City of Bevil Oaks Texas
MOST RECENT UPDATE: (ALSO ATTACHED AS DOWNLOADABLE PDF HERE)
Much misinformation has been written lately on social media regarding the storm water detention pond that will be part of our sewer project to have Beaumont treat our sewage when we shut down and dismantle our old, worn out sewer plant. First, the name, Storm Water Detention Pond, does not truly reflect what this pond is or will be. A more descriptive and correct name would be "SANITARY SEWER WET WEATHER FLOWS HOLDING POND" which exactly describes what it will be or for the engineering community familiar with this type of situation, a "WET WEATHER FLOWS HOLDING POND". As you can see, both are a little unruly so it's easy to see how or why the name has been shortened.
This pond will only be used a few times per year during extremely heavy rains (8 to 12 times based on data used for design from 2013). This pond is necessary due to the extreme problems that our sewer collection system suffers due to I & I or Inflows and Infiltration. An example of Inflows would be if you left the cap off of a sewer cleanout in your yard and rainwater was allowed to enter the sewer collection system or if you intentionally ran a drain line from somewhere in your yard into a sewer pipe or a manhole in front of your house. Infiltration is rainwater that finds its way into the sewer collection system through separations or cracks or breaks in the sewer lines that run from manhole to manhole or a leaky connection between a sewer line and where it is connected to a manhole. I & I problems are prevalent in all communities throughout the Gulf Coast that have expansive clays ("gumbo type soils").
The original intent of this project was to construct an earthen basin because there is sufficient clay of a sufficient type at the project site to prevent seepage of the sewer water into the ground. The plans and specifications reflect that as they show an earthen basin with no concrete or any other type of liner. It is very important to understand that the earthen basin will function without any type of liner whether concrete, polyethylene, vinyl, plastic, or rubber. Although the earthen pond was designed to allow for cleaning, an earthen basin will present some difficulties when being maintained. We felt that a concrete liner would make cleaning the basin easier and save the City money over the life of the pond as detailed below. As the project neared the bidding stage we thought that it would be a good idea to have options for the Council to consider. The Engineer, therefore, added an alternate bid item along with an additional plan sheet to the bidding package in order to get prices for a concrete liner for maintenance purposes. Investigation of liners was not part of the original scope of the project and was not a task originally expected of the Engineer since the original scope of the project was a simple earthen basin. The Engineer had experience with concrete lined basins so it was very efficient to add that option. The additional bid item and plan sheet was generated by the Engineer at no additional cost to the City. The Engineer also did not ask for any additional compensation for any inspection services related to the inspection of the installation of the concrete liner, which will be more than what would be required with only an earthen basin. In the end, the Council had the option of moving forward with the project with only the earthen basin and no concrete lining or the earthen basin with the concrete lining. We chose to add the concrete lining.
The SANITARY SEWER WET WEATHER FLOWS HOLDING POND performs an important function since it effectively serves as a temporary basin for the City’s sewage during peak rain events. Consequently, once raw sewage is mixed with rainwater, regardless of the dilution, it must be dealt with as sewage. As a result, the TCEQ has developed specific guidelines for the uses of these type of ponds. Some facts regarding this type of pond: The TCEQ does NOT require these types of ponds to be lined with anything. As long as there is enough clay for a barrier to prevent seepage into the ground water, a grass bottom pond is acceptable. Soil testing conducted at the very beginning of the project (a project requirement) shows that we have good clay soils at the site, so this requirement has been met. Fact: This pond is a requirement of the design for this project. So, why the need for a concrete lining on the bottom of this pond?
The simple answer is maintenance. At the 4 PM Special Council Meeting held on March 5, to receive the contractor's bids as well as three Alternate Bids for additional work, the Council listened to the engineer for Carroll & Blackman discuss how sediment as well as debris from the rain/sewer water would be left on the bottom of the pond after the wastewater was pumped out. The sediment and debris would be a constant issue that must be dealt with over time. The council then heard from our current utility operator, Mike Wills with Utilities Specialties, discuss how sediment was a big problem for other small cities with these types of ponds. China has a concrete lined pond, both sides and bottom. Several years ago, Mr. Wills got a bid to remove the sediment form their pond at a cost of approximately $40,000. The sediment at that time was about 3’ deep.
To remove this material, equipment must be placed in the basin to scoop or load this sewage sludge, sediment and debris into water tight roll off boxes which then have to be taken to a sludge disposal facility; a very costly and time consuming operation given that a roll off box may only carry 20 cubic yards of wet sludge per trip to the disposal facility. One foot of silt/sludge from the bottom of our pond would be approximately 505 cubic yards or about 45 roll off boxes. It should be noted that China’s pond is constructed differently than the design of ours. It has some chambers or walls inside that prevent it from being washed down, therefore requiring the sediment or sludge to be removed by mechanical means. It should also be noted that we have no way of estimating how often sediment build up would have to be dealt with in Bevil Oaks, we only know that it will be from time to time due to the inevitability of sediment build up. In further discussions with Mr. Wills, China did in fact clean their pond out some years back and it is his understanding that it needs to be cleaned out again.
How does sediment accumulate in a pond? Think of the ditches in front of your house. The County comes out and cleans out your ditches and this allows the rainwater to runoff just fine. Over time, grass grows back in the bottom of the ditch and silt and sediment start to collect. The grass then grows through the sediment and over time, more sediment is trapped in the grass even though the water is draining off fine. This buildup of sediment and grass continues for a few years and then it is time to call the County back out to clean out your ditches again. This is exactly what will be happening in the bottom of a grass lined pond. Another phenomenon that will be occurring as the wastewater recedes from the pond each time is the deposited debris from the City sewers. Basically, any debris that was floating in the sewer water will be deposited on the sides and bottom of the pond. Debris, trash, and other materials left in the pond would need to be removed regularly and kept out of the pond in order to comply with the TCEQ requirements on Odor and Vector Control.
After hearing these explanations from both the design engineer as well as our utility operator, the Council, after considering the proposals voted to accept the Alternate bid of $175,104 to concrete line the bottom of the pond. In this manner, after each pond use, the settled debris as well as the sediment that was left on the bottom of the concrete can simply be washed away using a 2" fire hose that will be installed on top of the levee surrounding the pond at two locations. This solution eliminates the possibility that we will have to deal with any sediment build up or provide human or mechanical processes to deal with debris removal from the bottom of the pond. With a grass bottom pond, washing away anything left in the bottom of the pond will be difficult at best.
An issue that was not brought up at the March 5 Special meeting but was discussed at the regular meeting on March 19 is the issue of "Vector Control". That's simply a fancy engineering term for "Bugs, Insects and Odors". Another requirement from the TCEQ is Vector Control for Waste Water Facilities. That simply means that after each use, if insects or mosquitoes, or foul aromas persist after the pond is emptied, these issues must be dealt with. A simple wash down of the bottom of the pond, again, eliminates this problem. None of the other speculations posted on social media had anything to do with this decision, such as a Council member’s proximity to the pond or "everyone else voted for it" or the most unfounded one of all insinuating a "kick back" of some sort. No friends and neighbors, it was simply common sense.
This information was presented and discussed in the Special Meeting on March 5th, the regular meeting on March 19th as well as presented in the newsletter that was mailed around the middle of the month. This information can be confirmed by the records of both meetings. It should offend the sensibilities of every citizen that any attendee, especially a sitting City Council member would disseminate uninformed speculation regarding this issue.
Another issue that was raised at the March 19th regular meeting was that of a vinyl or rubber liner in lieu of the more expensive concrete. The head engineer was asked how many of these ponds they had designed and how many, if any, utilized some sort of liner instead of concrete. Our engineer answered that all of the ponds he had designed were either earthen or concrete and none used a vinyl or rubber liner. There was not much more discussion of a liner at this meeting. Much in the same vein as a vinyl liner over earth in a swimming pool will technically get the job done, it still does have to be replaced from time to time; just one reason a gunite (concrete) pool is better.. A rubber or vinyl liner can be easily cut or damaged by vandals or trespassers. Some have mentioned that a concrete liner will crack and therefore allow water underneath it. This may happen, but remember, the concrete is not there to provide a watertight seal on the bottom of the pond; the clay is providing the necessary water barrier. Cracks and leakage are not a concern. Once a vinyl or rubber liner is placed in the bottom of any pond, your ability to operate heavy equipment in the bottom of the pond is severely limited. Basically, you can't because the equipment will damage and tear the liner. It has also been mentioned that the wetting and drying of the concrete from sewer water would eventually deteriorate the concrete; if that were the case, sewer plants would not be built out of concrete. And besides, the concrete will be washed down after each use regardless. Concrete is a permanent solution, a liner is a temporary fix. Liners have a place for certain uses; it is not the best solution for our situation.
Concrete lining the bottom of this pond will pay dividends in saved maintenance cost throughout the life of this pond, which will be much longer than the time required to pay back the Bonds for this project (20 years). The engineering firm only presented the concrete lining of the bottom of the pond as an alternate, not part of the original scope, and recommended that the Council consider it if they thought they could afford it. The Council had previously approved a maximum amount of $2.1M for this project. With the final overall cost, including lining the bottom of the pond with concrete coming in at $1.93M, the Council felt it was worth spending the additional amount on the pond lining. If anyone still has any questions regarding this or any other issue regarding our sewer project, I will be glad to discuss with you your concerns at any time. Just contact either one of the ladies in the office at City Hall and they will put the two of us in touch.
Councilman Ward 3
Mayor Pro Tem
Roads and Drainage
Liaison for the City w/Carroll & Blackman Engineers
SEWER PROJECT UPDATE
On March 3 at @ 2PM, the City, through its engineering firm Carroll & Blackman Engineers, Inc., received bids at the Civic center for our new sewer project to eliminate our old, worn out plant and pump our waste to the city of Beaumont for treatment. Bevil Oaks has entered into a 20 year contract with Beaumont to treat our sewer waste. This project will take us out of the sewer business altogether thereby saving us thousands of dollars per year in maintenance, labor, and electricity. These direct costs do not include the significant burden of maintaining compliance with the various regulations set forth by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the State agency that oversees wastewater and water production.
The Council met in a special session on March 5 at 4 PM to consider and evaluate these proposals. It was necessary to meet at 4 because of prior engagement conflicts with the Mayor, our City Attorney as well as the engineer. The Mayor, for instance, had a 5:30 PM meeting at the Southeast Texas Regional Planning Commission that she could not miss. This meeting had to take place on Thursday so that the Council could make a decision on the amount of the Certificates of Obligations that have to be advertised for sale. There is a strict schedule that must be followed in order for the Council to be able to approve at our next regular meeting the sale of these Certificates so that we could award the bid to the contractor on April 23 after receiving the proceeds of the sale of the certificates on April 21, 2015.
We were very fortunate in the fact that the low bidder came in almost on the engineer's estimate of $1,172,900 at $1,182,923. The second bidder was 22.5% higher at $1,449,107 and the high bid was $1,909,145. Included with the base bids were 3 alternate bids. Consideration of these alternates was the purpose of this meeting. Alt. #1 was to concrete line the bottom of the storm water detention pond; Alt. #2 was to concrete line the bottom as well as the inside walls of the levee of this pond; and Alt. #3 was for a drainage structure to carry water out of the area affected by the pond construction to the large DD6 ditch if necessary. The need for this bid item cannot be confirmed till near the end of the project. If the structure is not needed, it will not be built.
The value of the alternate bids are as follows: Alt. #1-$175,104.00; Alt. # 2- $457,098.00 & Alt. #3- $9,000.00. The Council had previously approved a total cost up to $2.1M based on previous discussions and meetings. When all of the other cost required to complete this project added to the base bid, there was not enough money to consider Alt. # 2 as it put us over the $2.1M threshold previously approved. The council heard from both the engineer and our utility operator, Mike Wills of Utility Specialties, why they thought it was important to at least consider Alt. #1 which would permit lining the bottom of the pond with concrete and determining how it would reduce maintenance cost going forward. The council also learned it was easier to comply with TCEQ regulations that pertains to the maintenance and up keep of detention ponds of this nature after the water goes down after a major rain event. Deposited debris as well as sediment can simply be washed away as opposed to settling into the grass of a grass bottom pond and dealt with by some other labor intensive and therefore expensive manner.
So, after hearing those explanations, the Council considered Alt #1 as well as Alt #3 which brought the total cost of the project to $2,001,184.00 when all of the other cost were added to the base bid (engineering, easement acquisition cost, reimbursement cost for monies the City has already paid thus far (approx. $155,000), legal and fiscal cost associated with the cost of issuing the Certificate of Obligation, and etc.). The cost without Alt. Nos.1 and 3 came to $1,789,464.00.
In consideration of the 2 alternates, which totaled $184,104.00, the Council also considered the cost per month to be added to our monthly water/sewer bills to pay for this project. Our financial advisor calculated just the amount necessary to cover the debt service for the 20 year period of the Certificates. His calculations did not include what other monies may or may not be necessary to generate enough revenue to continue to operate the water department. He did not include the expense of maintaining the 4 remaining sewer lift stations and the new lift station. Consequently, the exact calculation cannot be known at present; we will have to operate for some time (8 to 12 months) after the project comes on line to have financial historical data with which to make an exact determination. Once the City has a good idea of its revenue needs, we will hire a Rate Consultant to help us accurately figure what our minimum water/sewer rates need to be. In the meantime, based on City budget estimates and interest rate expectations, it appears there will be enough savings from being out of the sewer business that we will not need as much as the City’s financial advisors have conservatively calculated prior to current budget estimates.
The cost or fee that our advisor calculated for debt service pay back per connection per month is:$8.80/mo/connection for the base bid without Alts. Nos. 1 and 3 and $12.50 to $13.00 for the base bid including Alts. Nos. 1 and 3. While the relatively small addition of Alts. Nos, 1 and 3 may seem to have a disproportionate impact, the calculations include the City’s expected savings per year for not operating our sewer facility ($72,465). However, this we will not know until we have historical data to draw on but it is felt that there could be even greater savings once the project has on line and has been operating for some time. Savings greater than our preliminary expectations will reduce any rate adjustment that may be needed. At this time, it appears an immediate rate adjustment may not be necessary and we are hopeful that will be the case once the historical data is in.
So, after hearing recommendations from the engineer and our utility operator and considering the monthly amount to be added to our water/sewer bill, the Council voted 4 for and 1 against to include Alt. Nos. 1 and 3 along with the base bid. One Councilman was not able to attend due to work and the Mayor does not vote on any issues unless there is a tie.
The issue for the lone NO vote was the fact that mathematically it did not seem correct to add $4/mo/connection for $184,104 in additional debt over the 20 year period of the Certificate or loan. With this in mind, we went back to our financial advisor to see if he could reconcile this issue. In addition, we also asked if he could look at our situation just as a Rate Consultant would do taking everything into consideration making conservative assumptions where he had to, which meant starting his whole analysis process over. After two days of working with our City Clerk as well as with our CPA firm gathering much of the information that a Rate Consultant would need, his new analysis revealed that after the new project is operating, we will probably need less than $5/mo/connection to pay for this project at the $2M amount. This is about as good as we could have ever hoped for.
Remember, this Rate Calculation will not be performed until 8 to 12 months after our new project goes on line (December 2016?). At that time, after hearing from our Rate Consultant, the Council will have to decide whether an increase in water/sewer rates is appropriate or adding a monthly fee is necessary, to cover any short fall in revenue the City may need to operate the utility side.
It has been a 3 year process to get to this point considering preliminary engineering to consider what to build, contract negotiations with the City of Beaumont as well as ongoing easement acquisitions that are almost complete at a cost of $155,000 thus far. As with any worthwhile endeavor, there have been obstacles and setbacks to overcome. This project is by far the best and least expensive option available to the City and its residents because it takes us out of the sewer treatment business and will greatly lessen the cost impact of our I & I problems (rainwater infiltration into our sewer system- read more money). We can thank Dr. Tohme, past Director of Water and Utilities for the City of Beaumont, for making this option available to us through Councilman Merendino.