Councilman Concerned With Water Plant Upgrade

Steve Mandel addresses issues with upgrading city's water plant in light of bans on outdoor water use.

When we first approached the discussion of upgrading our water plant in 2002, a few issues were brought up.


The first issue was that with new technologies emerging we could remove some micro organisms from the water to make the water safer (the reality is statistically a very very small degree of safer water). Let's be perfectly clear on this issue- our water standards meets and exceeds our federal and state standards and is very safe and healthy to drink. Secondly, we could increase capacity so we would not have problems .

Since 2002 the projects cost has over doubled while the size of the project has decreased by double digit percentages. We are currently looking at total costs a little short of 40 million. Our past city manager, in his wisdom, started purchasing items prior to the project bidding against my vote and advice. This was done to be sure all items were fabricated and ready to go prior to the start of construction and assure us a timely construction process. But, as history now tells us the bids came in well over the projected costs yet we are saddled with the past commitments and payments of millions.

One item that comes to mind is the several million dollar electric upgrade that we were told was needed for the increased electrical current use that could reach 150 percent of current needs. In a recent presentation the reality of those needs were presented as only 120 percent. Other discrepancies from past to present was past representations that with our current sand system the plant upgrades would only cost in the range of 10 million, but in recent presentations that number has ballooned to a few million shy of 30.

With all this going on I am having trouble understanding reality and trusting the information we are currently receiving and would suggest an audit of these ridiculous swings in assumptions and prices. I have also suggested we look at bidding out the operations of the plant with upgrades since the process could be effected with different styles of management and efficiencies could save us money.

Anyway, myself, Councilman Naftzger and Frank seem most reluctant to move forward with this project but a majority of the City Council seemingly wants to proceed. Councilman Kirsch has always promoted this project on the grounds of health safety which I have strongly disagreed. We have very safe water and this change to micro filtration will only increase water quality in the smallest of percentages. The facts are that our water currently exceeds all federal and state standards and mostly all adjoining communities use our current technology and have chose not to convert to micro filtration.

Steve Mandel
Highland Park City Councilman 

Read more of Mandel's blog here.

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