Plattsmouth, Neb., has completed its sewer separation project 2½ years early and well under budget.
City Administrator Erv Portis told the City Council Monday that the final cost for both phases was $5.5 million, which was $1.9 million less than originally projected. The council then voted for “final acceptance” of the separation project far ahead of the federally ordered compliance deadline of April 2015.
“It’s a huge Christmas present to be done with this thing,” Portis said. “Plattsmouth residents and people who come to the city on business have put up with three years of construction while being gracious and understanding and appreciative.”
Plattsmouth and Omaha were the only Nebraska cities ordered by the Environmental Protection Agency to comply with the Clean Water Act by installing separated sewer systems. The separate systems are needed because large flows of water — such as those that occur during heavy rains — sometimes overwhelm waste treatment plants, and raw sewage is discharged into the Missouri River.
The key to getting done under budget and ahead of schedule, Portis said, was getting a fast start.
“We made a commitment to take advantage of the current economy and interest rates and construction prices to get it done,” he said. “If we had dragged things out, it would have ended up costing us more.”
Omaha’s sewage separation project dwarfs Plattsmouth’s and will take 18 years to complete at a cost of $2 billion. Plattsmouth, a city of about 7,000 residents 20 minutes south of Omaha, tackled its project in two steps.
The first phase began downtown in 2009 and was constructed in tandem with a Main Street improvement project. Phase 2 was in the Chicago Avenue and Washington Avenue corridors.
“Now, all we have to do is finish paying for it,” Portis said.
The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality provided financial assistance for the project in the form of low-interest loans totaling about $3.6 million. Sen. Ben Nelson also helped Plattsmouth secure an EPA grant of $1.1 million.
Mayor Michael Bowman saluted the city’s merchants for their patience.
“I most appreciate Platts-mouth’s citizens for their patience, understanding and cooperation through all of the complex construction work,” he said.
Businesses, such as the Godfather’s Pizza one block south of Main Street, sometimes had their parking lots inaccessible for up to two months.
Linda Smith, the restaurant’s manager, said business suffered but is getting back on track.
“We have two entrances, so our second entrance came in handy,” she said. “I know (the contractors) worked hard and the weather cooperated. It’s just nice to be back to normal.”
Customers of Steube’s Thriftway grocery store about two blocks north of downtown spent a month driving down an alley to get there because the street out front was torn up. Owner Don Steube said it’s a relief to get back to normal.
“I’m very happy because it’s just good to have it done,” he said.
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