City seeks to issue bonds to fund sewage projects

Columbus is planning to issue up to $42 million in bonds to fund a series of projects to improve or repair the city’s sewage system.

The Columbus City Council unanimously approved on first reading an ordinance that would allow the city to issue the bonds, as well as up to $5 million in bond anticipation notes.

However, the ordinance has not been adopted. Ordinances are required to be passed on two readings to be approved. The second reading of the ordinance is expected to be held during the city council’s Nov. 2 meeting.

The projects include, among other things, expanding sewage service and capacity on the west side of Columbus, increasing sewer capacity at Woodside Industrial Park, rehabbing several lift stations and removing flow from an aging sewer near Mill Race Park that is exposed to the riverbank and has failed multiple times.

The most expensive project, dubbed the “Westside Interceptor Project,” has an estimated $15 million price tag and seeks to build over 13,000 feet of interceptor sewer that would expand sewage capacity to support continued growth on the city’s west side, according a list of projects on Columbus City Utilities’ website.

The properties that would get sewer service as part of the project include undeveloped land that Columbus Regional Health purchased between State Road 46 and County Road 200S.

The Westside Interceptor Project also includes the construction of a new wet well at the south side lift station and the demolition of the State Road 46 lift station.

The State Road 46 lift station used to pump water along State Road 11 to a lift station on the city’s south side, but that route was abandoned due to the railroad overpass project.

Currently, the lift station pumps water through a force main that crosses under the overpass, which then runs under the East Fork White River and discharges in a manhole near Water Street.

However, the lift station does not have enough capacity to pump wet weather flows, which has led to the supply of water to be carried being greater than the capacity of the pipes to carry the flow in the sewer that serves properties along Merchant’s Mile.

The project would tentatively start in February and take about a year to complete depending on land acquisition.

Another project includes $6.5 million in sewer improvements proposed at Woodside Industrial Park, which Columbus City Utilities says are at or near capacity, particularly on the west side of Interstate 65 “where development is likely.”

“If growth is to continue in this area, several sewers need to be increased in size and lift stations need to be upgraded,” Columbus City Utilities states on its website. “…If the city plans to continue marketing this area for industrial grown, (Columbus City Utilities) will need to upgrade sewer infrastructure.”

Construction of the improvements “should begin as soon as possible as it deals with an existing capacity issue” and would likely start next month and could last until November 2023.

The project listed as the first priority involves removing all flow from sewers near Mill Race Park, which “has experienced multiple failures in the river, resulting in treating millions of gallons of river water.”

The sewer, which is parallel to East Fork White River near the riverbank just south of Water Street to around 11th Street.

Over the years, some of the sewer has become exposed due to erosion and a manhole near Upland Pump House also failed, said Ashley Getz, utilities engineer at Columbus City Utilities.

“The abandonment is probably going to be plugging (the sewer) with concrete or filling it with concrete,” said Getz said.

Columbus City Utilities is already seeking bids for the Mill Race sewer project and expects to have bids by Thursday. The utilities’ website says construction would tentatively start in January and finish in March 2022.