The Austin City Council held a public hearing on the city’s Wastewater Treatment Plant expansion and phosphorus reduction project at their regularly scheduled meeting Monday evening at the Austin City Council chambers.

Public Works Director Steven Lang stated to the council that the project, which has been in the planning stages for five years is needed due to the fact that most of the buildings from the plant’s 1939 expansion are still in use today, and that the current facility will not meet the city’s future needs.  Lang presented the council with five different alternatives, with his department recommending the second alternative presented that would feature a combined activated sludge treatment process that would cost approximately $78 million. Lang stated that advantages of the second alternative would include a treatment system effective for current water quality standards and that it would also set up effectively for future standards.  He added that the project would be planned for chemical phosphorus removal, but biological removal would also be possible. Lang went on to state that cons would include operators learning a new system, and that the process would generate large volumes of biosolids.

Lang went on to state to the council that the cost of the project to start would be funded 45-48% by domestic customers and 52-55% by industrial.  He added that the cost to users could be lowered to $51-$55 million with bonding requests to the Minnesota Legislature of $7.5 million in 2020, and again in 2022, a point source implementation grant that could total up to $7 million and a Green Project Reserve Grant that could total up to $1 million.  Lang stated to the council that planning for the project also included a 25% rate increase in 2018, and a 7% rate increase per year from 2019 to 2023, which would leave a proposed 2023 rate of $49.05 per month. He added that if the project would move forward as proposed, work would start in June of 2021 and would take three years to complete.  There were no comments from the public and after the presentation, the council voted 7-0 to approve the project.

In other business, the Austin City Council approved a four-way stop sign at 10th Drive and 5th Place Southeast, and they also approved the extension of the Austin Home Initiative housing tax abatement program through December 31st, 2022.  The council also approved a contract with Flashing Thunder Fireworks for $30,000 for one night of fireworks for the Freedom Fest 4th of July celebration in 2020. Finance Director Tom Dankert stated to the council that Hormel Foods recently agreed to donate $10,000 towards the fireworks for 2020.  The Austin City Council also moved to repeal section 9.35 of the city code pertaining to unattended vehicles, and the council also moved to accept Hormel Foundation grant awards for 2020, along with pass through dollars and out of budget requests totaling $843,577.

In other business, the city council approved a resolution establishing license and operational fees for 2020, and they also approved a resolution setting the position and wage rates for the city’s 2020 seasonal and part-time positions.  And, in other business, the Austin City Council approved an extensive list of appointments and reappointments to city boards and commissions to the years 2021 to 2025.  

The next regularly scheduled meeting for the Austin City Council will be their last for 2019 on December 16th at 5:30 p.m. at the Austin City Council chambers.