New water treatment plant may be on the horizon

Posted 8/18/20

Brighton may build a new water treatment plant instead of expanding the existing one, which could cost upwards of $100 million.

The idea of a new water plant was the subject of fierce debate last …

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New water treatment plant may be on the horizon

Posted

Brighton may build a new water treatment plant instead of expanding the existing one, which could cost upwards of $100 million.

The idea of a new water plant was the subject of fierce debate last year, with many dismissing it altogether. However, city staff and contractor Brown and Caldwell told city council at a study session Aug. 11 that it’s the safest and most sensible route to increasing Brighton’s water supply.

The new water plant is one direction -- among two others -- that staff and Brown and Caldwell presented to council. The clock is ticking as the city’s population grows, thus creating a need for more water. In June, the city logged its highest weekly water use.

“We’re close to capacity,” Utilities Director Michael Woodruff told council at a meeting June 10.  

Earlier on, the idea was that Brighton would expand its current water treatment plant. After Brown and Caldwell further analyzed the situation, a new plant seemed like the ideal route. It would guarantee sufficient water supply for a projected 62,000-resident population by 2042, said Matt Amidei, a utilities project manager with Brighton.  

The second option Brown and Caldwell and city staff presented to council was to construct a new treatment plant in phases over a longer period of time while upgrading the existing plant in minor ways. The third option is to upgrade the existing plant. Staff said that idea could be dangerous to do while the plant continues operating day to day. Plus, it might be less fiscally responsible in the long run because old equipment at the facility will need replacing, said Bayard Yang, a Brown and Caldwell representative.

“It’s not that the RO plant is no longer useful. It’s served its useful life,” Yang added.

That hasn’t always been a source of agreement. Former City Manager Philip Rodriguez and Mayor Pro Tem Matt Johnston called early plans for a new plant a “phantom project,” saying it unnecessarily increased residents’ water rates. Both criticized the city for budgeting a new plant while making little progress on it. Rodriguez and Johnston made similar remarks about other utilities projects, which spurred a recall movement against former Mayor Ken Kreutzer last year.

However, recall allies currently on council struck a different tone at the Aug. 11 study session. Councilwoman Mary Ellen Pollack, who served on the recall committee, said to city staff and Brown and Caldwell representatives, “Yes, it’s expensive. But that take cares of our city, and that’s what we have to do. I don’t understand a lot of the things that it takes to make it work, but you do. And we trust you to do the right thing.”

Councilman Tim Watts, a freshman on council who was vocal in his support for the recall, said, “We need the best for our residents.”

In other council news:

  • The city’s finance department updated council on revenue for the year, which has been under close examination after financial downturns caused by COVID-19. The city projects total revenue to be down by more than 7 percent at the end of the year in comparison to what Brighton budgeted for. Mayor Greg Mills reflected on the silver lining, noting the revenue loss is “almost better than what we predicted early on in the chaos.” Finance Director Maria Ostrom agreed, saying the city initially expected a 16 percent loss of revenue. The city expects sales tax revenue, which brings in the most money, to be down by 5 percent. The city is experiencing steady sales-tax revenue from hardware stores, delivery service and grocery stores. It’s experiencing decreased sales tax from clothing stores and movie theaters.

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