City manager: Water and wastewater improvements may not be 'sexy' but they're crucial to Batavia's future
While water and sewer improvements certainly aren’t as intriguing as the construction of a playground designed for children of all levels of ability, they are vital to a municipality's health and well-being.
With that in mind, five of the seven projects that would utilize $1.4 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding -- as recommended by City of Batavia Manager Rachael Tabelski -- have to do with upgrades of water and wastewater systems or purchases of related equipment.
Tabelski, in a presentation at Monday night's City Council Conference Meeting at the City Hall Council Board Room, provided details of the water/wastewater proposals.
She was supported by Stephen Waldvogel, P.E., technical director with GHD Group of Buffalo, the company in line to contract with the city for water system planning assistance, and wastewater system headworks and capacity analysis.
The one “public facing project,” Tabelski said, is spending $800,000 – equally split between ARPA money and anticipated grant funding – on upgrading Austin Park (which is located behind the current City Police Department) to an "inclusive destination playground."
Tabelski said that residents have told her they don’t feel safe in that park, compared to other city parks.
“But if we have a really nice playground and really nice space, hopefully, we’d have really great families visiting there so everyone could feel safe at that park,” she said, adding that the project would include enhancement of the water splash pad there.
“I think this is a good opportunity,” she said. “Most of these other projects are water and sewer line utilities. This would be something, obviously, the public could see and enjoy, not that they don’t enjoy clean water – you just don’t see it every day. It just comes to your house, right?”
CITY GETS $1.4 MILLION IN ARPA FUNDING
As reported first on The Batavian on Saturday, Tabelski put together the list of priority expenditures that qualify under ARPA’s rules and regulations. The city received $1,474,764.79 from the federal stimulus action (and, as reported last night, already has half of that in its bank account). The remainder is scheduled to be allocated after the first of the year.
Tabelski made a convincing case for engineering studies, analysis and upgrades of the city’s aging wastewater treatment plant and assistance as it moves toward the phasing out of its water plant.
Two of the projects on the list call for contracting with GHD Group – one for engineering services for water system planning ($248,000 in ARPA money) and the other for wastewater treatment plant headworks and capacity analysis ($250,000 in ARPA money).
“(The engineering services contract) is something the city needs to start immediately, whether we decided to use ARPA funding or not,” Tabelski said of an anticipated two- to two and a half-year contract with GHD.
The gist of that project is to address and replace lead services lines throughout the city according to new federal regulations, she said, mentioning the additional requirement of an online map to show residents the location of lead lines or suspected lead lines.
Tabelski also said that engineering expertise is needed as the city prepares to close its water plant in conjunction with Genesee County’s plan to provide Monroe County Water Authority water to city residents.
After outlining the scope of services of the water system planning resolution, Tabelski turned it over to Waldvogel, who said he has worked with the city “in the background” for the past 10 or 15 years.
ENGINEER: GENERATIONAL CHANGES IN STORE
“The revised lead and copper rule is probably one of the most substantial changes to the water regulations in a generation,” he said. “It will have a substantial impact on your water department and that’s one of the reasons why Rachel is looking to tackle some of these big things.”
As far as the wastewater treatment plant headworks and capacity analysis is concerned, Tabelski said the city just completed a $1 million project to replace the main air system that goes along the ponds.
She said analysis is needed of the pipes that go into the ponds to bubble and diffuse air to allow the ponds to digest waste efficiently and to “understand what our capacity is today so we’re able to make future decisions.”
Waldvogel added that the air system at the wastewater treatment plant is aging and deteriorated.
“There needs to be, as requested by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation), a headworks analysis of the facility,” he said. “And what that is, is essentially an analysis to determine the flow and contaminant loading that the plant can properly manage while you still meet your permit.”
He said the plan is to collect data for 12 months – determining the different “loadings” for all four seasons – “and from that you’ll determine how the facility removes a long list of contaminants, and from that you develop your own local permits which you issue to all the local industries that discharge to your system.”
Waldvogel said this will have an effect on the Town of Batavia, which is a minority owner and also discharges to the plant, and positions the city for long-term growth and future investment.
He also indicated that by understanding its capacity, the city would have to renew its wholesale sewer and meter reading agreements with the Town of Batavia “which are predicated on certain flows and certain loadings.”
Three other projects relating to water and sewer are replacement of the Cohocton water transmission line that supplies water to the southwest quadrant of the city ($400,000 in ARPA funds and $400,000 in Water Reserve funds), replacement of an aging sewer camera ($50,000 in ARPA funds and $50,000 in Wastewater Reserve Funds), and replacement of meter reading equipment ($26,764.70 in ARPA funds and $1,718.79 from Water Reserve funds).
AUSTIN PARK: AN OPPORTUNITY ZONE
Tabelski said Austin Park is about 25 years old and that area qualifies as an Opportunity Zone due to 2019 figures that show 12.9 percent poverty and 4.9 percent unemployment.
“This fits into addressing negative economic impacts and public health in a neighborhood,” she said. “We want to continue to provide those outdoor, healthy living, recreation opportunities, but also doing something a little more significant.
“We don’t have anything that is like, ‘Wow, that is a cool playground.”
She called it an inclusive destination playground, one designed for children of all different abilities and for those in wheelchairs, for example.
City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. sought to clarify the meaning of “inclusive” – requesting the term “universal access” be included going forward.
He said that Council passed a resolution several years ago that authorizes the board “to think in that realm whenever we designed anything new.”
The other project (using $100,000 in ARPA funds and $440,000 from the Facility Reserve Fund) would make necessary improvements at the city’s Bureau of Maintenance and Fire Department -- the purchase of a new generator to fully run fire headquarters on Evans Street and to make the facility compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
City Council voted to forward all of the recommendations to the Oct. 12 meeting.
DIVIDE NY, OTHER RESOLUTIONS
On another front, Council, at the request of Sixth Ward Council member Rose Mary Christian, briefly discussed a bill in the New York State Assembly that provides for a referendum on the question “Do you support the division of New York into two separate states?”
Christian was looking for Council’s support of this bill, and seeking guidance on the best way to proceed. City Attorney George Van Nest said that it was a state referendum, not a local one, and, if passed, would be placed on a ballot for statewide voting.
The bill calls for a general election -- posing that question to state voters -- to be held on or before Dec. 31, 2022. The bill is sponsored by Assemblyman Stephen Hawley. The Senate version is S7314. Currently, there are no votes for this bill scheduled in state legislative session.
In other action, Council forwarded to the Oct. 12 Business Meeting resolutions:
- Spending $38,800 from the Facility Ice Rink Reserves account for purchase and installation of a new compressor that is part of the ice making equipment at the Batavia Ice Rink on Evans Street. Tabelski said one of the two compressors has failed and to rebuild it would not be cost effective.
- Spending $84,000 from the Water Reserves account as a local match to the $334,000 the city received in a grant from the Northern Border Regional Commission to fully fund the installation of 950 linear feet of 8-inch water main along Bank Street – from Washington Avenue to Main Street. The project will replace 90-plus-year-old pipe, thus increasing water supply and flow in that area, which is designated as the site of the new police headquarters.