WORTHINGTON — It’s hoped that construction of a new municipal wastewater treatment facility will occur on property at the local airport, but conversations still need to take place to secure the site.

Worthington Public Utilities Manager Scott Hain reported during Tuesday’s Water & Light Commission meeting that a site at the airport is currently preferred. The planned project includes a new treatment for wastewater that will remove phosphorus and other harmful nutrients from wastewater before it is discharged. The city’s current wastewater treatment facility, originally constructed in 1962, has gone through three renovation projects — in 1983, 1989 and 2000 — and a new plant has been recommended.

On Tuesday, Hain noted two important benefits of building the new treatment plant on airport property.

“It’s between $200,000 and $300,000 cheaper to build there,” Hain told commissioners. “The facility can also be expanded there in the future … and it makes more efficient use of the property.”

One potential obstacle with the preferred treatment plant site is that it’s now home to the airport’s VOR (very high frequency omni-directional range) equipment.

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“It’s an older technology that pilots use to locate airports and see how far away they are from airports,” Hain described, adding that he’s been made aware of the possibility of decommissioning VOR equipment sometime between the years 2021 and 2025. Hain also explained that it’s possible for the VOR equipment to continue being used, only from a different location.

“You cannot build a structure on airport property within 1,000 feet of a VOR,” said Hain, noting that the issue “seems to be the only hangup” with the site. He plans to attend a meeting of the Airport Advisory scheduled for Sept. 17 to discuss the issue further.

Hain also raised the possibility of Worthington Public Utilities offering to pay for relocation of the VOR, if necessary, given the money that’s already expected to be saved by selecting the airport site.

It’s hoped that bids will be advertised for the wastewater treatment facility project in the early part of next spring. Construction would begin during that spring or summer, with the plant expected to be operational in 2023.

Cost is expected to be in the neighborhood of $20 million.

In other matters discussed by the commission Tuesday:

  • Hain informed commissioners on planned WPU electric system improvements due to growth at JBS that involve either the expansion or addition of a substation. Expansion of a current JBS substation is expected to cost approximately $4.2 million, Hain said, while a substation addition may cost either $4.6 million or $5.3 million depending on the option chosen.

Hain reported that Missouri River Energy Services has suggested a substation expansion, and that conversations on such a project have already begun with Great River Energy and ITC.

“I think the real decider in what actually gets built out there is how much resistance we get from the other transmission providers,” Hain said, adding that “we’ve got a crack team from Missouri River working with them.”

Project costs for an expanded substation do not include those related to land, but Hain expects that some property already owned by JBS will be used for the work.

JBS expects to begin operating an expanded facility with a new freezer warehouse next year. Assuming plans remain on their current schedule, the plant will use a temporary solution until either an expanded or additional substation is operational roughly 18 months later.

  • Hain reported that if costs for the new Glenwood Heights Housing Project continue to be shared with the city under current terms, WPU expects to easily exceed its original project budget of $1.5 million given the engineer’s estimate of $2,377,000.

“We’ve got to come in $416,000 under that estimate to avoid being at what we originally budgeted,” Hain said.

However, he is hopeful that a highly competitive bidding process — a total of 16 general contractors currently hold plans for the project, though he didn’t know the number of bid submissions — will result in lower-than-expected costs. Once the bids are received, a determination on how the lots in the addition will be priced is expected to be made.