Reports were presented on several topics during Tuesday evening’s meeting of the committee that oversees Trenton Municipal Utilities. Attending were Councilmembers David Milka and Cathie Smith; four department heads; and other city officials.
No action was taken; although there are indications upcoming projects will require city officials to at least consider increasing water and sewer rates in the near future.
According to Utility Director Ron Urton, an engineering report describes repairs that need to be made at two clarifier basins at the water treatment plant. The estimated cost for the repairs is $2.4 million. Urton said the project includes repair to equipment that has been in service for over 50 years. Funds also are needed to replace drive units that have been in service for almost 25 years.
To do the proposed work, TMU is expected to borrow money which results in the consideration of raising water rates to pay for the loan. The staff is working on preliminary estimates for the cost to pay for the loan. Urton believes a water rate cost of services and a rate study would be most beneficial to determine how much revenue is required to cover the cost of the proposed improvements.
City and TMU officials continue to address issues with several sewer mains. The issues also include 20 plus mains that are described as under houses, collapsing of older mains, and sinkholes. Employees are to identify areas for possible sewer main lining to be done. However, Urton noted sewer plant upgrades financially depleted the Sewer Fund to the extent that sewer rates will have to be raised to pay for needed repairs and to keep the sewer fund in financially sound position.
Work was recognized that has been done over the last ten to 20 years on some of the water main projects which he indicated significantly reduced the number of breaks. But continued work is needed to replace old and undersized mains, and loop mains together, to improve the flow for fire protection. Urton added that a hydraulic model is being developed to identify those areas of low flow, and low pressure, and to assist in determining where to make improvements.
Regarding a recent project, a 2-inch water main supplies potable water to the sewer plant. With the addition of the new headworks building there, the demand for water at the sewer plant exceeds the capacity of the 2-inch water line. To continue operation, the crew has to alternate activities that use this water.
When the sludge press is operating, Urton explained the grit removal is by-passed at the new headworks building. Currently, the sludge press only operates one or two days a week. But during wet weather or high inflow into the plant, the grit removal operates continuously using more water. Therefore, the city is seeking proposals to design a water main to the sewer treatment plant. This is a topic to be on the agenda for the June 22nd city council meeting.
Regarding accounting information for the TMU Electric Department, Missouri Public Utility Alliance is changing billing methods which will have two components. One is a base fee which covers the cost of all fixed assets, like buildings, wire, poles, transformers, and operating costs. The second component is the energy fee which covers the cost of the electricity that Trenton purchases. The unit cost varies during the day based on demand for electricity.
Urton said this structure is designed to help customers better manage their electric bills by adjusting when they use electricity – such as later in the evening or at night when unit prices are lower. TMU’s electric bill is similar in that there’s a base fee to cover fixed costs and an energy fee that’s based on usage. He noted TMU does not have the ability to use a “time of use” structure because of the expense of new meters and billing software.