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Consultants offer plan for $23M Upgrade to City Wastewater Plant

Workshop focuses on AJ Brown treatment facility, mobile home code changes

by Walker County News Today Staff

A Houston-based water and wastewater engineering firm on Tuesday recommended to the Huntsville City Council a plan to spend $23.4 million on a total upgrade of an aging city wastewater treatment that serves Sam Houston State University and the city’s downtown.

Council met Tuesday afternoon for a three-hour workshop to discuss the condition of two of the city’s wastewater treatment plants and to review the proposed ordinances on mobile homes and mobile home parks that would be addressed in the regular meeting later that same day.

Wastewater Treatment Plants

Council members and the public listened to a presentation by Freese & Nichols about the current condition of the A. J. Brown Wastewater Treatment Plant.   This plant serves a large area of downtown Huntsville including SHSU, many of the commercial areas and a large number of residential users.  The facility is  operating well below the state’s preferred 75 percent threshold except for one spike in usage in early 2015.

The presenters concluded with a list of recommendations that would essentially replace the current facility using the land already in use.  The total price tag for the overhaul is estimated to be $23.4 million.

The city’s N.B. Davidson Wastewater Treatment Plant,  constructed in 1971, underwent a similar assessment.  Council approved funds for engineering for that plant in 2015, and city staff reports that the engineering for upgrades and improvements to that facility is 95 percent complete.

When questioned about how the city would pay for a complete overhaul of the A. J. Brown facility, City Manager Matt Benoit reminded council that the city will soon be retiring debt.  He suggested that council may want to maintain the current tax rate and use the funds that had previously been used for debt service toward the project.  He also suggested that council could consider floating another bond.

Proposed Mobile Homes Ordinances Under Debate

Aron Kulhavey, the city’s director of Development Services, reviewed the modified proposals for changes to both the Development Code and to city ordinances regarding mobile homes and mobile home parks.  The original list of recommendations by the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, presented to City Council in their last meeting, was replaced with a much shorter list.  Kulhavey reported that the modifications were based on citizen input, staff recommendations and feedback from council members.  During workshop discussion, several members questioned the proposed requirement that all new mobile homes in the city also have a storage building of at least 50 square feet; the proposal was eventually dropped from the list.  Staff forwarded remaining proposals to council for consideration during Tuesday night’s regular session.

At that meeting, council approved changes to the Development Code and ordinances in an 6 to 1 vote with Ward 3 council member Ronnie Allen voting against the measure after advocating that council and affected citizens needed more time to study the proposed changes.

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