Provo Council update on wastewater treatment plant 11

A portion of the Provo Wastewater Treatment Plant is seen Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

After Monday’s inauguration, four new Provo Municipal Council members hit the ground running at Tuesday’s work session and regular council meeting.

Shannon Ellsworth, David Shipley, Bill Fillmore and Travis Hoban garnered voter confidence and came out on top during the November election. That quorum joins council veterans David Harding, Dave Sewell and George Handley as the new municipal council.

Tuesday’s work session was filled with a flood of information intended to bring the new council members up to speed on some of the most important issues the city is facing.

After a briefing on the open meetings law and the Government Records Access and Management Act required by law, Scott Henderson, director of Parks and Recreation and lead director for the new city hall project, updated the council on the facility.

“This is an exciting challenge,” Henderson said. “Our responsibility is to deliver a magnificent program.”

Henderson said that costs must still be in the budget constraints of the $69 million bond the public voted on. That will not be as easy as it looks, he indicated.

To show just how much costs have increased, Henderson said that six years ago when the recreation center was built the square footage cost was about $212 per square foot. To build the city building, the cost is about $320 per square foot.

Layton Construction, the project contractor, is in the final process of gathering schematic design estimates. Those should be done by March. Site work will begin in early April with construction starting in late April. The building, located at the corner of 500 West and Center Street, is expected to be completed by December of 2021.

After Henderson, Dave Decker, director of Provo’s Public Works department, updated the council on the waste water treatment plant. He gave a timeline of what has happened and, to the council, what is in their future for the facility.

“We’re going to the major projects right up front,” Decker said. He presented a 10-year timeline that touched lightly on all that has happened on the sewer improvements, pipe replacement and addition concerns, how the west side figures into the situation without sewer connects and the treatment plant itself.

Changes and upgrades to the waste water treatment plant are in response to the state legislature and the Department of Environmental Quality, Decker said.

The city, as well as many others around the state, are required to meet certain decreased levels of phosphorus and nitrates that are being sent from the treatment plant into Utah Lake — all of which goes into Provo Bay.

Decker said many cities asked for extensions.

“A five-year extension variance on the treatment plant was granted,” Decker said. “With several requirements the city has met.”

Decker said the city also received a $78 million loan from the Utah State Water Quality Board. It will go into effect July 1 with a four-year payoff.

Decker shared how waste water fees have increased since 2011, most of which helps with capital improvement projects. At that time, the average homeowner was paying $17.11 per month. This year, that amount will be $55.09. By 2023, it will be $82.52.

Decker said even if with those fee hikes, Provo still remains at the bottom of the fee scale compared to other cities along the Wasatch Front.

When it comes to sewer pipes, there are still large areas on the west side of Provo that don’t have them, other areas have limited capacity.

“$15 million worth of pipe has been laid on the west side over the past two years,” Decker said. There is now one master lift station at the airport. That master station eliminated five smaller lift stations.

In wrapping up his presentation, Decker said the construction and updating of the waste water treatment plant will begin in September.

The council also reviewed past goals and a council vision statement. They also briefly discussed a working list of priorities. Those will be discussed further in a weekend retreat.

Rona Rahlf, director of the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce, reported on six priorities that have come from an Envision Utah survey of more than 10,000 people.

The top priorities concern water, air quality, transportation, education, housing and open spaces.

Handley said he was concerned there was very little discussed about climate change.

“You’ve got to know our audience,” Rahlf said. “They don’t like ‘climate change’ in this county.”

She added that is why the terms water and air were used instead. The same was true for “high-density housing.”

It is a community challenge, Rahlf said. You get into density and then you have NIMBY-ism (not in my backyard).

New council member Shannon Ellsworth was concerned that women were not being represented fairly and equally on Envision Utah committees and other committees within the city. Only seven members of the Envision committee of the 36 were women. She would like to see it more 50-50.

The council will tackle other training in the coming months but, for the present, they will be gearing up to start hearing from city department heads on their budget needs for fiscal year 2020-2021.

Daily Herald reporter Genelle Pugmire can be contacted at gpugmire@heraldextra.com, (801) 344-2910, Twitter @gpugmire

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