City Hears Options For Wastewater Plant

The City of Yankton is facing another major decision on a key piece of infrastructure as deadlines approach to act on unprecedented amounts of available federal dollars.

During an extended City Commission work session Monday, Director of Environmental Services Kyle Goodmanson laid out to the board the results of an assessment process that started two years ago to study costs of rehabilitating Yankton’s aging 1964-built wastewater treatment plant located at the mouth of Marne Creek or moving it to a new location.

One option is out of the question, though.

“This timeline is pushed up a lot because of the funding, but also the reality of it is, the do-nothing option is not sustainable very soon,” Goodmanson said. “If we look at the breakdowns and the issues we’ve had with equipment and we look at that 20-year window that we’re in — it’s time to start replacing equipment at that facility.”

The first option presented was rehabilitating the plant at an estimated cost of $44 million. This rehabilitation would build off of work that was completed during its last rehab in 2000 and a separate EDA (Economic Development Administration) project for which the city was awarded a $6.4 million grant that’s expected to be bid out in early 2022.  

Goodmanson said it would largely include equipment replacement with some minor brick-and-mortar work to facilitate expansion of undersized components.

However, he said there are some drawbacks to the rehab option which could drive costs higher, among other issues.

“There’s going to be a few more change orders in a retrofit rehabilitation of a facility,” he said. “There always is an increased risk for compliance issues during a retrofit because you’re bypassing and shutting things down. Our state DANR (Department of Agriculture & Natural Resources) is very easy to work with, but when you do have a compliance issue, they do send us a nasty letter that goes to the mayor.”

It would also mean a 67.61% sewage rate increase for a 20-year loan, pending no grant was approved.

As for a new treatment plant in an alternate location, the concept would come with an estimated $88 million price tag and a host of additional challenges.

“We have to have a lift station at our current facility and we have to pump it to the new location,” he said. “You’ve got three to five miles of force being needed to get it to the new plant.”

Theoretically, the new plant could be anywhere accessible in all weather conditions within a couple of miles of town and a mile from the Missouri River where it discharges into what is considered South Dakota. However, no suitable locations have been scouted at this time.

Goodmanson said that such a project gives him some pause.

“There’s some funding issues with that,” he said. “Can we borrow that amount and, as a utility, do we want to go that far in debt? I’m cautious about that.”

He noted that it could also be the hardest option to get additional funds to help with the cost.

“We most likely will not get grant money for the additional cost of relocation,” he said. “That’s not guaranteed, one way or the other, but my conversations with (DANR officials) says we will most likely be disappointed.”

Goodmanson said that it could be especially tough to get the project finished by the 2026 deadline for American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

As for sewage rate, without a grant, it would mean a roughly 100.47% increase to user rates on a 30-year loan.

The State Revolving Fund (SRF) application deadline is Jan. 1, 2022, and would mean the city will have to move quickly on a decision whether to pursue rehabilitations or a new plant altogether.

Though no formal action was taken during the work session, commissioners were asked to have a direction to go in by the Dec. 13 commission meeting, during which a public hearing will be held on the matter.

During the board’s regular meeting Monday, the commission:

• Announced a potential quorum for Dec. 3 at River Rock Event Center during the city’s employee holiday party. No official business will be conducted at this time;

• Approved renewal of the city’s alcoholic beverage licenses;

• Approved writing off uncollectible utility accounts;

• Approved bids for transport-tankwagon petroleum, a steel Transfer Station walking floor trailer and an articulating loader:

• Appointed former City Commissioner Dave Carda to the Planning Commission.

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