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City speeds up study of old plant for storm water management

WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council will accelerate a study of using the old wastewater treatment plant for storm water management purposes.

The council voted Monday to speed up Barr Engineering's storm water management analysis to coincide with the decommissioning process being undertaken at the old treatment plant by Donohue and Associates. City officials explained the timing is right for Barr to study storm water management options at the same time as Donohue undertakes decommissioning the old plant prior to the startup of the new wastewater treatment plant later this year.

Using the old treatment plant for storm water management topped the list of five ideas recommended by the 12-member Storm Water Task Force the council appointed in August 2008 to find possible solutions to flooding problems caused by heavy rain storms.

The council authorized Barr in August 2009 to do the first phase of a three-phase study to update the city's water management plan, perform water quality and water quantity modeling and update the storm water ordinance.

City Administrator Michael Schmit said the cost of the three-phase study was in the range of mid-$90,000. Schmit said Barr is wrapping up Phase 1, which cost about $30,000.

"Now what we're saying is we have an opportunity to accelerate the phase 2 and 3 analysis of their original proposal to coincide with the Donohue work to decommission the old plant,'' Schmit said. Proceeding with the second and third phases will bring the entire study cost of $99,980, which is covered by a $100,000 allocation in the 2010 budget.

Public Works Director Mel Odens said staff's recommendation to speeding up the Barr study was brought directly to the council (rather than through the committee process) because of the timing issue.

"The phase 3 addresses how we could use the old plant for storm water treatment and storage,'' said Odens. "We need to accelerate that phase of it so that Donohue and Barr can mesh and come up with a good plan.''

Task Force Chairman Rolf Standfuss spoke to the council.

"I think the Storm Water Task Force feels it's imperative that we get this study done to proceed to the point where we can look at our five recommendations,'' he said, agreeing with Schmit on the need to accelerate the Barr analysis. "The old plant is probably highest on the list of the five ideas. If we lose that opportunity, we can't go back and use it.''

Mayor Les Heitke said he was worried about possible cuts in Local Government Aid from the state due to the state's budget deficit and he said the study should be delayed until the Legislature decides what it will do.

Schmit said the city will need to set priorities if LGA is cut. But he said money for the study is budgeted and storm water issues rank high locally.

If storm water management techniques are incorporated into the decommissioned plant, officials will ask the state if those costs are eligible for funding under the wastewater treatment project, Schmit said.

Odens said Barr will evaluate using some remaining structures at the old plant to treat and store storm water. Schmit said water diverted to the plant from the nearby County Ditch 23A could possibly be pumped to the west through an existing discharge line.

Council member Doug Reese said getting water out of Ditch 23A would relieve backup problems that arise with heavy rainfall.

After the meeting, Standfuss said he was pleased with the council vote "because it's been something that we've been working on as a task force since early last year when we were formed. We're excited about it. Hopefully we can keep going forward.''

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150