Agendas and Minutes

City Council (View All)

Study Session

Thursday, April 08, 1999

April 8, 1999

Mayor Shaw called the meeting to order at 12:10 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers.

Councilors Laws, Reid, Hauck, Hanson, Wheeldon, and Fine were present. Staff present included: Assistant City Administrator Greg Scoles, Public Works Director Paula Brown, Director of Electrical Utilities Pete Lovrovich, Communication and Marketing Manager Ann Seltzer, and Director of Finance Jill Turner.

Public Works Director Paula Brown noted that the packets that had been provided to the Council included detailed information in response to questions from the March 2, meeting. Noted that the basic question had to do with the costs of different WWTP options if the off-site facility were not used.

Brown noted that Bob Eimstad of Carollo Engineers was present to provide information. Also noted that background information from 1995 was provided as an explanation of how the decision to use the off-site location was reached. Informed Council that Dennis Belsky from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) was also present to answer questions.

Noted that neighbors had raised concerns about the treatment process to be used at the off-site location. Explained that she and Eimstad had prepared information on how the process was arrived at, and on the differences between Level II and Level IV treatment. Noted that these are standards set by the state.

Explained that the packets included a sheet from the Oregon Administrative Rules (OAR) dealing with the differences between treatment levels and the quality of water that results. Brown confirmed that tertiary treatment is a third stage of clarification, but that it does not result in Level III water. Tertiary treatment methods must be designed for the goals to be attained, and Ashland would need to specifically design a tertiary process for phosphorous removal.

Brown clarified that if tertiary treatment to remove phosphorous were designed, the quality of the water resulting would depend on the treatment design. Eimstad used the OAR sheet to explain the differences in treatment levels, noting that Level III requires more disinfection than Level II.

Reid questioned how smaller communities in Oregon, such as Myrtle Creek and Prineville, are able to use effluent to irrigate golf courses. Eimstad suggested that they were able to use Level II effluent. Hauck noted that it depends on whether there are contiguous residences. Brown emphasized that the off-site process was designed for agricultural use, without recreation. Pointed out that there are a number of situations where Level II water can be used, and emphasized that what is proposed is agricultural use on a controlled site that is not open to the public and is not a park. Level II is appropriate, cost efficient, and meets all applicable health standards.

Eimstad pointed out that this was intended in the design, as Level II can be produced more cheaply, and has a wide range of applications. Choosing to apply strictly on agricultural property, pasture grass with limited, controlled access, is a fairly conservative use. Emphasized that the level of treatment is a policy decision, and that there are cost implications along with this decision.

Brown responded to previous comments from a citizen that ultra-violet treatment would not work, stating that this is absolutely not the case. Emphasized that the ultra-violet process has been improved and the current plant is running this process with better-than-anticipated results for disinfection. This process has been approved by DEQ, it works well, and the DEQ encourages its use as it lowers toxicity levels without residual chlorine that would otherwise go into the Creek.

Brown noted that another issue raised had to do with pathogens in wastewater. Stated that both the DEQ and EPA require treatment of waters for re-use, and emphasized that raw sewage water is not to be used on the hillside, and that sludge is not to be put through the big gun sprinklers. All solids are treated, dried, and only then land-applied.

Brown let Council know that the DEQ had provided a letter of approval for the off-site facility with clarification that a value engineering process must be conducted. Brown noted that this process will occur within the next two weeks, and then the project will go to bid. DEQ also requested approval from the Division of Dam Safety/Water Resources, who has said they will sign off when the design is 100% complete. Eimstad added that progress drawings have been submitted and comments received. These comments have been addressed, and approval is viewed as a formality when the drawings are 100%.

Brown explained that the only piece of the off-site facility not approved yet by DEQ is the application process itself, and approval for that is not required until the City is ready to apply bio-solids to the hillside. Drying beds and lagoons are approved on the site, as is the effluent irrigation process. The application process will require approval, and public hearings will need to be conducted.

Brown discussed the "aerosol effect" issue raised at a previous meeting. Noted that she has looked at a considerable amount of research, and has found that finer mist sprayers can tend to have an aerosol effect which can be a concern when untreated effluent is used. However, the large sprayers proposed produce a heavier mist which drops quicker, and the City has 100-300 foot buffers, rather than the required 70 feet. Brown concluded that the aerosol effect is negligible, based on her research, and stated that she has spoken with the Utility Director in San Luis Obispo, California, as requested.

Noted that the packet included a letter from Carollo Engineers which addresses alternatives and costs. Explained that the current option being pursued in highlighted - taking treated effluent to Level II for spray irrigation at the off-site facility and applying dried bio-solids to the site. All cost comparisons are available, and the total project cost for each is listed so as not to mislead. Capital cost for the off-site portion is $8.6 million. If the bio-solids process were moved to the WWTP with an anaerobic digester, that would increase the cost by $8 million. The necessary sewer rate increase of 50-55% is shown. If processed on existing WWTP site, all of the existing site planned for future growth (beyond twenty years) would need to be used now. In addition, new trucks would be needed and bio-solids would need to be trucked away for agricultural application.

Another option, treating to Level IV and taking to off-site location, would cost an additional $5 million and mean a 30-35% rate increase.

Option four would treat effluent to Level IV and change the bio-solids process for treatment at the existing WWTP site for a total cost of $13 million, or nearly double the existing sewer rates.

Option five evaluates tertiary treatment programmed to remove all phosphorous, similar to an existing plant on the Tualatin River. This would increase costs by $1.8 million, and would have a rate impact of 10-15%. This would eliminate the need to pump and irrigate the off-site facility. However, this could limit future re-use opportunities for Creek water for irrigation. Noted that water rights for the off-site property would need to be used there to maintain the right. However, Brown stated that she has verbal approval to lease the agricultural right to in-stream if effluent is used for irrigation on the site. This would mean that the right wouldn’t be lost, but it would take considerably more paperwork to change it to a municipal right in the future. Explained that once building begins on the property, she can make a written request for a leased change in use. Brown noted that the water rights on the property has not ever been proved up, but it would likely be about 600 acre feet which is not enough to address the two million gallon-per-day demand. Eimstad stated that it appears that water put back into the creek would be available for re-use, however it is not black and white at this point, and the issue is being contested in courts.

Council discussion on the clarification of use of water rights on the off-site property. Brown explained the water right for irrigation of the 200-acre Imperatrice property, and the possibility of transferring these irrigation rights elsewhere in the City.

Eimstad explained state law on the re-use of water in relation to potable water, noting that reclaimed water cannot be re-used for drinking, regardless of the treatment level.

Reid stated that alternative five seemed to have long-term benefits. Brown pointed out that there was still re-use of bio-solids at the off-site facility.

Brown explained option six as changing both the effluent treatment process to discharge into the Creek year-round, and treating the bio-solids at the WWTP site for an additional $8 million.

Eimstad further clarified the alternatives, noting that discharge into the Creek were actually cheaper because off-site irrigation requires numerous operation and maintenance costs.

Brown emphasized that both options six and seven would completely remove operations from the property. Explained that option seven was included at Councilor Fine’s request, and that the prices were based on the 1995 facilities plan and could be higher now.

Hauck questioned the differences in the costs given here and those used in making the decision to go off-site four years ago. Asked whether the .08 phosphorous standard was more attainable today than it was at that time.

Eimstad noted that Unified Sewage Agency, which has the most sophisticated treatment plant in the state, would have difficulty meeting the .08 as a maximum number, but that it would be attainable as a median or average. Stated that a lot would depend on how the permits were written, but that regardless, the .08 is one of the lowest phosphorous limits in the Country and would require state-of-the-art treatment. Noted that discharge into Creek is not even allowed now, but that discussions with DEQ have indicated that if the phosphorous levels were met it might be possible.

Laws identified issues as, first, replacement water, because the City takes 1000-1200 acre feet while only returning 600 acre feet. Emphasized that the need to upgrade the WWTP has to do with the danger posed to fish in Bear Creek. Feels that option five has merit in that it would allow direct discharge into the Creek for a somewhat higher cost. The second issue is a matter of what information is trustworthy, based on the fact that some scientists have expressed concern about the safety of effluent and bio-solid application, while more mainstream scientists accept the standards used.

Reid commented that the phosphorous levels in the Creek are above .08 because of the natural area, and the City is being asked to remove naturally occurring phosphorous. Suggested that this may be due to the fact that there is not enough water in the creek because of agricultural use.

Eimstad confirmed that O&M costs are reflected in the "O&M plus Capital" column.

Brown explained that Class A bio-solid treatment was not considered because of the intended use.

Eimstad explained that diluting effluent with equal parts of irrigation water prior to discharge would not be allowed under the federal Clean Water Act or state law.

Discussion of whether returning irrigation water to the Creek flows would effect the TMDL calculations enough to effect the phosphorous restrictions. Eimstad did not feel that returning water to the Creek could be guaranteed when flows were at their lowest during drought conditions.

Brown confirmed that Bear Creek Valley Sanitation Authority (BCVSA) treats sludge at Level B, dries it, and applies it to agricultural land in the Sam’s Valley area. Stated that Ashland currently applies Level B sludge in liquid form to agricultural sites as well.

Brown explained that the DEQ is watching to see that the City is fully compliant with the DEQ permit by December of 2000.

Brown explained the geology of the off-site location for Hanson, as explained in the geologic report by Foundation Engineering.

Turner stated that a 50-55% increase in the sewer rate would translate to about $14 per month for the average Ashland household.

Eimstad noted that construction is moving ahead of schedule. If a decision is not made promptly, or construction of off-site facilities begun, then there is a danger that there will be no place to discharge. Interim measures could be taken, but Carollo would prefer Council direction as soon as possible. Shaw explained that the project is still on task, and that nothing has changed unless Council directs otherwise. Emphasized that this study session serves to let Council look at additional information that has come forth based on neighboring property owner questions.

Council further discussed the level of water in the Creek at different times of year and the level of demand for fish. Reid questioned the requirements to cease Creek discharge arbitrarily, based on worst case scenarios rather than actual flows. Eimstad explained that there has been extensive discussion of this issue with the DEQ. Stated that there is some latitude in the permit to discharge based on actual Creek flows in November. Eimstad explained that it may be cost effective to continue to explore options in the future, but emphasized that to continue to look at changing the DEQ requirements now will not be able to have an effect before the deadline is reached. Emphasized that the treatment plant will have the flexibility to address permit requirements.

Dennis Belsky, of the Oregon DEQ, explained that Bear Creek was one of the first TMDLs formed statewide, and the .08 phosphorous limit is a maximum figure established around 1990. Explained that in the stream, the amount of algae growth is based on the mass of phosphorous entering. The .08 limit is the basis for determining viable treatment options.

Belsky noted further that constraints for discharge into Bear Creek are based on requirements in the Oregon Administrative Rules (OAR). Emphasized that the DEQ is equally as constrained as the City is by the OAR. Explained that phosphorous levels leaving Emigrant Lake are .08, so dilution the water has no effect. Emphasized is not a factor; the City must treat the water back to the background levels already present in the Creek.

Belsky stated that in a wet year such as this, the DEQ would need to look at balancing the risk of run-off from applied effluent versus direct discharge. Brown emphasized that this is why there needs to be a sixty day holding reservoir. Eimstad noted that there has been planning for contingencies, but in exceptional conditions there may be a need to ask the DEQ for exceptions.

Reid stated that she hopes the WWTP upgrade will have the flexibility to meet future political rulings and future lessons from science.

Eimstad explained that if alternative five was chosen, an extension would need to be requested, as design and construction would most likely be unable to meet the current deadline.

Shaw stated that the City would be willing to test the well water for the neighbors twice each year to address their concerns with possible well contamination. Brown stated that she would send a letter explaining to the neighbors that they could request tests biannually.

Assistant City Administrator Greg Scoles explained what has been done in the interim, noting that they have looked at programming space requirements and population projections.

Shaw emphasized that the square footage proposed came from the County, based upon population projections, and the outside consultant had agreed. Also noted that the two story design, and the fact that it is a Carnegie Library, carry inefficiencies which require additional square footage.

Scoles noted that there will be further information available by the end of the month. Stated that the population projections are based on a "service area" which is 32,000.

Council discussed the amount of square footage necessary. Clarified that Carnegie building is on the state’s register for historic buildings. Questioned in anyone has spoken to the Historic Preservation Office.

Scoles explained that consultant George Kramer would handle this aspect of the project, but stated that it was too early in the effort to address this issue yet.

Scoles explained that to effect the budget for this project, it would require reducing the square footage. Emphasized that it will create a problem if the square footage is inadequate to address the projected population figures.

Shaw explained the planning process that will be involved, and noted how needs are met in regard to historic preservation. Reid voiced concerns that this aspect needs to be included in the process, or some citizens will not support the project.

Laws stated his appreciation and support for this design, and noted that he felt the architect had done an excellent job. Explained that he had no concerns with the size of the project, and emphasized that his only concern was with the immediate cost. Suggested that the project could perhaps be done in a modular fashion so a building could be built on the current site.

The Mayor commented on the misinterpretation of past Council discussions that the price tag needed to be $4 million, when the Friends of the Library felt it was impossible to do at that cost. Stated that she met with the property owners from the neighboring site after the last meeting, and they reiterated their interest in selling for the right price. Noted that the architects have stated that it would be difficult to build without acquiring the adjacent property. Shaw stated that a meeting with the property owners has been set after tax time to see if an agreement can be reached.

Friends of the Library members Barbara Ryberg, Diane Schaffer, and Beth Towner, and Reference Librarian Amy Blossom made a presentation. Noted that they agree on the need to expand and renovate, the need to remain downtown, and the need to reduce the bond amount, and they would like to cooperate with the City and move forward from there.

Schaffer noted that she is a retired professor from the California state university system, in the field of quantitative data analysis and social science, and that she spent twenty years teaching and consulting on the design and analysis of surveys. Explained that she did not design the feedback system used here, but that she would be a good person to analyze this data.

Commented on the response rates, and suggested that support for the original model and original price should be taken seriously, and that there are many people willing to work to raise money for this design. Commented on aspects of the budget that could be decreased based on outside support or donations.

Shaw commented that costs originally budgeted that could be covered by city staff had been taken out.

Reid commented that the survey may include a high percentage of Friends of the Library, and stated that she would prefer to use caution in considering the results, even though she is a library supporter. Schaffer offered to do a more extensive survey should the Council so desire.

Ryberg confirmed that the survey was mailed to all members of the Friends of the Library.

Laws stated that he feels the survey is fairly representative of the community. Emphasized the need to keep the priority of the library in perspective with the fire station expansion. Stated that the factors are timing and cost.

Discussion of the meeting rooms included in the designs. Ryberg commented on the difficulty posed by the modular construction concept.

Fine supported the concept of staging construction, providing for present needs now with land owned now, with the intention of building a pleasant, planned expansion in the near future. Emphasized that this was appropriate given that the adjacent property owners were unwilling to sell at fair market value.

Discussed the possibility of including the service area, outside of the city, in the bond issue. Discussion of the subsidizing of county residents and related issues. Mayor Shaw commented on Oregon Land Use Law and how this impacts city issues. Emphasized that the problem with double majority elections is that with the need for greater than 50% turnout, including county residents in the election could cause the bond to fail.

Fine noted that the City of Talent wants to work cooperatively with Ashland, to avoid causing one another problems, and to share information that may be of mutual interest.

The meeting was adjourned at 2:25 p.m.

Submitted by Barbara Christensen, City Recorder/Treasurer

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