Sussex council OKs funds to speed up Rehoboth plant project

Mayor Paul Kuhns says upgrades to treatment facility can't be delayed
June 17, 2019

On the recommendation of its chief engineer, Sussex County Council has approved a plan to loan the City of Rehoboth Beach funds to correct serious issues at its wastewater treatment plant.

At the June 4 meeting, county engineer Hans Medlarz said the work had been scheduled as part of Phase 3 of upgrades in 2020 at the plant. Now, it will be included in the ongoing work as part of Phase 2, which is currently being designed by consultant engineering firm GHD of Bowie, Md. Once the design phase is completed, work can begin. The total cost of Phase 2 of the project is projected to be $9 million, Medlarz said.

Council approved an amended contract with GHD not to exceed $172,000. Medlarz said the loan would have a 2 percent interest rate with a 10-year term.

Medlarz said the amended contract must be approved by Rehoboth Beach commissioners.

Rehoboth Beach and Sussex officials entered into an agreement in August 2017 to share costs of upgrades to the plant at 42 percent for the county and 58 percent for the city. In return, the county will use some of the capacity at the plant to treat wastewater from unincorporated areas in the Rehoboth area.

In July 2018, the commissioners voted unanimously to take the county up on an offer to fund approximately $6 million in improvements that include a switchgear and structural upgrades to the city's wastewater treatment plant. The city and county are splitting those costs 50/50. The county is also funding the city's portion of the project through a 10-year loan with zero percent interest.

Last month, Rehoboth commissioners agreed to ask the county for an additional $3 million at the same zero-interest rate. The county counter offered with a 10-year loan, with an interest rate of 2 percent, and to pay 42 percent of the costs to the city’s 58 percent.

In a letter to council, Rehoboth Beach Mayor Paul Kuhns wrote that the issues are too critical to delay. “As you are aware, there are some very serious operational and safety issues at our plant,” he wrote to council.

Medlarz said he agreed with the mayor that the work can't be put off; Rehoboth could possibly be facing a significant failure at the plant without the project.

Rehoboth commissioners discussed the county’s counter offer during a workshop June 10. Public Works Director Kevin Williams recommended the city continue to move forward on the county’s terms. Kuhns said while the terms are not as favorable as for the first $6 million, the terms for the additional $3 million still were good. The commissioners are expected to vote on the county’s offer during the Friday, June 21 meeting.

Additional work needed includes structural repair to the floor, replacement of influent pipes and replacement of the mechanical screening systems along with some structural repairs to other existing plant infrastructure.

As part of the agreement, Sussex County is providing engineering services for Phase 2 and will also be part of the decision-making process for the scope of work in Phase 3 and Phase 4, Medlarz said.





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