The Chetek Common Council met mid-February for a closed session discussion to figure out what to do next with the Knapp Street residential development project.
Chetek Mayor Jeff Martin could not divulge specific details from the discussion, as it could impact future negotiations with the developer, but Martin said it boils down to the city looking at the numbers.
Recently, the developer chosen to head the project, S.C. Swiderski LLC, informed the city that they would not be able to proceed unless the water pressure in the area was at least 55 pounds per square inch for sprinkler fire suppression systems in the apartment buildings. One of the solutions includes building a new water tower to replace the city’s current water tank, called a standpipe water tower. Doing nothing, while an option, is not desirable, Martin said previously.
But a new water tower could cost $1.3 million to $1.7 million, according to rough, preliminary estimates. Costly maintenance is soon needed on the standpipe tower.
“It’s a chicken and the egg problem. What comes first,” Martin said.
The need for a new water tower, which has not been talked about in recent years, seemed unexpected. Martin said it was not an expected issue when they began the project, but he reminded people that the council is trying to solve a housing shortage issue which is impacting growth and workforce development in the city and area.
As with any major project, issues to tackle will come up as additional details are learned while it progresses, Martin cautioned.
Asked if booster pumps could be used to increase water pressure, Chetek Public Works Director Dan Knapp said it wasn’t feasible. The DNR only permits 10 parcels to have pumps in a pressure district. Chetek has one pressure district. It would not work for an apartment building but perhaps a few single-family homes, Knapp said.
But the city should build for growth, rather than find band-aid solutions now, Martin said. “Do we fix what we got or build to meet future demand?
“No matter what we come up with, it will be something we can live with and afford. We aren’t going to mortgage the farm to get this,” Martin added. But if the city was serious about easing the housing shortage, they had to continue the project.
Martin said he was encouraged by the council members’ enthusiasm. No one was rejecting the project outright, but were willing to find workable solutions.
“We just want to keep moving forward. And I think we all agree, we need housing for the city.” he said, noting that a completed project won’t happen overnight but will take several years.
Right now, the city is working with an engineering firm to shore up the numbers—of the amount of water pressure the city needs, the size of water tower that entails and how much it will cost to build. Martin expected the council would meet again with Swiderski as early as this next month.
“They still want to talk with us,” Martin said of the developer.
Construction plans for a new wastewater treatment plant are soon due to the Department of Natural Resources. The new plant will have primary (solid and sediment removal), secondary (biological treatment) and tertiary (phosphorous removal) treatment processes. The city’s current plant cannot remove enough phosphorus before the effluent is discharged into the Chetek River, meaning it will be out of code once the current permit expires.
Three phosphorous removal systems are being considered. The Clearas Water Recovery system uses algae to remove phosphorous. A cloth filter system was looked at and now Knapp said a sand filter was being tested. Sand filters have been used for drinking water treatment for many years, he said. The cloth filter would likely be too labor intensive.
Building costs are easy to determine, but the operating and maintenance costs are more difficult to calculate, Knapp said, leading to the delay.
A meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 11, at The Center, 711 First St., where plans and costs will be presented. A final plan will be decided on that day. The city must submit the construction plan to the DNR by Wednesday, March 31.