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Public comments on new sewer plant plan

Questions about property values and odor were among those addressed at Tuesday's hearing on the proposed new waste water treatment facility the city is planning
The perferred alternative would have the new facility constructed in two phases. The first phase would relieve pressure on the present treatment plant and the second phase would be built in the future when it is needed. The proposal depicted here indicates both phases with the required farm land that would be irrigated with the treated waste water.
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   The next step in the process to ease the pressure on the city)s waste water treatment plant will be in January, when the city council formally adopts one of four alternatives.
   Opening a public hearing Tuesday evening on the proposed expansion of the city)s facility, Bob Vivian gave a brief overview of the project to date. Vivian is one of the consultants hired two years ago to update the Prineville Facility Plan. In that process, he determined that the present treatment facility was very near capacity.
   About ten years ago, it was thought that Meadow Lakes golf course would be able to dispose of the city's treated waste water for some time. The Prineville sewer system, in the early 1990s, was believed to be sufficient until at least 2010. Growth in the community has been faster than planned for and now the system is very near being overwhelmed.
   The four alternatives presented by Vivian are aimed at building capacity that will take the city's needs for the next 20 years.
   The alternatives include a new treatment plant south of the fairgrounds and using nearby farm land to dispose of the waste water and three different plans for extending the present facility. These three would use the Williams property, approximately 400 acres of farm land just north and west of the present facility, along the Crooked River.
   Estimated costs of the four alternatives range from $10.95 million to $12.7 million. Increased sewer rates for residential and business users will pay for the expansion.
   A committee, after studying the alternatives, have recommended that the preferred alternative would be constructed in two phases; the first now, at a cost of about $9.6 million, and the second when needed.
   That alternative consists of three new treatment lagoons and two settling ponds with the waste water being used to irrigate the land now known as the Williams property. The city has an option to purchase that acreage and a purchase price has been agreed on.
   One of the steps in the process recently completed was the environmental review. Clay Moorhead is another consultant hired to facilitate this part of the project. In his report to the city, he outlined the processes that follow. These include a public hearing to take comments and address concerns from citizens as well as the city council. The hearing aspect of the process was accomplished during the Tuesday meeting.
   Local real estate broker Hank Simmons, saying that he has property along the street that will face the new lagoons, asked what would be done to protect his property values.
   Owners of existing homes that may have to be removed will be given assistance, Moorhead assured everyone. "We would be required to pay fair market value," he explained. "During the May, 1998 flood the city went to a very fair process to make sure people were made whole. That meant going back to the value before the flood. This process will be similar."
   The city does have the right of condemnation, Moorhead added, "they didn't use that during the flood and we don't want to use it on this."
   Tom Green explained that he lived next to the Williams property. "I remember not too long ago there were odor problems at Meadow Lakes. When are we going to stop building lagoons and start building a new processing plant?"
   As part of the operational process, Moorhead responded, Bioxide will be added to the treated effluent prior to it being used to irrigate. In addition, a different system will be used on the ag fields; they won't be spray irrigated as Meadow Lakes golf course is.
   City Administrator Henry Hartley interjected to say there had only been one complaint last summer about odors coming from Meadow Lakes. A new balance of Bioxide and the methods used to irrigate the golf course has taken care of that problem.
   As far as building a mechanical treatment plant, Moorhead explained that such a facility is far too expensive. "Currently, lagoons are the most cost effective for a city the size of Prineville," he explained.
   Simmons raised the point that a fairly new subdivision, Broadwater Estates, is across O'Neil Highway from the proposed new treatment lagoons. This subdivision, he said, is of large, expensive homes. "How will you help these folks keep their property values up? Plus There are three new domestic water wells across the highway that could also be impacted."
   Mayor Steve Uffelman answered part of Simmons' concerns by pointing out that "this process has been underway for two years or so. So it is no surprise to anyone and those people show built there had to know about it."
   Moorhead added that the city will do what it can with landscaping, but warned the lagoon dikes will be just like what is there now. And the lagoons will be lined and monitored to ensure there is no leakage into the ground water.
   The next step toward getting to the construction stage will be a series of group or one-on-one meetings with residents worried they will be adversely impacted by the new plant. When the city council meets in January, a resolution formally accepting the preferred alternative will be voted on. Soon after that action is done, work on the design of the facility will be started.
   Among the permits the city has yet to acquire are a county conditional use permit, a building permit National Pollution Discharge Elimination System Permit and a storm water discharge permit. The last permit is required for the construction activities which will disturb five acres or more.
   The next city council meeting has been scheduled for after the holidays, on Monday. Jan. 7. The focus of that session will be the mayor's annual address.