City Commissioners look at a diagram of a lift station Wednesday morning.

The City of Emporia is looking into options to fund the construction and replacement of four lift stations following a meeting of the city commission Wednesday morning.

The project comes with an estimated $3.6 million price tag.

A lift station is used to pump wastewater from a low level to a higher level when the gradient of the area does not allow for a natural flow. Emporia has 20 lift stations located throughout the city, each of varying capacity and age. The four lift stations were constructed between 1977 - 1998 and represent different load capacities, as well.

Lift Station No. 1, located at 1836 Merchant St., is a 25-foot deep wet well requiring new construction and a 200-horsepower generator. BG Consultants Office Manager Bruce Boettcher said the cost of that project alone would top $1.35 million.

Lift Station No. 2, located at 1304 East St., would be a $1.65 million project, requiring total rehabilitation and new generators. Less intensive work would be required at Lift Station Nos. 5 and 15, with costs totaling $150,000 and $450,000, respectively.

Boettcher presented two options to commissioners, including a loan through the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and a general obligation bond. Interest rates for both options are low — less than 3 percent. Still, it would be Emporia residents who ultimately take on that obligation.

Vice Mayor Rob Gilligan has concerns about asking residents to shoulder the burden of another massive project while still paying for the new wastewater treatment plant through utility increases over the next few years. He said it was important for the city to be able to move wastewater efficiently — no one wants to find sewage backed up in their basement — but the cost would need to be considered carefully.

“Obviously we’ve identified some significant needs ... so now the discussion is going to be — how do we plan to fund that debt that we would be incurring?” Gilligan said, adding that he would like to see commissioners discuss these options in the upcoming months. “We already have pretty significant commitments for our wastewater fund for a long period of time to cover that kind of debt.”

Gilligan said the irony of not taking on a project now would be a higher cost later on.

“The irony of pushing off any construction project is, the inflationary rate of construction is usually anywhere between 3 and 5 percent,” he said. “If we can borrow money at 2 percent, it’s really cheaper for us to build it now than it is to wait a year, two years, three years ... but making sure we have cash flow is the conversation the commission needs to have over the next few months.”

ESU update

Commissioners also heard from Emporia State University President Allison Garrett, who provided an update on the university’s progress over the last few months. Garrett said, despite a projected shortfall in funding, ESU is moving forward with a number of new programs.

ESU saw an overall 1.4 percent increase in enrollment for Fall 2019, with a 4 percent increase for incoming freshmen. The university has also maintained a high student retention rate.

Last year, the Kansas Board of Regents gave the School of Nursing permission to double the size of its nursing program. The program has seen a 100 percent success rate for students taking the NCLEX-RN exam required for licensure. This fall, ESU will expand the nursing program further with more degree offerings.

Garrett said she was pleased with other progress at the school, including the ongoing renovations at Abigail Morse Residence Hall, which is set to open this fall.

Roads and alleys

Public Works Director Dean Grant also spoke to commissioners about options for road and alley repairs. Grant has recommended the city moves away from its current slurry seal program for treating roads, and move instead to a chip seal program. A chip seal is a thin surface treatment of liquid asphalt or an emulsion binder covered with an aggregate on the roadway. It is similar to slurry seal, he said, but generally costs less.

Commissioners asked Grant to receive bids for both methods before a decision was made either way.

He also presented a list of alleyways in need of work. The city will continue looking at options in the coming months.

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