There are a lot ideas flowing through the pipeline when it comes to the city of Ashland's water infrastructure.
On Friday we reported on the latest issue -- the city's examination of potential improvements to its water treatment plant.
The city said it is considering an estimated $2.5 million improvement plan to its water treatment plant that would be carried out in one or two phases. Consulting firm GRW was hired to examine the water treatment plant's Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition System (SCADA) and field instrumentation needs. The presentation recommended a two-part upgrade plan for the city's water treatment plant with each part costing approximately $1.25 million. This would include improvements to the SCADA: a system of software, hardware, and miles of wiring that allows the water treatment plant to control the treatment process locally, monitor real-time data, record events, trouble-shoot plant data, and directly interact with devices. Part two would involve instrument upgrades and other maintenance needs. This includes replacing 1972 filter valves and actuators, installing VFD's for service pumps, and replacing filter effluent flow tubes. Another part of the presentation contemplates any improvements needed when it comes to systems that perform the tasks of disinfection by-products and maintaining required system chlorine residuals.
Earlier in November the city received presentations on the much needed upgrades to the municipality's water lines. As everyone knows all too well, the city has struggled with repeated water outages in recent years. Ashland is considering a 20-year water line replacement plan to reduce the numbers of breaks in the city from 78 per 100 miles of pipeline per year to 30 breaks per 100 miles of pipe annually. The preliminary plan as presented by a consultant would cost $3.2 million a year. It would be paid for with a volumetric surcharge to citizens’ water bills.
The recommendation is for a drinking water surcharge that would start at $1.20 per thousand gallons starting in the year 2020. In 2021 it would be $1.80, and 2022 would be $2.40 per 1,000 gallons, which would get the city to its needed $3.2 million per year needed to replace 2 percent of the lines per year. In 2022 a household averaging 5,000 gallons per month would pay an extra $12 per month.
No decisions have been made on either of these proposals. They are, so far, simply presentations.
Our prior reporting indicates the city of Ashland has also budgeted about $28 million for the upgrade of its wastewater treatment plant and related infrastructure as part of a consent decree order. Taxpayers are paying for the city’s Combined Sewer Overflow projects since a surcharge was added to utility bills in 2010. The surcharge increased from $2.50 per thousand gallons of sewer to $3.50 per thousand gallons of sewer in January of 2015. As of early 2018 the surcharge had generated a total of $14 million.
Obviously there are a lot of upgrades and expenses coming. Everyone should prepare for an increase in the cost of water, for example. Water and related infrastructure are necessary expenses. Unfortunately, these upgrades have been ignored in Ashland for, our guess -- at least a quarter century. We are now all about to pay the price for this neglect.
Do we run to the mailbox anticipating higher bills with a smile on our face? Of course not. However, if Ashland wants to transform its economy, facilitate growth, create jobs and keep our youth in the area, then this infrastructure is critically important. We urge the city to proceed judiciously and do what is best for its citizens while also planning for the future, keeping the taxpayer in mind at every turn by cutting costs elsewhere whether it be overtime, tightening up on unnecessary expenditures and doing everything possible to alleviate the upcoming increases in costs.