CNHI News Service
The city of Greenup won’t be pulling out of a joint regional sewer project, as officials had earlier indicated it might.
The city council on Tuesday voted 5-1 to press ahead with the agreement, under which the city will send its waste water to the Wurtland sewer plant for treatment.
Earlier this month, the council expressed misgivings about continuing with the project, citing the as-yet-unknown effects of the February closure of the Sun Chemical Performance Pigments plant at Wurtland and the possibility Greenup sewer customers could see significant increases in their sewer bills as a result.
The council voted 4-1 to instruct City Attorney R. Stephen McGinnis to draft an ordinance rescinding its agreement with Wurtland and Greenup County to join the regional sewer commission. During the same meeting, the council also asked its consulting engineer, Richard Howerton, to complete a feasibility study on upgrading or building a new waste water treatment plant and took action to begin researching the ownership of property north of the current treatment plant in case the city needed to acquire it.
But, on Tuesday, Mayor Lundie Meadows said officials had learned that the city pulling out of the joint agreement would not be greeted favorably by officials with the state Division of Water.
According to Meadows, Shafiq Amawi, the division’s water infrastructure branch manager, paid a visit to Greenup on Monday and made it “abundantly clear” that the state still expected to abide by the order signed by then-Mayor Donna Hewlett in March 2007, under which the city agreed to eventually shutter its own aging sewer plant and tie on with Wurtland.
Amawi also told city officials it “would be in Greenup’s best interest” to proceed with the joint agreement and that failure to do so would result in more stringent enforcement action against the city’s current plant, Meadows said.
The mayor also said Amawi had indicated the division had “taken it easy” on the city with regard to enforcement because of the agreed order, but that Greenup could expect that stance to change dramatically if it backed out of the regional project.
If the scenario ever came to pass, the division could potentially impose hundreds of dollars a day in fines, which could drain the city’s treasury, Meadows said.
Councilman Marty Stephens — who said he was also in on the discussions with Amawi and agreed with Meadows that the city had little choice but to remain part of the joint sewer commission — made the motion for the city to do just that. Councilman Jeff Hurn seconded. Councilman David Black cast the only dissenting vote.
Meadows said he would be contacting Wurtland Mayor Donna Hayes today to inform her the Greenup was still committed to the joint sewer project.
At a special meeting on Friday, Hayes and members of the Wurtland City Commission expressed deep concern over the possibility of Greenup abandoning the project. They said adding customers is critical to the future of the Wurtland sewer plant, which has seen a massive drop in the volume of waste it treats as the result of the Sun Chemical plant closure.
The plant, which opened in 1989, was built primarily to serve the needs of Sun Chemical, which generated 96 percent of the facility’s operating expenses and also covered the majority of its debt service. The plant had a capacity of 1.1 million gallons, far more than what Wurtland needs to serve its residential customers and the other industrial plants in the city.
Under the regional sewer agreement, the line carrying Greenup’s waste to Wurtland will be paid for using a $1.87 million grant. An additional $500,000 has been secured for an eventual extension to Lloyd.
Meadows said he felt the city’s hands were tied to a certain extent by the agreed order and that he still believed the city could break even, or even come out slightly ahead, by building its own new sewer plant.
Meadows said that earlier estimates to build a new plant were between $2 million and $3.5 million, but others said those figures were far too low. Officials also noted the city would still have to secure Division of Water approval to build its own facility.
Wurtland officials have said there will eventually be sewer rate increases as the result of Sun Chemical’s closure, but that it’s too soon to gauge how much rates will be going up because it’s not yet known how much it’s going to cost the city to run the plant, which is being converted from an industrial treatment facility to one that primarily treats household effluent.
KENNETH HART can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2654.