As preliminary work continues to be done on St. Clair’s 2014 budget, much of the focus has been on the city’s aging wastewater system, which is in need of major repairs.
The board of aldermen, Mayor Ron Blum, City Administrator Rick Childers and department heads met earlier this month for a second budget workshop to continue to put together the document that will guide the city’s spending next year. The meeting lasted less than 90 minutes, but most of the discussion centered on Fund 2, which deals with water and sewer.
The city uses six funds. The others are general, parks, street improvement, half-cent sales tax and transportation tax. By law, St. Clair must pass a budget by the end of the year.
During the workshop, Blum presented an “engineer’s opinion” of probable project costs prepared by the Archer-Elgin engineering firm that target the city’s “wastewater short-term priorities” to be considered in the coming year’s budget.
In a nutshell, the report outlined four projects as well as a sanitary sewer master plan.
“At our last budget meeting, we discussed significant improvements that are needed to our wastewater system,” Blum said. “I’ve talked to an engineering firm (Archer-Elgin), and they’ve given us guidelines to what our immediate needs are.”
The estimated cost to prepare the sanitary sewer master plan is $98,000. The estimated cost of the four priority items is $480,000.
The four items are stabilization of the west trunk main stream bank ($10,000), a redirect of the pump station 5 forced main ($25,000), Oak Street sewer replacement ($25,000) and an upgrade to pump station 4 ($420,000).
“All money spent will go directly toward system improvements,” Blum said. “There will not be any redundancy of spending or spending money we don’t need to spend.
“The upgrades we would be making now would be concurrent with upgrades made in the future.”
Both the short- and long-term needs would be included in the master plan.
Both Blum and Childers believe the west trunk main, the pump station 5 redirect and the Oak Street sewer replacement can be accomplished this year. Any additional money needed for these items would come out of the city’s reserves, they said.
The majority of the pump station 4 upgrade would be done in 2014, again with money coming out of city reserves to help pay for it.
“The key piece in this is doing upgrades and repairs on the system that will not need to be redone,” Childers said.
As far as the master plan, Blum and Childers said putting it together will save the city money in the long run.
“It will give us a blueprint,” Childers said. “And, it should prevent us from making a big mistake down the road.”
The board of aldermen on Monday is scheduled to consider an ordinance that would allow Blum to enter into an agreement for services with Archer-Elgin.
The group set a third budget workshop for 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 13.
During the first workshop in August, Childers produced a preliminary budget as a starting point. It included revenue and expenses for the city’s six main funds.
Before that first session got under way, Blum reminded those in attendance that a budget “is a working document.”
The administration remains in agreement that the city wants to produce and pass a balanced budget again in 2014.
In the preliminary budget document used for discussion, total water and sewer revenue and expenses both were estimated at about $1.86 million. Revenues included some money being transferred into the fund from reserves.
In December 2012, the aldermen approved this year’s operating budget of $6.449 million. For the fifth straight year, that budget was balanced.
The city’s wastewater system includes five lift stations and lagoons. Information from the city states that lift stations 1, 2 and 3 flow to station 4.
“Pump station 4 is taking all the sewage that drains from lift stations 1, 2 and 3,” former Public Works Director Ed Bliss told The Missourian earlier this year. “Pump station 5 for years has pumped into the same forced main as pump station 4 does. However, it only has enough head capacity to pump when pump station 4 is not pumping.”
Bliss added that in the 1980s when the lift stations were built, the city at that time realized there was too much flow into lift station 5. In an effort to alleviate that problem, he said crews then put a “T” joint into the existing forced main from lift station 4.
New Public Works Director Jason Ivie will continue to work on the plan. His first day on the job was Monday.
Lift station 1 is located off of Neff Road, station 2 is southeast of St. Clair High School or about a half-mile southwest of the intersection of Highways 30 and K, and station 3 is off of Mill Hill Road. Archer employee Jeff Medows told city officials that St. Clair’s wastewater system “was original to the city of St. Clair.”
Earlier this year, Childers said that the city wants to “find a proactive solution to this instead of having to be reactive.”