Charles City Council talks water and sewer and some projects end while others get going
By Travis Fischer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Water, sewer, and parking were major items of discussion at the Charles City Council’s workshop on Wednesday, March 15.
Lance Aldrich of Fox Engineering was present to discuss the closeout of the Water Resource Recovery Facility (WRRF) project.
Initiated in 2019, the project entailed the demolition of part of the city’s old sewage treatment plant and the construction of a new one. The new plant was recently put through its paces after absorbing millions of gallons of water due to a damaged manhole cover exposing the sewer system to the Cedar River.
Originally bid at $16,948,000, the total cost of the project ended up being $17,642,342.84 after change orders and delays during the construction. Aldrich noted that $260,000 of change orders did not come out of the city’s costs, with Fox compensating the contractor for a three-month delay.
While some finishing touches and paperwork need to be completed, Aldrich recommended that the council declare the project complete at its regular meeting on Monday, and approve the final $53,272.79 pay order, expecting the remaining work will be done well before the 30-day hold on the payment is through.
“If for some reason they don’t have these things done by the time the 30 days are up, I will just e-mail (City Administrator) Steve (Diers) and (City Clerk) Trudy (O’Donnell) and say ‘Don’t pay the $55,000,’” said Aldrich.
In other sewer business, the council discussed plans for a sanitary sewer lining project.
The city is planning on installing new linings in between 3,300 and 5,850 feet of sanitary sewer mains along Main Street with alternates on Jackson Street and North Grand Avenue.
While more of a “flushy” project than a “flashy” project, as noted by Council Member Keith Starr, City Engineer John Fallis explained the benefits of doing lining projects over full-on replacements of sewer mains. By extending a cured-in-place lining along the inside of pipes, existing sewer mains can be re-sealed and reinforced at a fraction of the cost and without digging up streets.
“The main pro on this is being able to get new pipe in the ground, a new sewer pipe, without having to excavate,” said Fallis. “It literally becomes a new pipe.”
For projects above the pavement, the council reviewed the current state of the Mill Race Parking project.
The city is working on designs to enlarge the parking area between Union House and The Pub on the Cedar, eliminating the two-way traffic on that portion of Jackson St. in favor of increasing the parking capacity of the block.
“This new lot layout would provide us about 127 parking stalls,” said Diers.
The council discussed signage, accessibility, crosswalks, and numerous other aspects that will need to be considered as plans continue to move forward.
In other business, Chamber of Commerce Director Mark Wicks and Joe Alvarez of Burrito Mexpress presented an application for a façade grant to go toward new signage for the burrito shop. Burrito Mexpress operates inside Hot Shots Billiards and, with the building owner’s permission, plans to add two pieces of signage to the exterior walls, to be visible from Main Street and the north parking lot. Alvarez is asking for half of the $3,200 cost of the project, as is allowed in the city’s façade improvement program.
Funds for the façade grant were depleted last month, so, if approved, the grant will need to be paid out of the Culture and Entertainment District fund, as will any additional applications until the funds are replenished in July.
Wicks also introduced Carol Frye and Christopher Anthony to the council to present the annual Historic Preservation Report.
Established in 1994, the commission works to preserve Charles City’s historic locations by advising local entities and can also help owners of historic property through the National Registry process if they would like their property to join that list. Most recently, the commission worked on getting the North Grand building registered as a historic landmark.
The commission is also creating a series of puzzles depicting Charles City’s historical locations and selling them to raise funds to support their website, working on placing QR codes at historic locations to offer more information on those sites, working with the city to save the Wildwood Clubhouse and planning for a Charles City Historic Trivia Night at Tellurian Brewing.
The council also looked at bids for banking proposals to consider for the city’s banking needs. The city must solicit bids every three years and this time four banks offered bids.
Of the bids received, First Security Bank offered an interest rate slightly higher than CUSB, who currently services the city. Though the rate is higher, City Administrator Steve Diers noted that switching banks would involve a lot of administrative work through moving accounts, reprinting checks and changing automatic payment services.
“It’s such a small difference,” said Diers. “It would be our preference to stick with CUSB, even though it’s a slightly less interest rate. We’ve been very happy with the work they do.”
Moving back to water infrastructure, it was reported that the variable frequency drive (VFD) on Well No. 5, which is one of the two supplementary wells for the city’s water supply, is not working and cannot be repaired as the 20-year-old system is no longer supported by the manufacturer. As such, the city will need to replace the unit at an estimated cost of $24,950.34.
It was also noted that construction has begun on the city underground clearwell project, which will add additional storage capacity for drinking water.
“They’re making pretty good progress already,” said Diers. “We’ll keep digging.”