Water Treatment Plant Upgrade Continues on Schedule
Discussion of project ends as three contracts are approved, 4-2.
Councilman David Naftzger asked for a thorough review of the city’s planned $31 million upgrade of its 82-year old water treatment plant at Monday’s City Council meeting.
Though the other councilmen discussed Naftzger's request, the Council later voted 4-2 to approve three contracts affiliated with the project and avoid any potential delays to work scheduled to begin in September.
A bond issue to pay for the project is planned this summer.
The three contracts were among 10 items set for approval on the omnibus agenda by the City Council without debate. Council members have an opportunity to remove these items for discussion. Naftzger, , one of Highland Park’s three newly elected City Councilmen, asked they be given further review.
Councilman Steve Mandel joined Naftzger in the effort for more discussion. Mayor Nancy Rotering along with Councilmen Jim Kirsch, Paul Frank and Tony Blumberg voted against Naftzger’s motion to delay the project and to approve the contracts.
“We’re spending nearly $1 million here,” Naftzger said, referring to the specific contracts before the Council Monday. “This is a $31 million project. We should take a step back from where we are.”
He wanted to learn if better technology existed and if the city is proceeding expeditiously.
A public safety issue
At its June 13 Committee of the Whole meeting, which precedes the regularly scheduled council gathering, Public Works Director Mary Anderson gave the city’s legislative body an update of the project.
Kirsch stressed the upgrade to the facility—the third in its history and first in 25 years—was using the best possible technology. He said the current plant is pumping beyond capacity during peak times.
Kirsch also believes the improvements are a public safety issue for Highland Park and the outside communities which purchase the water. The city pumps water for its citizens and also sells it to Deerfield and other neighboring municipalities.
“Health and safety are the issue here,” Kirsch said. “This is about keeping people from getting sick from the water that comes out of the tap. The pathogens are real. The cryptosporidium is real.”
Naftzger acknowledged the safety issues. He claimed that was part of the reason for his concern.
“We meet guidelines now, but will we meet or exceed guidelines in the future?” he asked.
Mandel agreed additional information would be helpful. The veteran councilman has pushed environmental initiatives like water conservation. He wants to know how additional sustainability efforts will affect the need for water plant improvements and increased capacity.
“I’ve been asking for an economic matrix. What will our needs be if we harness rain water for non-drinking purposes,” Mandel asked. “Will we exceed the standard of sustainability?”
Toward the end of the debate, City Manager Dave Limardi reminded the council of the long planning for the project and existing financial investment.
“This project is 10 years in the making. There has been discussion and transparency every step of the process. Contracts have been signed,” Limardi said. “We’re rounding third base and heading home.”
Bonds in the approximate amount of $7 million have already been sold to take advantage of low interest rates and buy some of the necessary equipment, according to Anderson.
Other city council action
In other action, the City Council unanimously appointed Finance Director Elizabeth Holleb city treasurer for an indefinite term.
Daniel Kaufman was appointed to fill the remaining two years of Rotering’s City Council term. The mayor asked for and received unanimous approval of the Council.
Rotering gave up her seat just prior to being inaugurated mayor.