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Large projects are driving force behind water rate increases

T-R PHOTO BY ROBERT MAHARRY The Marshalltown Water Works treatment plant is pictured at 1957 N. Center St. Rd. Water rates are set to increase by 12 percent on July 1 to cover the cost of several major capital projects including a plant expansion.

Large planned projects are the primary reason for the impending water rate increase in Marshalltown.

The Marshalltown Water Works Board of Trustees approved a 12 percent rate increase during the May 21 meeting, and General Manager Shelli Lovell said the rate increase will go into effect July 1.

“The board has been financially preparing the last few years for a planned plant expansion, water main replacements and wellfield expansion,” she said. “Our water is at capacity. These are huge capital projects, which is why there is a rate increase.”

The current water plant located at 1957 N. Center St. Rd., built in 1977, has almost 50-year-old pumps, valves, chemical feed systems and basins. There are two 6 million gallon per day (MGD) treatment trains. Lovell said the plant needs an additional 6 MGD to keep up with the previous and expected Marshalltown growth.

“We started working on a plan after I got here in the fall of 2018,” she said. “We did an initial study to determine needs. This is what we need to maintain what we have, as well as expand to improve and support the growth of Marshalltown.”

The construction of the plant is estimated to cost $43 million, financed with a low-interest 20-year loan through the state revolving fund. Lovell said the design is almost finished. A start date has not been determined, but she said it could go out to bid at any time. The holdup is waiting for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to give approval for the project.

“This is a large project and will take time,” Lovell said. “The DNR wants to make sure the engineer’s design meets their standards. It might take a couple years to build.”

The timeline for the wellfield expansion is not known as it involves locating new water wells.

“We are working with consultants to identify locations of additional water sources,” she said.

Water Works gets water from nine wells next to the Iowa River. Eight of the wells provide more than 10 MGD, and the ninth gives more than 4 MGD. Lovell said five of the wells were drilled more than 50 years ago, and while an aggressive maintenance program is in place, wells do not last forever.

The budget for the wellfield has been determined to be more than $1 million per year for the drilling and maintenance of existing wells.

Water main replacement in Marshalltown is a frequent project, with one underway on State Street. Some of the water mains are more than 100 years old. As a result, Lovell said replacement of the aging mains is ongoing with one to two projects per year. She said her staff studies patterns of break locations and communicates with the City of Marshalltown to schedule the most convenient time for replacement.

The next replacement locations will be on West High Street between Center and Sixth streets, and on Main. The work on Main Street will occur when the city moves forward with the planned road construction.

“We are preparing for Main whenever the city chooses to work on that,” Lovell said. “West High Street should be up this season.”

In the last few years, Water Works has replaced water mains on May, Washington and South streets and South Fourth Avenue. According to Lovell, there are more than 160 miles of water mains, so numerous replacements will occur during the next few years. Water Works has budgeted an annual $1 million for replacements.

Lovell said Marshalltown residents should not expect any more increase in rates from Water Works within the next year. She encouraged people to attend public hearings regarding improvements.

“I am not trying to say there will be no future increases, but nothing more is planned,” Lovell said. “Any infrastructure improvement costs money. Every year, as we look at improvements and what we can accomplish, we will evaluate the costs and effects on rates.”

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Contact Lana Bradstream

at 641-753-6611 ext. 210 or

lbradstream@timesrepublican.com.

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