QUINCY -- The city's public works facilities once again dominated the discussion at the Monday meeting of the Quincy City Council as city leaders voted to spend more than $723,000 on the department.
The biggest expenditure approved by the council is for engineers from Crawford, Murphy and Tilly to draft the blueprints for the next round of improvements at the city's waste water treatment plant, which is located at 700 Lock and Dam Road.
"The next schedule for the treatment plan is for replacing inoperable water clarification and digestion equipment," said Jeffrey Conte, the city's director of engineering and utilities. In addition to replacing 45-year-old equipment, Conte said the engineers will also help the department identify ways to lower its operating expenses, or more specifically its energy bills and the cost of removing sludge from the waste water plant.
"We are have them look at two main processes and those processes are interconnected," Conte said.
The first process is called primary clarification.
"This is where raw sewage comes into the plant and it removes the organic material before it goes into the biological treatment process," Conte said. "By ?removing that material before it hits the biological treatment process, it reduces our energy expense because the bacteria that eat the material require lots of oxygen. So we have to blow a lot of air into the water, and by taking it out earlier that will save us some money."
The second process is called digestion. Conte said this is a process where chemicals will be used to remove the sludge from developing in the waste water plant. Currently, the city pays a third-party hauler to take the sludge away and spray it on a field.
By improving the digestion process, Conte said the city could reduce the amount of sludge in the waste water plant by approximately 40%.
"There would be a substantial savings in the disposal cost," Conte said.
Conte said he expects to have the results of the Springfield-based engineering company's study by June 2021.
He added the study would likely provide the city with several recommendations about improvements that can be made to the waste water treatment plant. Those recommendations could range in cost from $2 million to $7 million.
"We want to balance out our initial investment cost with our projected savings," Conte said. "The cost is going to be driven by the potential savings on the energy side and the disposal side. If we are going to save up to a half-million dollars annually, it would make sense to spend $7 million. If we are only looking to save $100,000, then it would make sense to only spend $2 million.
Any recommendations provided by the engineers would still need to be approved by the city's utility committee and the city council. However, funding for the improvements have already been appropriated by the city, which is financing the work through sewer rate increases that were implemented in May 2018. Conte said municipal ewer rates will not see an additional increase because of this work.
The implementation of this round of improvements at the waste water treatment plant won't begin until February 2021, according to Conte.
The city council also approved spending $207,582 for insuring the city's public works facilities, including its water plant, waste water plant and pump stations.
"This is insuring $112 million of real property," Conte said after the meeting. "This is in case there is some sort of flood, fire or some other kind of damage at those facilities. The $112 million is the actual replacement cost for what we have in those facilities."
Conte said the insurance's sticker price was driven higher because what the city is covering, but also because the city had a $3.5 million claim within the last 10 years.
"There is always a risk for flooding, and our premiums have gone up because of that," Conte said. He said the city has taken steps to mitigate that risk, but still the risk remains.
The council also approved a $16,111 one-year contract with Hach Company of Chicago, who will perform annual maintenance and calibration of the city's water treatment equipment.
In other business, the city council approved the Quincy Exchange Club's request to close streets in Quincy on Memorial Day weekend for the 30th annual Gus Macker basketball tournament. The council also approved resolutions to keep the city's current hotel and motel occupancy tax, which is set at 8%, unchanged for the upcoming year. The city's Home Rule Purchase Tax rate was also unchanged at 1.5%.