All Hot Springs Village Board Meetings are full of interesting and often exciting developments, and the February 21, 2024 meeting did not disappoint.

In the New Business category, Ken Unger, Director of Public Services, introduced to the Board a recommendation for two design contracts for reworking the wastewater treatment system in Hot Springs Village. Unger said, “Both of our wastewater treatment plants need upgrades.”

This step has been a long time coming.

Unger has been toiling exhaustively on the Village wastewater issues for almost two years now, and he has methodically solved numerous problems and eliminated many overflow issues. But solving the biggest and most expensive issue is yet to come.

To backtrack, I should explain that Hot Springs Village has two wastewater treatment plants. The older, inadequate plant is the Mill Creek Plant, and our newer plant is the Cedar Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

As mentioned, while Unger solved many sewage overflow issues in the lines, we still experienced sewage overflow at the Mill Creek Sewer Treatment Plant, especially during rainfall. The sewage overflows violate ADEQ standards and are not acceptable. While ADEQ has been patient with the Village since they know Unger is working hard to solve the issues, their patience is bound to run thin sooner or later. Unger knew that solving the overflow problems downstream of the plant would lead to more sewage reaching the Mill Creek Plant, and plant location overflows were inevitable; while this is a ‘better’ situation, it is still unacceptable.

The 1970s-era Mill Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant is a “packaged sewer treatment plant” used primarily for a smaller community such as a mobile home park. “The Mill Creek Plant cannot handle the needs of the Village. Proper maintenance on the components of the plant is almost impossible due to the flow coming into the plant and the overall poor condition,” said Unger. Due to the location and topography of the area where Mill Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant is located, there is no room for improvements or expansion.

Unger has worked with Brian Wintel of Crist Engineering to obtain the best and least costliest solution to our sewage problem. Crist Engineering and Unger have determined that the most practical and economical solution is to decommission the Mill Creek Plant and reroute all sewage to an improved and upgraded Ponce de Leon Drive Cedar Creek Plant. Doing this will necessitate the installation of a force main to reroute the sewage now going to Mill Creek.

The Public Services Director stated, “Consolidating these two locations will save the Village approximately $7 M in upfront costs versus upgrading both plants.

Long-term savings

Unger said we can expect the following benefits once the Mill Creek Plant is decommissioned:.

  • Resource savings of approximately $100,000 a year.
  • Electrical savings of anywhere from $40,000 to $60,000 a year.
  • Chemical savings of upwards of $100,000 to $150,000 a year.
  • The ability to properly comply with our permits due to updated infrastructure.
  • The ability to more easily meet more restrictive regulations that we expect to see in the future.
  • The ability to properly maintain the plant by having the necessary redundancy in place.

Proposals for design contracts

In an effort to get the sewer design ball rolling, Unger brought two proposals to the Board.

  1. A proposed contract of $1,598,100 to Crist Engineers to design the upgrades required to modernize the Cedar Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant and support the Mill Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant bypass. “This contract is necessary to prepare necessary reports, plans, and specifications to obtain approval from the state, as well as ultimately bid out these improvements for the construction.”
  2. A proposed contract in the amount of $210,000 to GarNat Engineers to design an approximately 7.6 miles long 16″ sanitary sewer force main between the Cortez Lift Station and the Cedar Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Unger said the two proposals he brought to the Board are integral to his approach. After over a year of analysis, review, and discussion, they have been “thoroughly reviewed and approved by the Public Services Committee. This included preliminary analysis by several engineering firms on how to best address our plant issues, multiple meetings between staff, the Public Services Committee, our wastewater engineer, the state, and multiple field visits.”

Unger finished, “In closing, as part of the FRATF initiative, the POA committed to resolving long-standing infrastructure issues within the Village. When tied to the recently enacted ACT 605 measures from the state, which require water and wastewater operators to ensure they are maintaining and upgrading the water and sewer infrastructure, the Village is obligated to take steps to ensure that our water, and in this case, our wastewater systems, are properly functioning to ensure compliance with state laws as well as our permits.”

“The approach before you to consolidate our wastewater treatment plants and upgrade our Cedar Creek Plant is our vetted solution to achieving these goals at what we believe is the lowest possible cost to the members. We are asking for your support and approval to take the next step in this process, which is the award of these engineering contracts necessary to prepare the reports, plans, and specifications that will be used to obtain approval from the state and for the bidding of construction.

Larry Siener, a Board Member, asked if the Crist Engineering contract was multi-year.

Unger said it is a multi-year contract.

Siener said that we have a certain amount of money budgeted for this contract this year, and the remainder of the contract will be executed next year and budgeted as part of the ’25 budget.

Unger said Siener is correct.

The two proposed contracts will be revisited and voted on at the Wednesday, March 21 Board Meeting. To keep the momentum going, Unger hopes the two contracts will be awarded at the next meeting. The design will take about a year. Unger hopes that by the end of 2025; everything will be designed, approved by the state, and maybe even out to bid so that we know ’26 what our costs will be and work at the end of that year to obtain the funding to effect the improvements. “The longer we delay, the longer it takes us.”

How will using two different engineering companies work?

David Moore, Corporate Treasurer, asked if having two different engineering firms work on this project would work. “It all has to connect at some point,” stated Moore.

Unger said he has already had the discussion of using two different engineering firms. Unger said, “Ideally, Crist would have loved to design the force main. The difference in the quote was more than what a 2018 10T 316F Caterpillar excavator cost. This piece of equipment was recently purchased for $144,500, tax included. (Stay tuned. I will be writing more about this in my next article.)

Unger said he had a long conversation with Crist Engineering and explained to them that as part of our team, they have to be willing to work with us regardless of how we choose to approach it – whether we choose to do it ourselves – whether we choose to use a third-party that they are familiar with. Unger said Crist is prepared to work with GarNat, and they understand why the decision was made to use GarNat to design the force main.

Hale said much time and energy has been spent on this process. Hale recommended attending the Public Services Committee Meetings for great answers from the committee. He said they discuss this issue every month.

Chair Joanie Corry said, “Come back next month, and we’ll look at it again.”

Ken Unger contracts for sewer system upgrade design 2 inside image
Ken Unger at a Public Services Committee Meeting

By Cheryl Dowden


Ken Unger
Director Public Services
Hot Springs Village

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