Gillette City Council Considering How To Approach $20 Million In Wastewater Upgrades

Dec 11, 2019

Credit City of Gillette

Gillette's Wastewater Treatment Plant is in need of serious upgrades to its 30-year-old-equipment.

Now, the city council is searching for the best way to fund it.

There are five high priority projects the city wastewater plant must address to keep it running. The updates come with a price tag of $20 million.

At Tuesday's city council work session, city staff presented council with several options for funding the projects. Ultimately, council agreed two state loan programs would be top choices if they could be secured.

Those options are the Clean Water State Revolving Loans Fund (SRF loans) and the Wyoming Capital Construction Loan Program.

The council also discussed rate increases, optional 1% funding, municipal bonds and a new capital facilities tax. Though they agreed those choices would not address the size of the request alone.

City Utilities Director Mike Cole said some of the necessary equipment needs to be ordered and ready to install within the next year.

"That's our critical path that we're working on right now: tackle the financial piece, get it approved through our budget process, give us some time to plan and design and permit the improvements, and then proceed with the installation one year from now," he said.

Cole said the improvements are more focused on the equipment rather than construction. Many critical pieces of equipment have long-exceeded their lifespans.

"It's replacing 30-year-old equipment with newer technologies, so the traditional construction of building a new building to house that equipment is not as critical," he said.

Bob Molder, wastewater services manager, said the plant needs to build in redundancy with the equipment. That way if something breaks down, they won't have shut down or put strain on the system.

Molder said spare or new parts are hard to find because of the equipment's advanced age. That means it more expensive to fix, requiring staff to search on eBay for parts or commission a new part from scratch.

"There are two machines here that are mechanical rakes, and we only have one in operation at the moment. They have both busted in the past couple of months. We have robbed enough pieces from one to make one operational," he said.

Beyond the immediate $20 million upgrade concerns, there are also recommendations for more improvements to the facility over a longer period of time that would be an additional $10 million.

At the meeting, city staff said they will work on getting a better idea of loan options and report back to the council.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Catherine Wheeler, at cwheel11@uwyo.edu.