Marengo juggles to cover wastewater work

MARENGO – Money for maintenance and repairs to Marengo’s water and sewer system will be stretched thin in the next 18 months to cover about $1 million in upfront costs for the city’s wastewater plant upgrade.

Financial juggling is needed to stave off larger increases to wastewater rates for residents and small businesses in 18 months, when the city starts to pay back a multimillion-dollar loan to expand the aging wastewater treatment plant.

“The whole idea here is to keep the rates as low as possible,” City Manager Gary Boden said. The water and sewer budget has money for engineering fees, new plant equipment and other upfront expenses due this year, and to avoid increasing Marengo’s monthly loan payments to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Boden said.

But in the short term, putting maintenance and repair money to the upgrade means the city won’t have money for smaller water and sewer projects and for typical maintenance needs for at least the next year.

The city had doubled wastewater rates to cover expansion of the plant, then temporarily cut the rates last fall as officials worked with a new engineer to redesign the project.

Officials halted construction on the $12 million project last year because a buried landfill on site would have added significantly to the cost of the project. HR Green, a McHenry company now engineering the project, has crafted a less expensive, $9 million plan that avoids the landfill area.

The City Council debated nearly an hour Monday before unanimously endorsing the purchase of equipment for the expansion. Members authorized a $291,385 bid for a second centrifuge, a major piece needed to treat wastewater.

“We need to have an option to go to in case of an emergency,” 1st Ward Alderman Steven DiMaria said. “That would be my only concern.”

Boden said the city has about $400,000 in nondedicated money to pay for repairs and maintenance. The city also could seek grants and other funds in the year ahead to pay for additional water and sewer projects, he said.

Upfront costs for the expansion include $590,000 in engineering fees to HR Green, and $60,000 at most to install the new centrifuge.

The city also has to pay $105,580 in fees to J.J. Henderson this year. The city terminated its contract with the Gurnee construction company after officials stopped construction on the expansion it designed.

HR Green in coming months will develop detailed designs for the expansion.

The city could seek proposals from construction companies as early as June.

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