Yesterday’s recount all but guarantees the city will construct the planned membrane bioreactor plant, but questions still remain
In the end the membrane bioreactor won out, beating the odds with the help of voters and a close recount.
With the way Santaquin’s city council will stand in 2012, Mayor James DeGraffenried should be able to push the construction of the MBR forward.
Currently seated on the council are James Linford and Rick Steele, who have both shown support for the MBR. Joining the council in January are Richard Payne and Matthew Carr, who have backed MBR plans throughout their campaigns.
The lone opponent of the MBR in the council will be ex-mayor and newly elected councilman Keith Broadhead, who campaigned strongly against the MBR specifically because of the high costs the city would incur in order to build and operate the facility.
Broadhead made clear during his campaign his intentions should the propositions to fund the MBR pass. At Meet the Candidate Night, Broadhead expressed concern over construction of an MBR plant on the north side of Santaquin, saying he would “definitely fight to have it constructed on the west side of town where the existing lagoons are” should the MBR need to be built.
Now that the construction of an MBR seems all but inevitable, a decision on where to build it still remains.
The alternative that Broadhead and his supporters oppose is the construction of an MBR at the north border of town called Highline Canal. Two alternatives would put the MBR in that location, one with plans for continued use of the current lagoon system and one with plans to abandon the current system in the short term.
Broadhead prefers to build the MBR at the current lagoon system location and continue use of that system. All three alternatives, however, include plans to discontinue lagoon use within the next 10 years. Option 5C would have the intent to “eliminate concurrent operation of two treatment facilities” more quickly than the other two options.
Debate during the council race focused on the costs associated with building the MBR, and indeed all three alternatives come with a high price tag. In the long term the plans will cost between $24 and $26 million. But abandoning the current lagoon system now, Alternative 5C, carries a significantly higher initial cost.
To cover Santaquin’s short term needs, roughly the next ten years, Alternative 5C will cost $23,465,000 — noticeably more than the other two alternative’s short term costs of $17,025,000.
The council will now have to decide whether they want to pay $23.5 million now and end up with at least a $1 million discount in the long run, or fork out $17 million now and pick up $8 million more along the way in various upgrading costs.
They also face a dilemma with the two possible locations. A facility at Highline Canal would eventually free up the current lagoon system property for other purposes. In the Wastewater Treatment and Collection Master Plan done by JUB Engineers for Santaquin in 2009, it mentions the possibility of using the land for a business park or even a secondary education building. “City planners have also designated an area near the lagoon site as the future location of a high school,” it states.
On the other hand, opting to construct the MBR on the west side of town at the existing lagoon site would put the facility in an area already in use for sewer treatment. Land already acquired at Highline Canal could possibly be sold by the city and be put towards operation and maintenance costs at the west site.
The passing of Propositions 1 and 2 may have eliminated other non-MBR sewer treatment options, but the mayor and city council are not out of the woods yet.
Yesterday Councilman Filip Askerland said, “The city still has some challenges ahead of them.” Deciding which alternative best serves the needs of the city will be one such challenge.