PORTSMOUTH- In his presentation before Portsmouth City Council Monday night, Kris Ruggles of Strand Associates, Inc. shared a common phrase he has heard throughout his career as an engineer.
“The best time to build infrastructure was yesterday,” the Wheelersburg native said, now living in Columbus.
Accounting for a new Ohio River intake system, clearwalls, site piping, and other expenses, construction is scheduled to take place between 2023 and 2025 following a final design and bid-out for construction work.
Most of that sum will go towards its construction, but $3 million will cover demolition costs of the current plant just east of the New Boston Walmart and another $3.5 million and $4.7 million for the final design and construction-related services respectively.
Preliminary designs have been drawn up by Strand, who is now seeking approval from the council to proceed with a loan for its final design. The group said aging infrastructure has made this work a time-sensitive necessity with most equipment well beyond its useful life.
“You guys have gotten more than your money’s worth out of the plant you have,” Ruggles said. “As Andrew and I said, the single points of failure are a very significant risk.”
The single points of failure of the current structure, where a malfunction in one part of the system can lead to a complete shutdown, fall back on the age of the equipment. Esarey shared in the presentation that some currently operating items, such as the river intake system and presedimentation basin, date back to the 1920s.
The useful life of those equipment piece ended in the 1970s, most others identified also being past that point but more recently. River water pumps, for example, reached the end of their useful life in the early 2000’s.
Still four years out from 2025, 2nd Ward Councilwoman Charlotte Gordon asked what would happen if the current system were to fail during construction of the new one.
“If an emergency happens at your plant, we are in the midst of a risk and resiliency assessment right now,” Ruggles replied, this assessment due by June 15, 2021. “If one of those things fail between now and then, we’ll attack it and take the emergency planning, put equipment in place, and make sure it’s not a waste of money.”
As Ruggles further explained, water from the current treatment center serves more than just the city. Half of the users are Scioto County residents he said, going to places such as Haverhill and Franklin Furnace, and another portion goes to Lawrence and Adams counties.
“It’s interesting while we think in terms of tax base and localized city council items, here’s an item where you are managing a major utility that goes far beyond the city limits and has greater impact,” he said.
To afford the project, Ruggles suggested the city look into grant funding at both the state and national levels and to consider increasing its below average water bills.
In their findings, Portsmouth has a 2021 estimated water bill of $40.90 which trails the state average of $54.10 and is far behind Scioto Regional Water District and neighboring Jackson County who are both over the Ohio average.
By 2026, the group suggest increasing the city rate incrementally to $64.55 when it just be over the projected state average of $62.71.
“Portsmouth’s rates have been low and to the benefit of customers for a very long time,” said Ruggles, calling the current rate “exceptional.” “They are going to have be brought up to essentially the state average over the course of the next few few years.”
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3101 ext. 1931, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @pkeckreporter
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