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Wastewater...Past, Present & Future

February 5, 2016

Did You Know...Around 1940, some of the first sewer lines were installed in downtown Prattville. In the absence of any wastewater treatment facility, these lines directed the waste into Autauga Creek. At this point in history, it can be noted that “the solution to pollution was dilution”, to coin a phrase.

In 1959, the first wastewater treatment plant was built in Prattville. This plant was located on Doster Road at the current location of our Public Works Yard. In 1972, the federal government enacted the Clean Water Act. This legislation provided guidelines for municipalities to follow so that the wastewater was properly treated before being released back into the ecosystem. In 1980, the Autauga Creek and the Pine Creek Wastewater Treatment Plants were brought online at a cost of approximately $12 million, much of which was provided through grant funding. At this time, Prattville had 18,647 residents, according to the 1980 census.

In 1990, a minor expansion was implemented at the Autauga Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. Prattville’s population had grown to 19,587, according to the 1990 census. The Pine Creek facility experienced a minor expansion in 1998. During the 2000 census, Prattville was noted to have grown to 24,303 residents.

In February 2011, we published an article showing the deficiencies, rates, and the shortfalls of the operation of this important department. Wastewater was operating at a deficit of $989,491. Operating at a loss was not something the City could sustain. Its implications were farther reaching than just daily rates and expenses. The Prattville City Council passed an ordinance in March 2011 to enact a temporary surcharge of $10 per customer until a cost of service study could be completed.

In December 2011, that Wastewater cost of service study was completed and presented to Council. The surcharge was removed and a new rate structure was implemented for both residential and business users, incorporating a flat monthly fee and a fee for each 1,000 gallons of water used. Average residential customers use approximately 5,000 gallons of water per month and pay approximately $.79 per day for wastewater service.

With passage of the fiscal year 2012-2013 budget on September 18, 2012, an enterprise fund account was established for the Wastewater Department. What the enterprise fund account has done for this vital department is to achieve accountability and long-term stability. In other words, they are now self-funded by the fees they collect for actual services rendered. The account is held separately so that the fees cover the cost of operation including administration, management, maintenance, repairs and capital outlay. Once established, this department was no longer subsidized by the general fund.

During 2011-2014, Wastewater’s actual operating costs were decreased by $15,000. According to Jackson Thornton consultants, a decrease in operating costs in Wastewater operations is unprecedented.

From October 2012 to present day, they have been able to invest $3,531,352 in maintenance, new equipment, and infrastructure. This investment has allowed the City of Prattville to deliver services and avoid potential fines by ADEM (Alabama Department of Environmental Management). This complete reversal in fortune is due to the establishment and proper management of the enterprise fund account.

At present, we have experienced vast growth in east Prattville. The 2010 census noted Prattville’s population had grown to 33,960. With all this growth, we must also note that the Pine Creek facility is approaching capacity. Pine Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant has a capacity of 3 million gallons per day. Once expanded, capacity would increase to 5.7 million gallons per day, which takes into account 30 years worth of projected growth on the east side of Prattville.

The engineering plan for this proposed expansion and upgrade was $1,177,000. This fee was approved by Council on January 19, 2016 and will be funded with cash reserves in the Wastewater Enterprise Fund Account.

With the proposal of a major plant expansion and necessary upgrades, it was determined that a new cost of service study should be performed. The cost of service study establishes revenue adjustments needed in order to fund the expansion and upgrade. The project itself is projected to cost approximately $25,000,000.

The following are slides from the cost of service study presentation delivered at the February 2, 2016 City Council Meeting.

Slide01

Slide02

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Slide10

This proposal, which covers Phase I of the overall Wastewater Improvement Project, and the cost of service study noted above have been provided to the City Council for consideration.

Cost of Service Study Presentationpdf

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