 new homes a year was realistic for the Maple Lake/Annandale area.

“It would be my recommendation to err on the conservative side of growth,” DeWolf said, pointing out that expanding the plant sooner than anticipated would be far more desirable than placing the financial burden of an under-used waste water treatment plant on city residents through fee increases.

The schedule for the joint project calls for the preparation of plans and specifications this fall, with construction proposed to begin in May of 2003 and completion slated for November of 2004.  DeWolf called it an ‘aggressive schedule,’ but it was met with approval by both councils. “Let’s go,” said Maple Lake Mayor Mike Messina.

“I’m tired of it,” laughed Annandale council member Jim Latour. “Let’s do it.”  Maple Lake council member Judith Kelly said she had gone on a tour of a similar wastewater treatment plant in Spicer. “After seeing that, I would say ‘go ahead,’” she said. “I was really impressed by that set-up.”

Maple Lake council member Steve Mooney brought up concerns over the cost of laying four to five miles of pipe in each direction to reach the new plant. DeWolf said he based his estimates on actual contract prices from the Montrose/Waverly joint project and said that if the plant site happens to be located closer to one city, there will be no advantage because both cities will share in that cost equally. Messina added that if costs ended up higher than expected, the cities still have the option of rejecting the bids.  Mooney asked about the latest date the cities could back out of the project and was told that point would come at bid time. He noted that Maple Lake could operate its current treatment plant after its estimated $3 million expansion for another 40 years, which Meyer countered would actually be 12 years.

Annandale Mayor Sam Harmoning said both communities could have pursued individual systems, but the benefits of a joint facility and perfect timing with both cities needing wastewater plant expansion and upgrades is what put the joint facility on the table in the first place.

“We do it together now or not at all,” she said, “because we have to do something now. We won’t be there for you in 12 years.”  O’Loughlin agreed. “The future is now,” he said.

The Maple Lake council responded with a unanimous vote to proceed with plans and specifications, followed by a similar vote from the Annandale council.