BELTON — Before investing a projected $18.5 million in a planned expansion of its shared wastewater plant, the Belton City Council opted to help fund a study to identify any cost-saving measures in the project’s nearly two-decade timetable.

The council agreed Tuesday to spend $21,699 toward a “value engineering study” of the project’s original preliminary design as part of a cost share with the city of Temple, co-owners of the Temple-Belton Wastewater Treatment Plant on Farm-to-Market 93.

In 2010, the 10 million-gallon capacity treatment center, which serves all of Belton and about 75 percent of Temple, reached a 75 percent capacity threshold, which triggered state-mandated planning for additional capacity.

Construction must start once 90 percent capacity is reached for three consecutive months, under Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regulations.

Belton laid plans for the expansion last year by acquiring uncontaminated land once included in the Rockwool superfund site, which neighbors the city’s treatment plant.

In 2011, Belton also contributed toward the funding of a preliminary design plan for the expansion submitted by Kasberg, Patrick & Associates. The report offered an overview of the project, including background on the plant’s historical operation as well as projected flows through 2040 and recommended improvements necessary to meet capacity requirements, Belton Public Works Director Mike Huber said.

The value engineering study approved by the council will review that report to identify any potential technologies, phasing options or other techniques that could lower the overall cost of the project, Huber said.

“Not that KPA would miss anything, but when you’re talking about $18.5 million over a 17-year expansion, you just want to have another set of eyeballs on it,” Huber said.

The study, awarded in a bid to the firm Lockwood, Andrews and Newnam Inc., will consider not only the “science and substance” included in the preliminary report, Huber said, but also the city’s plan to phase the expansion to mitigate the up-front costs while also addressing capacity requirements.

The study will look “at how we’re putting the phasing together and how we’re looking at the plant expansion as a whole. Have we missed anything? Is there a way to save some money?” he said.

The value engineering report is expected to be completed within 120 days, or by mid-March.

Although Belton’s historical flows at the plant range from 19 to 21 percent of total use, the city’s pledged 25 percent capital investment of the plant expansion ensures the city has the flexibility to serve future growth, City Manager Sam Listi said.

“We certainly want to do everything we can to preserve our investment in the past,” Listi said. “We want to make sure going forward we have that capacity available to us.”

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