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New wastewater location, plans, design approved
Built in the 1980s, the Monroe Wastewater Treatment Plant is reaching its capacity with no room for accidental discharges, and some pieces of the facility are at the end of their life, according to the water utility director, George Thompson. (Times photo: Anthony Wahl)
MONROE - Plans for the $23 million wastewater treatment plant upgrade sailed through the Plan Commission Wednesday, because construction will not expand the facility's current footprint, according to Mayor Bill Ross, chairman of the commission.

The commission's approval of the location, plans and design was merely a "housekeeping" step in the process, said Dave Powers, the city's building inspector and zoning administrator.

Official notice of the bid opening for the project was first published Jan. 25. Sealed bids will be received until 2 p.m. Feb. 28 at the city clerk office, after which the bids will be publicly opened and read aloud. A mandatory pre-bid conference was held Feb. 12.

Under a proposed timeframe for construction, the plant could have additional capacity in place during the summer of 2013.

The project plans now include administrative and garage space for the city's water department. The administration building is expanded by about 1,100 square feet to allow the wastewater and water departments to share the facility. The two utilities began sharing personnel and other resources in 2011.

In November, Jay Kemp, project manager for AECOM, said he believed the current bidding climate was favorable.

"I don't know of any other projects of this size at the moment," he said. "Contractors will be able to offer competitive pricing at this time."

The project cost is estimated at about $23.5 million. The utility has about $6 million on hand, and qualifies for a Clean Water Fund loan for the remaining $17.5 million. The utility could also receive a principal forgiveness grant and a Focus on Energy grant.

Monroe's treatment plant capacity requirement is unique because wet industries - associated beer, cheeses and whey production - contribute about 70 percent of the plant load, unusually high for most municipal plants. The current facility processes an average of two million gallons per day, but peak use has reached more than three times that rate during some hours.

Built in the 1980s, the plant is reaching its capacity with no room for accidental discharges, and some pieces of the facility are at the end of their life, according to the water utility director, George Thompson, in June 2011. The DNR has changed its ammonia limits and biosolid storage since 1984, and Thompson expected phosphorus limits to become stricter also.

Plans for the upgrade have been in the making since before 2006.

Requests for proposals from engineering firms to help plan the project went out in late 2010. The Board of Public Works in April 2011 approved a consulting agreement with AECOM Technical Services, Inc., Middleton, for planning the wastewater treatment plant facilities. AECOM submitted a quote of $69,170 for the work.

In January 2012, the Common Council approved a consulting agreement with AECOM, and authorized proceeding with design and bid services for $998,000. According to Thompson, at the time that cost was covered by set-aside funds begun in 2006 by Jerry Ellefson, WWTP superintendent until December 2009. In January 2013, AECOM was hired, at a cost of $1.7 million, to oversee and inspect the construction of the upgrades.

The wastewater treatment plant operates with user fees, not tax dollars. The City of Monroe Wastewater Utility increased sewer rates by 18 percent in early October 2012. The council approved the raise, anticipating a deficit primarily from debt obligations associated with the upgrades. The previous rate increase was in February 2009.