Longmont staff’s proposed 2021 capital improvements include $37.6 million in water projects

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Water projects Longmont’s city staff has proposed for 2021 would amount to 44% of the $84.7 million in total spending on capital improvements staff has recommended including in next year’s city budget for repairs, replacements, upgrades and expansions to Longmont’s infrastructure.

Expenses within the $37.6 million water projects capital improvements category the Longmont City Council is considering as it reviews the overall $371.8 million spending package staff has suggested for 2021 would range from $50,000 — for an ongoing program of buying privately owned land near Union Reservoir if and when it becomes available — to about $19.3 million toward the cost of replacing a treated-water storage facility in Price Park.

The Union Reservoir-area acquisition of property Longmont doesn’t already own there would allow the city “to secure the land necessary for existing and future needs,” staff wrote in its explanation of the project, “on a parcel-by-parcel basis as willing sellers approach the City of Longmont.”

The Union Reservoir land-acquisition project description says the $50,000 the staff is recommending in next year’s budget — along with similar $50,000 amounts in 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025 in the staff’s proposed five-year capital improvement program —  would be for future uses of the city-owned reservoir, including its eventual enlargement for additional water storage as well as for its recreational uses.

The Price Park water storage project would replace an aging 7 million-gallon storage reservoir in that neighborhood park with an 8 million-gallon tank, and it would include construction of a new station that will pump 12 million gallons a day.

“The larger tank and new pumps and control equipment will improve the ability of the site to deliver water to the entire city to meet current and future needs and provide water service during emergencies,” according to the project description, as well as improve water service to a zone generally located south of First Avenue and east of South Sunset Street.

However, the staff’s proposed capital improvement program notes the $19.3 million that’s definitely expected to be available for the Price Park tank replacement and new pumping station would only partly fund that project’s currently estimated $24.3 million total cost.

The remaining $5 million — and the timing of finishing the work — may rely on whether Longmont voters in this November’s election authorize the city to sell up to $80 million in bonds to finance the costs of several water projects, including the Price Park tank and pumping station.

Another major expense on the staff-recommended list for 2021 — and another project whose timing and full funding would rely on voters’ approval of the proposed bonds — is one that would expand Longmont’s Nelson-Flanders Water Treatment Plant.

The estimated cost of completing that project would be more than $49 million, but only about $11.6 million is currently expected to be available from city water funds in 2021. The remaining $37.4 million could come from part of the $80 million in proposed bond sales, if voters approve that ballot proposal.

Untreated raw water delivered from Longmont’s Ralph Price Reservoir west of Lyons is delivered to Longmont’s two treatment facilities — the Nelson-Flanders plant, put into service in 2005 and now the city’s primary treatment plant, and the aging Wade Gaddis treatment plant, which was placed into service in 1983.

The Wade Gaddis plant is used as a backup system in case of emergencies, but it has reached the end of its life cycle and eventually will be decommissioned. However, that plant’s peaking and backup functions must be replaced, in the planned Nelson-Flanders expansion, to maintain the reliability of Longmont’s water system as well as to serve the drinking water needs of the city’s current businesses and residents as well as future residents and businesses within the Longmont Planning Area that defines the geographic boundaries of the city’s growth.

The Nelson-Flanders plant was built as a facility that could be expanded. Staff’s description of the Nelson-Flanders project said a conceptual design and construction phasing plan were completed last year.

If fully funded, construction of the expansion could begin next year and be completed in 2023, Jim Angstadt, the engineering director in the Department of Public Works and Natural Resources, told the council last week.

Becky Doyle, a rate analyst in the Public Works and Natural Resources Department, emphasized in a Friday interview that the proposed $80 million bond issue would not require a water rate increase to repay the interest and principal on those bonds.

That’s because the City Council last December approved a five-year rate schedule that — in addition to helping meet anticipated future expenses of Longmont’s water utility — also contemplated selling bonds to spread out the costs of upgrading Longmont’s aging water infrastructure over several years’ time.

If the bond-issue ballot measure fails to pass, those already-enacted rate increases — detailed at tinyurl.com/y84sp4vc — would remain in effect, and the city’s collections of revenues from those higher rates — the first round took effect this year — would continue to be applied to help pay the water utility’s annual operating and capital expenses.

Bob Allen, the Public Works Department’s director of operations, said Friday that expensive water capital improvement projects that can’t be financed with voter-approved bonds might have to be paid for with whatever cash is available in Longmont’s annual operating budgets.

Other water capital improvements projects staff has proposed including in the city’s 2021 budget — none of which would rely on voter approval of bond sales to be fully funded next year — are:

  • $3.8 million for rehabilitating and improving parts of the city’s system for transmitting untreated raw water to its transmission plants. Among the work being planned: stabilization of a washed-out slope near a tunnel where the Upper North St. Vrain Pipeline is now suspended in the air without support; an investigation to determine the extent of corrosion damage to a Carter Lake connecting pipeline since it was constructed in 1999, and design and installation of a South St. Vrain pump station to connect the South St. Vrain Pipeline to the North St. Vrain Pipeline, $250,000.
  • $1.99 million for rehabilitation and improvements to the treated-water distribution lines, an item that appears in the capital improvements budget annually, although the amounts vary from year to year. Staff said next year’s work is expected to include repairs of corrosion protection systems on large steel and ductile iron water transmission lines; abandonment of 6,810 feet of an aged 12-inch cast-iron water line in Longs Peak Avenue, Judson Street and Third Avenue; installation of 2,150 feet of 12-inch waterline in Gay Street between Third and Longs Peak Avenues; installation of  470 feet of 8-inch waterline in Third Avenue between Gay and Bowen streets; installation of 2,000 feet of 12-inch waterline in Third Avenue between Gay and Main streets, and installation of 320 feet of 6-inch waterline in Fifth Avenue between Bowen and Gay streets.
  • $227,250 for various minor water treatment plant improvements, including any needed to maintain operations at the Wade Gaddis treatment plant, which could continue to provide additional drinking water treatment capacity during the summer months when water demand exceeds the capacity of the Nelson-Flanders plant — while Nelson-Flanders is being expanded and before the Wade Gaddis plant is decommissioned.
  • $200,000 for installing water-flow monitoring stations — a state requirement for locations where water is diverted from natural streams — at sites where the city does not have state-approved flow monitoring equipment. Next year’s installations would be part of what the city said it plans over the next several years.
  • $150,000 for improvements at Ralph Price Reservoir, which are to include design and replacement of mechanical outlet controls and flow meters at Button Rock Dam.
  • $135,000 for an automatic meter reading system, an ongoing project to convert meters from analog to digital radio frequency, which staff said in the capital improvement project description “will enable the (water) utility to improve the management of meter reading and reduce labor costs” and “will increase customer service, improve staff’s safety and efficiency, and reduce rereads and customer inconvenience.”
  • $111,300 for raw-water irrigation planning and construction, an annually ongoing project for the delivery of raw ditch water supplies  to irrigate parks, greenways, school grounds and golf courses.
  • $50,500 for water system “oversizing,” an annual capital improvements program amount the city uses to reimburse developers for oversizing of waterlines constructed with their associated developments. Staff said the reimbursements are for developers for installing waterlines larger than 8 inches in diameter or the size needed and that Longmont may require of the development in order to serve the city’s future water needs.

 

Further information

Details about Longmont city staff’s proposals for capital improvement projects to be included in the 2021 budget staff has recommended to the council, as well as a five-year capital improvement program being proposed for 2021-2025, can be viewed online through a link on a city web page: tinyurl.com/y2v6stjt . The capital improvement program document includes descriptions of proposed broadband, downtown redevelopment, drainage, electric utility, parks and recreation, public buildings and facilities, sanitation, sewer and transportation projects as well as water projects.

A city staff explanation of the proposed $80 million bond issue that — if voters approve it in November — would help fund some of the 2021 and future years’ water projects — along with possible arguments in support of, or against, letting the city sell those bonds, can be viewed at tinyurl.com/y7xymb25.