Director: New plant needed

By Christina Calloway

PNT senior writer

The Portales City Council is looking at options to fund the construction of a new wastewater plant.

Public Works Director John DeSha said the city’s need to replace its outdated plant is based on a growing population and because the current plant is not meeting state standards.

The council reviewed repayment options Tuesday at a special meeting for the $27 million government loan it voted to apply for to construct the plant, though the city will only pay for the amount of money it uses but can borrow up to that amount.

Of the options reviewed, the city found it favorable to raise the base rates for water by $15 a month and wastewater by $20 a month for the city’s near 5,000 customers. The current base rates for water and sewer are $13.72 and $12.46 respectively, according to the city’s website.

The council also expressed raising the water rates for the 1,440 water co-op customers that use the city’s water because the co-op is an extension of the city, according to DeSha.

“We can service the debt with that amount,” DeSha said. “The fee is the more secure way to ensure we have this money. It can start generating more revenue, which can expand the life of the well field.”

DeSha said water customers will be given plenty of notice before any rates are changed and he doesn’t expect that to happen until the city goes out for bids for the construction of the project, which is likely to take place in the beginning of 2014.

DeSha said the loan will cover the building of a reuse plant, which includes a storage facility, a reuse pump station, filtering station and piping to furnish treated water to the city’s parks, cemetery and schools. He expects 25 percent of the water pumped from the city’s well field to be reused for that irrigation.

“What we’ll be producing is quality potable water,” DeSha said.

City Councilor Leo Lovett said he understands the need for the project but was concerned the city doesn’t know the true operating costs.

Lovett also felt the city will have to be transparent to show customers exactly what the funds will be used for.

DeSha said the figures he provided the councilors in the repayment options show them what would happen if the city used the full loan amount, though he only believes the project cost to be no more than $25 million.

“These are just starting points. This is to give an idea of what this kind of fee structure will generate,” DeSha said.

DeSha added he will be exploring grants to help fund the project. DeSha said the project could start in the next six weeks.

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