Council Workshop Center on Water Treatment Cost - TribPapers

Council Workshop Center on Water Treatment Cost

Weaverville Water Treatment Supervisor Trent Duncan.

Weaverville – The expansion of the Weaverville Water Treatment plant was the main topic at the workshop held Tuesday night (Oct. 12) by the town’s council.

Members of WithersRavenel Engineering firm were on hand to present and defend the cost estimate of the expansion that gave council members sticker shock at the September council meeting. 

The shock came when the cost of the expansion ballooned to more than doubled the price given in 2017 to close to $11.5 million. Weaverville Water Superintendent Trent Duncan introduced members of WithersRavenel, who analyzed the cost of the expansion. 

Kent Orey, with WithersRavenel, opened by saying that the council was making a “generational decision” about the water treatment plant, and one not made since the plant came online in 1998. 

“That’s the last time the council had to really deal with these issues,” he said. 

He said the increased costs were due to an incomplete estimate back in 2017 and increased costs due to growth and material shortages. 

“And those prices are not coming down,” Orey said.

Casey Carland, another WithersRavenel member, gave the board five alternatives, the first being take no action and the town will have to eventually quit growing; second, move forward with the expansion; third, new groundwater wells with treatment and water treatment plant expansion; fourth, new groundwater wells with treatment at the existing site; and fifth purchasing water from the City of Asheville. 

Carland said the average depth of the Ivy River, where the water treatment plant gets its water, is 2.24 feet. The expansion of the plant to three million gallons per day (MGD) from the current 1.5 MGD would lower the river’s depth by one inch. 

“These are very hard decisions,” injected Orey. He then spoke about grants for the project. 

Councilman Doug Jackson asked about the increase of the project over the 2017 estimate. Orey said that growth and shortages coupled with originally working off the 2017 estimate another engineering firm had given the town, “this should accommodate this, and that’s how we got to this [2021 estimate].” 

Jackson said he could not believe that supply and demand would not work to lower prices. 

“Through 2026, when the ARP (American Rescue Plan) funds have to be spent, you will see this inflation. Because you have eight billion dollars being spent in the state of North Carolina,” responded Orey.

Increasing Costs

The council also worried the estimate would continue to increase. Orey explained it would, as some suppliers are only guaranteeing their pricing for days. Until the town gets a contractor under an agreement, it would be at that point, the cost for the expansion would be fixed.

Members of the also spoke about offering to help with alternatives to taking more water from the Ivy River. The council also learned using water from the Ivy is on a “first-come,first-serve” basis, meaning first to get approval from the state that receives the water.

In other items on the agenda, the council directed Town Attorney Jennifer Jones to come up with a list of procedures of rules for the responsibility for the mayor and vice-mayor based on state law. They also received an update on the new community center fundraising before dismissing for the night.

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