Council holds off on La Plata sewer improvement project
The La Plata Town Council has decided to hold off on a project that would upgrade the southwest part of the town’s sewer system currently in need of repairs.
The Sewer Improvement Plan for the Town of La Pla- ta was presented by Direc- tor of Operations Robert F. Stahl Jr. and former mayor Bill Eckman on Oct. 18. After the presentation, the council requested addi- tional time to consider the necessary improvements for the southwest quadrant of the town. On Nov. 8, the council met to further dis- cuss when the town should go about completing the project.
“The town appointed a sewer advisory board in 2007 to create a long range plan,” Stahl said. “We consulted with devel- opers, engineers and prop- erty owners regarding the needs and future plans of the town. The advisory board developed a sewer improvement plan that was designed to serve the town at its final projected buildout of 2.5 millions of gallons per day.”
The proposed plan improvements include increased trunk line to (Waste Water Treatment Plant) WWTP, replace Willow Lane Pump Sta- tion, eliminate Hawthorne Road Pump Station, reduce overload on Wash- ington Avenue and up- grading the southwest quadrant sewer.
Eckman said the pump stations generate hydrogen sulfide and cause pipes and manholes to self-destruct over time. He said additions to the sewer system — 37 miles of sew- er pipe and 16 pumping stations — were designed and built by developers at their own cost.
Stahl and Eckman said the cost to install the southwest quadrant while the new Sonic Restaurant and La Plata United Meth- odist Church are under construction is less than half the original estimate.
The total estimated cost of the southwest quad- rant sewer upgrades is $1,104,656. The area’s biggest concerns include a bottleneck at the inter- section with difficult ac- cess, a need for additional sewer capacity, 50 acres of undeveloped commercial highway zoning, 250 acres of undeveloped mixed use development, on-site septic systems on Port Tobacco Road that need to be eliminated, and pump stations that are poorly designed and expensive to maintain.
“By completing the southwest quadrant sewer project, the town will have complete five of the six priorities established by the Sewer and Water Advi- sory Committee 10 years ago to support the antici- pated development within the existing borders of the town,” said Town Manag- er Daniel Mears. “The es- timate for construction is less than half the projected $2.5 million cost of 10 years ago when it was designed. The town has sufficient fund balance in the sewer utility to fund this project. The current fund balance is approximately $2.25 million.”
The council addressed its own major concerns pertaining to the southwest quadrant sewer project.
“Doing it now would be cost effective because the contractor is already in place,” Mayor Roy G. Hale said. “From the presentation that we had from Stahl and Eckman, they said this would be the time to consider it because it is cost effective.”
Councilman Keith Back said the town has already committed to completing a part of the project. He agreed that the plan is much cheaper if they com- plete the upgrades now.
Councilman Wayne Win- kler and other councilmen expressed their personal views in regards to putting off the project for now.
Councilman Joseph Norris asked about the town being reimbursed by developers for some of the sewer improvements, which he said he has seen in previous cases.
“My biggest question is what would this do for the service of the Town of La Plata residents today? Nothing other than create new pump stations, which I understand we’ve had trouble with before,” Councilman Lynn Gilroy said. “If we look at the entire list of what was proposed to us, most of those were paid for by some- body else and we don’t know how long it would take for anyone further south to begin develop- ment. It could be three or four years or it could never happen. We don’t know what’s going to happen and if we had some other major issue come up right behind this, then you would possibly need that money to handle that problem.”
Hale said the council believes that unless there is a more guaranteed way to ensure the town will be reimbursed for part or all of the costs of the southwest quadrant sewer upgrades, then the council would prefer to hold off on the project at this time.