Sterling councillors are asking voters to fund a new wastewater treatment plant

Photograph of Main Street in Sterling Colorado facing north taken in the 1920s.

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Sara Waite):

At their regular meeting Tuesday, the Sterling City Council approved a resolution asking voters to take out a loan of up to $37 million to replace aging infrastructure and address “inflow and infiltration” issues. The interest rate on the bond would not exceed 3.25 percent.

City Manager Don Saling assured the council that the actual debt and interest rates should be less than the city is asking for, but the cost of the project has not been completely nailed down, and interest rates are also fluctuating. Because of that, he said, “limits were set conservatively.”

Repaying the wastewater bond will require city sewer rates to go up, but how much has not been identified. The council has been awaiting the results of a rate study for water and sewer services that looked at infrastructure needs, debt service and operational costs, but an evaluation of the wastewater treatment system done in 2016 by engineering firm Mott MacDonald suggested they go up $23. Since then, the city has implemented flat rate hikes annually, in anticipation of higher rates to pay for the required system upgrades.

The ballot question specifies infrastructure improvements that include changes to the headworks building, which suffered extensive flood damage in 2013; replacing the existing force main and constructing a redundancy in case of failures; modifications to the main plant; lift station replacements and corrective measures for the collection system. One of the problems the system has is leaks from the storm sewer system that can flood the wastewater lines and disrupt the treatment process after heavy rain events.

Failure to make the improvements could result in hefty fines from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, as much as $10,000 from the date of the first violation in November 2017.

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