— By CHRISTIN COYNE
WILLOW PARK – Under a new city administrator, City of Willow Park leaders have kicked off the first couple weeks of January by opening talks with officials about purchasing surface water to meet the growing city’s needs, as well as discussing needed waste water system improvements.
Willow Park began talks this week with the City of Weatherford about purchasing surface water from Lake Weatherford, Willow Parker Mayor Richard Neverdousky announced Tuesday.
Weatherford is interested in providing surface water to the city, Neverdousky said.
However, it is likely they won’t be ready to enter a contract with Willow Park for seven to eight months, he said.
Neverdousky described it as a “very nice meeting.”
Engineer Kerry Maroney of Biggs and Matthews, hired by the city to create a capital improvement plan for the city’s water system, told the council in November that he expects the city’s current groundwater-supplied system to need an additional water supply source by around 2015.
The city needs to purchase surface water, according to Maroney, who said that adding any wells to the current groundwater system will only be a Band-Aid.
In early 2012, the city had to obtain exceptions to the well spacing requirements from the Upper Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, which are intended to protect users from depleting the underground aquifer, to replace three under-performing wells.
Obtaining surface water for Willow Park users is expected to be a multi-million project.
The city also took no action Tuesday but discussed considering authorizing bid advertisement at the next regular meeting for a citywide sewer lift station improvement project.
During a workshop Jan. 3 with engineer Glenn Breisch, of Wasteline Engineering, council members were provided a rough $900,000 estimate for the total project. The number was significantly higher than the $600,000 the city previously expected, according to city budget advisor and former city administrator Candice Scott.
City leaders emphasized that the estimate is just that and that going out for bids should give the city a better understanding of what the project will cost.
The city is also in the process of exploring options for funding the upgrades, something discusssed Jan. 3 during a council workshop.
City Administrator Matt Shaffstall told council members that developer’s agreements for the Hunter’s Glen and Crown Park projects are expected to help address those costs. However, the city is still looking at a roughly $500,000 gap that could be funded different ways, he said.
Neverdousky said the city does need to consider possible sewer rate increases as the waste water system operated at a loss during the previous fiscal year, indicating the city is not taking in enough revenue to support what they are doing.
However, Scott confirmed that some money from the waste water system budget was used for legal fees regarding the ongoing lawsuit brought by engineering firm E.S. & C.M. against the city regarding unpaid fees on a prior project.
The city could also help offset the cost of the improvements with impact fees paid by developers, Neverdousky said.
However, the city must adopt a capital improvement plan and go through the legal process to put an impact fee in place first, something the city is currently working towards.
The wastewater upgrades are necessary to begin addressing current issues, to address future development, as well as to meeting state requirements regarding backup power at the sites, city leaders were told.
Lift stations at Kingsgate, Beaver’s Creek and Willow Park Village are all included in the upgrade project.
A couple of the issues expected to be addressed include insufficient pumps at the Beaver’s Creek lift station that are contributing to sewage backup during large rain events and spillage into a nearby creek, as well as a pump station at Willow Park Village that was installed and designed for the southern half of the development, according to Breisch. Breisch said he believes the pump station needs to be expanded to serve all of Willow Park Village, as well as the current neighborhood in the development phase - Hunter’s Glen.
Why the current Willow Park Village pump station was approved at the time, Breisch said he didn’t know but it was installed during a previous administration when much of city business was conducted on a handshake.
Council member Bernard Suchoski, who exchanged heated words with Breisch during the meeting Jan. 3, said Tuesday night he would like to have a third-party engineer to look at the project documents provided by Wasteline Engineering.
Council members Amy Podany and Dan Stalling also voiced concerns Tuesday night that they felt needed to be addressed prior to putting the project out to bid.