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Aquarion set for final Holyoke public review

By DAVID REID
dreid@repub.com

HOLYOKE - A complicated bid by Aquarion Water Services of Bridgeport, Conn., to design, upgrade and operate the city's expanded wastewater treatment plant for 20 years will get a full airing before the City Council's Finance Committee, Monday, October 18, 2004.

The meeting follows a public presentation last week by technical, legal and financial consultants hired by the city and by a team of civilian volunteers that separately analyzed Aquarion's proposal.

Although the City Council has no direct role in awarding the contract - that responsibility is solely in the hands of Mayor Michael J. Sullivan - Public Works Superintendent William D. Fuqua said he is following up on a commitment to update the council. Two years ago, however, the council authorized spending about $1.2 million to hire consultants to prepare developer bid specifications needed to enter a private-public partnership. Those consultants are still at work evaluating the proposal from Aquarion.

The council might also be needed to approve bonding to pay for some capital improvements at the plant.

Sullivan said consultants say the Aquarion proposal will save the city $7.1 million over 20 years, based on the preliminary analysis from both the paid and volunteer consultants. While sewer-user rates will rise over the next two decades, the consultants reported, the Aquarion proposal will result in lower rates than if the city proceeded alone.

The aim of the project is to comply with federal and state environmental requirements to stop sewage from overflowing into the Connecticut River during heavy rains. Currently, a number of major sewer lines are combined with stormwater pipes, a situation that has resulted in significant illegal releases.

Sullivan said Friday that he will base his decision on specialists' analysis of technical data.

"We had independent experts," said Sullivan. "These are people of great integrity (and) they're all out there staking their professional reputations on this." Among highlights of the Aquarion proposal to upgrade the wastewater treatment system:

  • Improve the city's flood control plan.
  • Develop a comprehensive emergency response plan.
  • Produce a new 20-year maintenance and repair plan for equipment.
  • Set baseline equipment evaluation standards.
  • Replace 100-year-old sewer and stormwater pipes and roofs on three plant buildings.
  • Institute more effective odor controls at the plant.
  • Hire up to 25 of the current sewer department employees to operate the expanded plant.

 

The Finance Committee will meet at 6:30 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall.