At the last regular City Commission meeting on February 11, the Commissioners and I took a step that is important for the future of the City of Mason and all of our residents. Our City staff and consulting engineers have been working for the past three years identifying and planning for the eventual reconstruction and improvement of the Waste Water Treatment Plant that is located east of town next to the landfill. The current arrangement of the sewer plant has been in place and functioning for well over thirty years, but even with the regular maintenance that the City crews have been doing there is a need to address some significant problems. It appears that the “lining” at the bottom of some of the settling ponds may have been damaged and no longer have a complete impermeable seal, and for the past seven years at least one of the four ponds has been dry and out-of-service. Another significant problem is that the first pond is elevated from the inflow, requiring a large pumping station that is at the end of its useful life and has a $250,000 or more price tag for a replacement.
The solution that we have worked out includes reconfiguring the plant so that the first pond is at the level of the inflow and the entire plant works by gravity flow, rebuilding and relining all of the ponds so that they are properly sized for our town and the expected population fifty years from now, reconstructing the final processes so that they meet today’s standards for clean water and adding a retention pond and irrigation system so that the final clean water can be used to grow hay in a field on adjacent City property. It is a big project and all of the construction has to be done in a manner that allows for the continuous use of the sewer plant to treat the City’s waste water throughout the time. After two years of discussions with the Commission, City staff and consultants as well as planning and working with TCEQ on permitting and changes, we are now ready to move to the bidding and contracting stages in the next couple of months, and that is where the actions of the City Commission were important.
The Commission voted unanimously to approve and authorize the Mayor to sign the documents to issue $900,000 of Tax Note Bonds for the funding of the construction work at the sewer plant. This is important for two reasons; first the City will be prepared to begin the work on the plant once the Bonds are issued in a month and we will at that time have sufficient funds to complete the entire project. The City has contingency funds and savings for infrastructure improvements that would be close to enough for this project, but I was very hesitant to begin a major project that could affect everyone in our town without knowing with absolute certainty that we could and would be able to finish it. Now we can move forward and the some of the extra funds we have set aside can be held in case of a true emergency.
The second reason I think that it is important for our citizens to know about this action is that the City Commission approved going into debt for a sizable amount, with the understanding that we will have additional debt payments to make in each of the coming seven years. In the past we have borrowed money for specific projects or equipment, such as the bulldozer or other large equipment purchases and the switch over to electronic water meters, but this current action was a larger and more complicated financial action that any we have previously done. The City staff and I looked very carefully at other options, and we discussed it at length with the Commission before reaching a decision, but now we are very pleased to take this step as we begin to improve a major infrastructure project that will provide beneficial service for the next generation of Mason residents and beyond. The Sewer Plant and the waste water treatment is one of those City services that is out of sight and most often out of mind, but it remains one of the critical services that keep our town functioning and a safe and healthy place to live and work. Over the next couple of years as we oversee the construction and rebuilding of the sewer plant and as the City begins repaying the Bonds that make that improvement possible, we can be sure that we have taken a step to improve our hometown and keep it functioning for many years to come and for the many residents that will come after us.
Your friend and neighbor, Brent Hinckley