Water Plant Manager Floats Request For Upgrades

OSWEGO, NY – At its meeting Monday night, the Administrative Services Committee heard a report from Brian Folgherait, plant manager of the Water Department, regarding upgrades to the plant.

Due to new water contracts, increased sales, unmetered customers and the desire for new industries, the water plant is approaching capacity, he said.

At this time, the Water Department’s primary need is to increase the through put capacity of the plant.

“Currently, the bottleneck in the plant is the filtering process due to the lost efficiencies of the 40-year-old under drain design and media system,” Folgherait told the committee. “It’s highly inefficient.”

Originally, they had planned on doing repairs, however, it would be better to replace it, he said, adding, “It’s 40-year-old technology. It has really become evident of late.”

Initial estimates have put the under drain upgrades and media replacement in the range of $900,000.

Having investigated funding options, this project would fortunately qualify for a Performance Contract with the ability to utilize a Municipal Lease, he said.

Besides the attributes the design build approach brings to help create a successful project, some of the financial highlights include no upfront cost to the city, increased revenues can be leveraged to pay for the cost of the project after installation and funding from the Municipal Lease isn’t included in bond/debt obligations.

The process for securing a Performance Contract begins with an energy efficiency study conducted by a qualified energy services company. An accepted study is 50 percent funded by NYSERDA with the city responsible for the other 50 percent.

The real bonus of these contracts is there is no upfront cost. The 50 percent cost to the city can be rolled into the Performance Contract and thus paid for after construction of the project,” Folgherait explained. “You don’t start paying until the completion of the project; the project will take about a year and a half. In the end, energy savings will be available to us so we can start recognizing the savings immediately.”

He showed a draft estimate of a study done by Wendel Energy Services for $30,000 (the city would be responsible for $15,000 at the completion of the project).

Wendel is identified as a FlexTech Contractor on the state contract list that allows for quickly moving ahead on the project, he said.

The department has seen some additional sales because of new contracts and they “will be rolling in as the next couple of years come about and lo and behold we’ll be able to ready to accept those added revenues. We will be in a position to handle (the increased usages),” he said.

Right now, it’s not a big issue. But things will start to change in summer when everybody is using more water and the problem will only get worse, he added.

Folgherait said his intent is to start the project toward the end of spring.

Overall, the cost could be in the neighborhood of $1 million. The city will realize a cost savings due to the new energy efficient equipment as well as the ability to supply more water to customers such as Novelis, Folgherait pointed out.

Council President Ron Kaplewicz said the councilors are just hearing about the project for the first time and there is a lot to digest.

“There is an awful lot of information here to understand and know exactly what our inputs will be at the beginning and what our expectations are coming out the other end,” he said. “We need to look very carefully before we leap.”

He suggested the councilors meet to go over everything to get a better understanding of just what the project entails.

“There’s probably a lot of work on (the councilors’) part to do and certainly on your part to get a better understanding on what we’re trying to do here and where we want to go,” he told Folgherait. “We need to look very carefully at how we proceed as a city in light of all the great complexities that are a part of this discussion and not the least of which is what it will cost the taxpayers and what do they expect in return?”

First Ward Councilor Fran Enwright agreed.

“I understand the amount of water required to run the power plants like the Independence plant, Novelis … with the possibility of expansion out there. So, there are a lot of questions I have about this whole energy efficiency study,” he said. “I agree with (Councilor Kaplewicz). I think we do have to sit down at some point and get clear course of action.”

He said he appreciated the heads-up about the issue coming right at the first of the year so that the council “can tackle issues like this right off the bat.”

The committee took no action on the matter Monday night.

No firm date has been set for the council to continue discussing the proposed project.