TDH: 9/21/11

Council skeptics concur: WTP4 stoppage too expensive

The WTP4 site this Spring
The WTP4 site this Spring (Photo by John Anderson)

This afternoon, City Council’s Audit and Finance Committee received an expanded report from the Office of the City Auditor on the costs of postponing completion of Water Treatment Plant No. 4. And afterward, council members who had questioned finishing the plant on economic grounds begrudgingly concluded “they will not press for a delay” of completion.

Scrubbing estimates from WTP4 contractor CDM on what a five or ten year postponement of the plant would cost, the OCA stated it found $100 million of CDM’s five-year shutdown costs ($138 million) and $155 million of CDM’s ten-year estimate ($206 million) “reasonable.” The numbers led Bill Spelman, who had pushed for the OCA’s evaluation, to concede “We’re talking about numbers which are sufficently large that all the nickel and diming in the world isn’t going to change something fundamental.” While still arguing against the need for the plant, Spelman said, “I think we ought to get through it,” and refocus energy on “more urgent needs,” including conservation and stable water rates and fees.

(When reiterating his belief that, due to declining peak usage days, WTP4 wasn’t needed, Spelman happened onto an intriguing line-of-thought: it might make more financial sense to postpone WTP4 indefinitely, as re-start costs comprised a healthy portion of the expense – an option not fully explored by activists opposing the plant, who maintained the polite fiction the postponement would be a temporary affair. Neither here nor there, but … )

After the committee accepted the auditor’s findings, Spelman, Sheryl Cole, and Chris Riley (who also sat in on the committee’s meeting) issued a press release stating they sought no further postponement of the plant.

So what’s next? With postponement off the table, we’ll likely see continued piecemeal opposition to plant components, such as the Save Our Springs Alliance’s scorched-earth take on the contracting for the plant’s Jollyville transmission main, and continuing environmental concerns surrounding the main, voiced at the meeting today by Laura Morrison. But at this point, it looks like it’s full speed ahead for the long controversial plant.

Below, a copy of the OCA’s presentation.

City Auditor Presentation on WTP4 Postponement Costs

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