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Hughson sewer plant project bid over half of expected cost
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Hughson city officials were glowing Monday when they learned that the lowest bid on a new wastewater treatment plant came in at half of the engineer's estimate.

The project, which has been under review for years, started out with an estimate of $35 million. But after a number of design changes and the worsening economy, contractors are hungry and bidding competitivly. The low bid opened on Monday came in just over $15 million.

"This is a dramatic drop in the cost of this project," said City Engineer David Chase. "Not only is this likely to be the best price deal in years, but thanks to Federal Stimulus Funds being made available through the State Revolving Loan Fund the interest rate is only 1 percent, and the city does not have to start making payments on these borrowed funds until 2012."

The project will provide Hughson with sewer capacity through about 2025 to 2030 depending on future growth rates. The current plant has effectively reached capacity, and has outlived its useful life, said Chase.

"This was a very positive development that we were able to go to bid and the best possible time with the best possible financing rates," said Hughson City Manager Joseph Donabed. "This provides the community of Hughson an opportunity to address its waste water treatment needs for the next generation."

City leaders will soon examine the current sewer rate structure to determine what rates will be needed to address project costs. Chase said "it is certain at this point that they will be lower than previous forecasts."

A presentation of new rates is tentatively scheduled for the July 13 council meeting.

Water rates going up

Hughson officials approved a water rate increase to pay for a cleanup of arsenic in the city water supply.

The average Hughson household now pays $38.65 per month for water service but will see that climb to $47.41 per month. By 2012, the average bill is expected to hit $90.05.

In January the city was notified that arsenic levels in the water system were higher than federal standards allow. The levels were exceeded in three of five city wells.

Part of the plan to deal with bad water is to either clean up existing wells or sign on to the regional surface water plant. Hughson expects to pay $1.5 million to buy into the plant. Water would be pulled out of the Tuolumne River, filtered and piped to Hughson, Ceres and Modesto.