Water systems plan proposes $10 million in capital improvements

A comprehensive master plan update for the city of Coon Rapids’ water system proposes spending close to $10 million in capital improvements over the next five years.

The plan prepared by the consulting engineering firm of Bolton & Menk to update the document approved in 2000 was presented to the Coon Rapids City Council at a work session July 15.

Before the council considers formal approval of the plan at a later date, Mayor Tim Howe asked staff to prioritize the proposed projects that are included in the plan.

Acceptance of the plan by the council does not commit it to the projects that are proposed; separate actions would need to be taken on each before they moved forward, according to City Manager Steve Gatlin.

The city’s water system currently includes three water storage towers, two water treatment plants, two ground storage reservoirs and 24 wells.

According to Douglas Klamerus, project engineer for Bolton & Menk, the purpose of the study was to analyze the water distribution system for deficiencies, review energy use and identify cost savings, provide recommendations on supervisory control and data acquisition, which he called the “eyes and ears of the water system,” and develop a 10-year capital improvement program.

As to energy use reductions, the pumping cost is the largest energy user in the water system and savings can be made by increasing off-peak pumping, using high efficiency pumps, operating pumps at the highest design efficiency and reducing head loss in the system, Klamerus told the council.

The plan recommends replacing the current control and acquisition system in the next five years because the manufacturer has discontinued support of the product line and the system lacks “operational features and historical trending common in new systems,” he said.

For increased security the plan calls for additional cameras and recording equipment at the east and west water treatment plants, more door access control at towers and wellhouses and installation of network communications at all towers and wells.

And in addition to the capital improvements spelled out in the plan, Bolton & Menk recommends that the city continue ongoing maintenance by rehabilitating one well each year at a cost of about $250,000 and replacing water mains on an annual basis, usually as part of street reconstruction projects, at a cost of some $2 million each year.

The largest of the capital improvement projects proposed in the plan is construction of a new 1.5 million gallon elevated water storage tower in the south part of Coon Rapids in 2015 at an estimated cost of just over $4 million.

According to the report, the city’s current storage volume is below the recommended level and the east tower at Foley and Northdale boulevards is constructed at different overflow elements than the rest of the system, is undersized and too close to the east water treatment plant and reservoir to operate efficiently.

The plan proposes demolishing the east water tower in tandem with construction of a new south water tower, factoring in the lost storage volume into the new tower’s design.

Five potential sites for the south water tower have been considered and the preferred location is on Foley Boulevard by the railroad tracks and the possible future rail site just east of East River Road because of its proximity to an existing water main, Public Works Director Tim Himmer told the council.

Among the other projects in the water system updated plan are replacing water main in the area of Foley Boulevard and 101st Avenue to start in 2014 and continue in 2015 and 2016 at an estimated cost of $300,000; supervisory control and data acquisition and security system upgrades in 2016 ($950,000); north elevated storage tower rehabilitation in 2017 ($1.56 million); east ground storage reservoir rehabilitation in 2018 ($700,000); and backup power generation at the east water treatment plant and wells in 2020 ($1.2 million).

According to the Klamerus, the rehabilitation work at the north tower and east reservoir is needed because of deterioration of the coating and possibility of corrosion.

Finance Director Sharon Legg projected that if the city sold bonds for the first five years of the proposed improvements, amortizing the bonds over 20 years, the result would be a 5 percent increase in water rates.

“It’s not the end of the world to sell bonds because interest rates are still pretty low,” she said.

Councilmembers were concerned about the cost of the proposed capital improvements and their impact on water rates, given that water usage has been going down.

“People are using less water and should be paying less,” said Councilmember Denise Klint.

That may be true, but the fire department is concerned about the water supply level for fire protection  and the proposals are designed to provide operation efficiencies and enhance public safety, according to Gatlin.

Howe said it would be wrong not to plan for the long-range future. “It’s the thing to do,” he said.