The design process is wrapping up on a nearly $5 million project that will expand the city of Clinton’s water treatment plant to twice its current size, as well as establish a redundant water line, with construction on the project slated to be completed by mid-2014.
A $1.8 million elevated water tank project is still in the works, anticipated to act as a complement to the plant expansion. However, that tank project has hit a snag, with half of the total funding previously expected to come from grant funds but currently falling on the city unless something can be worked out.
Chris Thomson, project engineer for The Wooten Company, gave City Council a status update on the project during a work session this week. The overall project has the goal of ensuring the city has an adequate water supply for the next 20 to 30 years.
“This is expanding the plant, doubling the plant and adding six new wells,” said Thomson. “We’re about 90 percent complete on the planning profile for the water lines, and about 75 percent complete on the water treatment plant design.”
In September 2011, Council gave the initial go-ahead for a comprehensive water system upgrade through which the existing plant would be expanded, a redundant line built and a system established to reclaim and reuse wastewater. The formal approval for the expansion and redundant line came this past spring.
The total project is $4,836,000, to be financed with a 40-year USDA loan at 2.75 percent interest, for an annual payment of $201,000. City officials have expressed a desire to pay the loan off before the full term.
In all, the project will expand the water treatment plant by 1.5 million gallons per day, to include the construction of six new wells (four shallow, two deep) with related piping. The redundant line would be similar to one that currently runs along Clive Jacobs Road and Old Warsaw Road and is responsible for approximately one-quarter of the city’s water flow. The back-up option was sought in case the existing line should be severed.
“With staff, we are finalizing our last two well sites,” said Thomson. “Where we are right now, we would be finishing up about mid-year 2014.”
A water system must meet the maximum daily demand (MDD). For a groundwater system, the supply equals the 12-hour well pumping rate and that MDD is the average of the two highest consecutive days’ demand.
Thomson and other Wooten engineers have told the Council in previous meetings that the city’s 12-hour pumping rate should be more than the MDD, which is currently at about 3.2 million gallons per day. With the expansion, the 12-hour water supply, currently around 2.87 million gallons, would be able to increase to 4.37 million gallons per day and serve the MDD until about 2030, officials said.
The expansion would also provide short-term water capacity that could be sold by the city, with more than the maximum demand being met. Smithfield Foods Inc. has previously expressed interest in having the ability to rest their two wells by purchasing water from the city. The MDD with Smithfield Foods as a customer would jump up to around 4 million gallons and continue to rise to around 4.23 million by 2030.
While the water plant expansion is on schedule, funding for an elevated water tank project is in limbo, expected to go on as scheduled but with the source of the funding in the air.
In September, the City Council approved a conditional use permit request and engineering contract with Wooten Company for the construction of a 145-foot elevated water tank to serve Smithfield Packing Company. The Council also officially signed off on the N.C. Rural Center Economic Infrastructure Grant application that will act to pay half of the nearly $1.8 million cost for the project.
The grant was expected to cover $885,000 grant, with the city paying the same amount. The performance agreement as part of the grant states that, if all the jobs are not created, Smithfield Packing will be required to repay the city of Clinton and the N.C. Rural Center $10,000 per job not created. Connet has said that tab would be picked up by the city.
“We had originally planned to leverage some jobs from the Rural Center using some Smithfield Packing jobs, but that did not materialize,” Thomson noted. “Right now, our task is to complete the design and make it permit-ready and we’re also trying to find some additional funding for that project. We’re about 90, 95 percent done with the design and we’ll set it off for permits and, pending additional funding, we’ll be able to construct that.”
The tank would provide a greater amount of water storage capacity for what would be the city’s biggest customer and will also, with the expansion of the water plant and job creation at Smithfield, allow for improved fire protection in the southeast side of Clinton and better service in that area as a result.
“We thought we would get half of that paid with the grant, and that did not materialize as Chris said,” said Connet. “We’re left with a $1.7 million project of a tank that we really need to get constructed to help provide water to the city, and for the good of the system.”
The foundation for the tank has already been established.
“The elevated tank we’ve talked about in the past to serve that industrial core, we’re looking to put it on a site along Southwood Drive,” said Thomson. “This would provide some additional storage for the industrial area here. That is a former well site, so it’s got some structure already there.”
Public works director Jeff Vreugdenhil said it was a “great opportunity” in that it was formerly a well site, with 10-inch arterial water lines are there extending down U.S. 701 up Southwood Drive and to the base of where the tank would be. “That line is already there, so it’s a good opportunity,” Vreugdenhil said. “We own the property, we can utilize it for a half-million gallon tank. Down the road, that would enable the 125,000-gallon tank that is across the street from Smithfield to be utilized for a reclaim.”
Smithfield Foods, which uses 1.5 million to 1.8 million gallons of water a day, would likely purchase at least 500,000 gallons of water from Clinton on a daily basis once the expansion project is completed, city officials said. The funding that the city would get from having Smithfield as a customer would help offset the cost of the project, but additional funding would be necessary on the front end to construct the tank.
“We would like to pursue obtaining financing for that tank so it can be constructed as part of the water plant project,” the city manager said. “We can circle around, based on the jobs, and see if (Smithfield) would be willing to do it.”
Mayor Lew Starling said the deal may be on “life support,” but further meetings may be able to produce some further headway on the issue.
“If I recall, the excitement was that it was only going to cost us half,” said Councilman Steve Stefanovich. “And now it’s full price.”
Either way, Connet said the funds are there to make the project happen, citing debt service that would be coming off the books over the next several years, freeing up space. With a possible reclaim water project, and the establishment of the Chemtex plant on the horizon (see story later this week), the city would also be seeking other funding avenues.
“The cash flow is there to build the project, based on the revenues,” said Connet.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.