With two members absent, Saline City Council elected not to vote on a proposal to pay Tetra Tech $59,900 to study the best way to increase the city’s wastewater treatment capacity. The city’s existing wastewater treatment plant is at about 70 percent capacity and city officials believe the plant should have the capacity to handle infill development. But if the city is to provide utilities for developments like Andelina Farms and other future communities west of the city, more capacity may be required.
According to Department of Public Works Director Jeff Fordice, the city wants a study that will evaluate three options:
Expanding the existing facility.
Constructing a new plant.
Connecting to a regional facility.
The city put out a request for proposals and three firms submitted proposals. Fordice, City Manager Todd Campbell and water and wastewater Superintendent Steve Wyzgoski evaluated those proposals and eliminated one of them. They met with the other two firms, and employed Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner for the interviews Aug. 14.
According to Fordice, Tetra Tech was the lowest bidder by $900.
Fordice also said the city would be well served by Tetra Tech’s experience with the city. The firm has managed the two most recent wastewater projects and has been involved in several utilities studies.
Fordice said the other finalist was qualified, but their presentation was more theoretical and less specific.
“Tetra Tech presented ideas to solve the problem. They were another layer deeper. That was the difference,” Fordice said.
Answering a question from Councillor Dean Girbach, Fordice said he didn’t believe a “fresh set of eyes” was required for this study.
“We always value a new perspective. But this is a new problem. This is not an old problem that needs a new solution,” Fordice said.
Girbach and Councillor Christen Mitchell questioned Tetra Tech’s inclusion of a map showing potential sites for a new plant.
“I didn’t think we were at that point yet. The siting proposal has me a little concerned.
Fordice said the study has not yet begun, and the inclusion of the map demonstrated Tetra Tech’s level of engagement. He said the map merely shows nearby open spaces large enough to house a wastewater treatment plant,” Fordice said.
Mitchell said she was concerned Tetra Tech put that information out there, and said the information was possibly incongruent with the city’s master plan and non-motorized plan.
Councillor Janet Dillon asked whether or not this study should have been done three years ago, before it spent nearly $4 million on the odor abatement project.
Fordice said he understood the concern, but that the odor problem required immediate action.
Mitchell went on to say she woudn’t support a motion to hire Tetra Tech for the study.
“A new set of eyes is appealing to me.” Mitchell said.
During the discussion, Dillon asked about the capacity of the current plant. City Manager Campbell said he believed it was at about 70 percent.
The city’s de facto policy has been to reserve existing capacity for existing homes, infill development, and parcels, like Layher Farms, subject to automatic annexation. At the same time, the city has not been able to reach deals to annex Saline Township parcels like Andelina Farms, citing lack of capacity in the city’s wastewater system.
Monday night, Campbell told council the city might have room for another 1,500 homes before they reach 85 percent capacity - a threshold that requires devising a future plan with the state.
Mayor Brian Marl said council would vote to authorize the study at its next meeting, when Councillors Linda TerHaar and Jack Ceo are expected to return.