By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — The Norman City Council approved a contract for an engineering study for a northside sewer plant with HDR Engineering Inc. for $249,935. The contract was hotly debated before its approval.
HDR was the low bidder, but in the form that the council approved the contract, a work change order will be coming forward soon to add additional scope of work to include information from the city’s Strategic Water Supply Plan and water options including a phased plan of reuse water from Moore’s wastewater discharge.
The Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District asked Moore to consider treating wastewater to a higher level and discharging it into one of Lake Thunderbird’s tributaries to augment lake levels. Norman also will look at that option with the northside plant.
Moore would incur capital costs to implement such a program and has made it known it will not incur those costs to Norman’s benefit. Norman, then, would likely foot the bill, but that may be part of the water solution Norman is looking toward as it seeks creative solutions to the demand for more water.
As mayoral candidate Tom Sherman said in a public comment to the council, with Oklahoma’s movement forward to adopt gray water reuse options, wastewater is usable water — if it’s highly treated and discharged back into a water source.
The Strategic Water Supply ad hoc committee is looking at many options including gray water reuse. Those elements will be examined as part of the engineering study for the northside plant.
“The engineering report is kind of a feasibility study at this point,” Utilities Director Ken Komiske said. “It will give us some things, even if we don’t build it right away.”
Komiske said water reclamation technology changes, but much of the information will be valuable for many years. Information on reuse associated with the plant is one of those areas.
Starting the dialogue with ODEQ will get the bureaucratic process started.
“The reuse conversation is an important one,” Mayor Cindy Rosenthal said. “What I’m concerned about is that we heard right before Christmas that the COMCD is looking at two phases with the Moore plant. Moore wants to know who would pay for modifications to that city’s infrastructure.”
Council member Roger Gallagher made a motion to postpone for two years.
“You voted ‘yes’ for it six months ago,” Council member Robert Castleberry said. “I want to know what has changed.”
Council member Dave Spaulding said Norman voters have said the plant should be built.
“I don’t know why we continue to thumb our nose at the voters,” Spaulding said. “I’m not in favor of postponing this at all.”
Council member Chad Williams asked about the shelf life of the study.
“The parts that don’t change would definitely have a good shelf life,” Komiske said
“The price tag on that plant is about $100 million,” Council member Greg Jungman said.
Jungman said he wants to settle the land use process and see if there is a future service area in that basin first.
“I’d be for putting the whole thing on the ballot as soon as possible,” Jungman said.
Gallagher changed his motion to postpone the matter until the second meeting in April after the water study is completed.
“One of you has expressed tonight the classic strategy of study and stall,” Heiple said. “That is typical of what has happened to north plant. People are trying to get it postponed until the election. Please vote on this contract.”
“Those of us who have had small businesses live in a very fluid world, but decisions must be made,” Council member Linda Lockett said. “I think it’s important that we make this decision.”
The motion to postpone until April 23 failed by a 3-6 vote, with Gallagher, Jungman and Rosenthal in the minority.
Eventually the contract was approved with a subsidiary motion to ask the contractor to wait 45 days to start to get information from the water study. In addition, city staff were given direction to negotiate a change order to include additional contingencies for Moore’s water reuse.
The contract was approved in a 7-2 vote, with Gallagher and Jungman voting no.
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