By Jennifer Gallus
Since 2002, the City of Howard Lake has been grappling with the idea of how and when it would expand its current wastewater treatment plant.
Many scenarios have been considered, but the latest scenario, that surfaced about a year ago, seems the best fit environmentally and financially, according to City Engineer Barry Glienke.
Because of increased environmental standards, projected costs have increased dramatically in relation to the inevitable wastewater treatment plant upgrade of the current plant.
Those skyrocketing costs forced the city to consider other options, and the resulting option, which will cost less than upgrading the current plant, is to “regionalize” the wastewater with a surrounding community, according to Glienke.
Regionalization entails the construction of a lift station and a force main that will deliver the wastewater from Howard Lake to a shared wastewater treatment plant north of Howard Lake for treatment.
A brand new plant for the cities of Annandale and Maple Lake is currently under construction off of Wright County Road 7, approximately eight miles north of Howard Lake. That is the plant the City of Howard Lake is considering partnering with.
“We preliminarily looked at all the surrounding cities,” Glienke said. “Including Winsted, Waverly/Montrose, Cokato, and Annandale/Maple Lake. The Annandale/Maple Lake option is favorable because the wastewater treatment facility is brand new, which makes it easier and more fair to divide up each city’s share of costs there’s no existing capital to try to place a value on.”
The Annandale/Maple Lake City Councils entered into a joint powers agreement forming a wastewater commission to oversee the construction and operation of a regional wastewater plant and the force mains and lift stations for the two communities. That commission has already approved the idea of having Howard Lake partner as a shared stakeholder with the facility, Glienke said.
The city councils of Annandale and Maple Lake are conducting a joint council meeting this evening, Monday, May 12 in Annandale to vote on a vote on an amendment to the joint powers agreement to include the City of Howard Lake.
Howard Lake’s financial share in the project is expected to be around $766,000, which has been tallied from a number of different components.
The cost share for the City of Howard Lake has been based on the how many Equivalent Dwelling Units (EDUs) each the City will contribute to the plant. An EDU is a 4,500 gallon/month water user.
Howard Lake has 1077 EDUs, Annandale has 1820 EDUs, and Maple Lake has 1025 EDUs, according to Glienke.
“If the City of Howard Lake was to join the Annandale/Maple Lake Wastewater Commission, it would bring approximately 38 percent new EDUs to the system,” Glienke said.
The Average Wet Weather (AWW) design capacity of the Annandale/Maple Lake wastewater treatment plant is 1.184 million gallons per day (MGD).
The AWW flows for Annandale and Maple Lake together are expected to be 624,000 gallons per day to the plant. If Howard Lake joins, it will add 400,000 gallons per day, totaling an AWW flow of 1.024 MGD sent to the plant.
That leaves the plant with room for an additional 160,000 gallons per day or 540 EDUs before an expansion of the plant would be necessary.
Environmental and cost savings/benefits
Instead of the three communities building identical facilities in three different locations, the shared plant offers a greater economy of scale by building one large facility, Glienke explained.
The current operating expenses for the Howard Lake wastewater treatment plant is $100,000, the operating expenses for the joint treatment plant will be about $220,000 split between three communities, which is an approximately $25,000 savings per year for the City of Howard Lake.
Administrative costs will also go down with the shared facility.
Rate increases will be minimized due to the ability to spread the costs over three communities and three times the amount of users, Glienke said.
Even though the new, shared plant meets current standards, future unforeseen but inevitable tighter environmental regulations will at some point drive up costs, but those costs will again be shared over three times the users.
“Those tighter limits are what drove up the costs of upgrading the current Howard Lake plant,” Glienke said.
Funding for the new plant
A low interest-loan through the state Public Facilities Authority will be used to pay for the Annandale/Maple Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant and piping.
Currently a per 1,000 gallon rate of $4.50 will be charged by the commission to the cities of Annandale and Maple Lake starting at the first of the year. This rate charge along with Sewer Access Charges (SAC) paid by new development will cover the debt service and the operating and maintenance on the joint facility and the piping, according to Glienke.
If Howard Lake joins the commission the rate structure will remain the same, as above, for all three communities, with the rates and SAC covering the additional debt service on the loan, as well as maintenance, operation, force main, and lift station construction costs.
That charge will be billed monthly to the cities from the wastewater commission. A meter will be in place to monitor how many 1,000 gallons are pumped from Howard Lake each month, Glienke explained.
“The city will then charge that back to the residents, along with maintenance fees for the collection system that will still need to be maintained through town,” Glienke said.
The financial impact on the current sewer rate resulting from the city joining the partnership has not yet been determined.
Open house scheduled
The City of Howard Lake is hosting an open house regarding this topic and invites interested city residents to attend.
The open house is scheduled for Thursday, May 22 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at city hall. There will be a short presentation and opportunity to ask questions regarding the project during the open house. A special council meeting will follow to vote on the matter.