Trenton City Council votes to proceed with $1.5M headworks project at sewer plant

City of Trenton Website

The Trenton City Council has voted unanimously to proceed with the headworks portion of sewer plant improvements. This followed a city council tour of the sewer plant and a review of plans for the headworks project.

Previously, the city council authorized the effluent disinfection project to meet Department of Natural Resource requirements. That includes loan payments with certificates of participation. Some three years ago, the council had adopted a sewer rate scheduled that included 30% increases in rates in the first two years, and a 26% increase for the third year, however, the city and TMU has held off on the third year increase to better evaluate the water usage at the Nestles plant in Trenton.

City Administrator Ron Urton, in recommending the headworks project, explained it should be included with other sewer plant improvements since a contractor would already be on site and the city would avoid costs of re-mobilization.

After discussion, the city council voted seven to nothing to request Burns and McDonnell engineering to prepare a proposal to get fixed costs and to include a rate study on possibly how to pay for the additional work. Councilman Brad Chumbley, a previous critic of costs associated with sewer plant improvements, made the motion to proceed with the additional project. Chumbley explained the tour of improvements needed at the sewer plant gave him a new amount of respect for sewer department employees.

Burns and McDonnell wrote in a memo to the council that the existing headworks has failed, the screens are out of service and the grit chamber is leaning due to the settlement of the structure. The engineering company reported material and debris is clogging pumps and mixers downstream resulting in failure of processing equipment. The engineers stated the material and debris is making its way into the sludge which is land-applied and could put the city at risk.

The company noted the most efficient move is to construct a structure that accommodates new shallow screens and a grit removal channel with deep foundations. Such action would position the city in the long term for easier and safer maintenance of equipment, depart from a failing existing headworks structure, and protection of downstream equipment from debris and protection of land application fields from undesirable material in the sludge.

Burns and McDonell is recommending an update to financial planning to reflect anticipated revenues and expenses associated with Nestles; to position the city to fund additional improvements to the sanitary sewer treatment and collection system and to better understand potential impacts to utility ratepayers and the ability for the city to secure debt.

The preliminary engineering report lists the headworks design-build project will cost $1,500,000. Included is $240,000for Burns and McDonnell to finalize the rate model and phase one design and bid.

The city council voted seven to nothing to adopt two ordinances. One sets the tax levy for the general revenue fund and the park fund at $1.07 on the $100 of assessed valuation which is a slight increase from last year due to the assessed valuation within the city limits dropping by $290,000. The adjustment in the tax levy is to make the revenue neutral.

The council approved by ordinance, a conditional use permit to Tim and Laura Bland for 1242 Tinsman Avenue to be converted to a single family dwelling.

Mayor Nick McHargue raised the question as to whether Grundy County should have been one of the funding sources for replacement of the 17th Street Bridge. He’s also questioned in the past why Trenton Township provides only $16,000 annually to the city.  Doctor McHargue requested input from the city council, with Councilman Larry Crawford suggested city officials meet with the county commission and the township board. As a result, a motion was made and approved for Trenton City Administrator Ron Urton to form a committee to meet with the other two entities.

In a public comment part of the meeting, Debbie Kinnison sought clarification on a 2011 ordinance regarding outdoor cats which she said has become an issue in her neighborhood. City attorney Tara Walker indicated cats could be considered a nuisance when on someone else’s property unless the owner is cleaning up after them.

Councilman Travis Elbert was absent for last night’s meeting.