Public works department continues to operate within 10-year budget trend

The Sunnyside Public Works Department oversees several divisions within the city, including the streets, central services, sewer, stormwater, parks maintenance and airport.

Each of the divisions, according to Director Jim Bridges, has operated within short budget ranges. Sewer maintenance has had the highest budget over a 10-year period, beginning in 2003 and ending by 2012. Sewer maintenance costs peaked in 2009. Expenditures that year surpassed the budget of $1 million by about $100,000 because of the newer sewage treatment plant upgrades made between 2006 and 2009. In 2006, the sewage maintenance fund was at its lowest since 2003, with expenditures at about $600,000.

Last night (Tuesday) Bridges told the Sunnyside City Council the sewer maintenance fund is budgeted at approximately $1.2 million each year for 2011 and 2012.

The projected budget includes the installation of new high-efficiency blowers, which will drive down energy costs. Bridges also is eyeing a green project reserve grant, which will save the city additional funds for the installation of the blowers.

"The large issue we are looking at is a sewer comprehensive plan," he told council.

The plan he hopes to develop will address several issues, including management of solid waste. Bridges said solid waste has increased as the treatment plant has become more efficient and the city is exploring cost-saving ideas for removing the biosolids from the plant, including a screw press like the one used by the Port of Sunnyside.

Bridges told council it would be more cost-effective to install mechanisms to create dry biosolids because the hauling price would decrease.

The water fund is the second largest budget under the Public Works Department umbrella.

The water maintenance fund has been budgeted between $800,000 and approximately $1.1 million since 2003.

For 2011 and 2012, Bridges has proposed the budget for the division at about $98,000.

Plans for the division include converting well sites to sodium hydrochlorite systems, upgrades to the SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisitions) system, as well as continuing the meter replacement program. Bridges said the division has a goal of completing the well 12 and 13 project and the inspection and cleaning of water reservoirs on Harrison Hill.

To save the city money, the water division is looking at installing chlorination systems at the reservoir tanks because the current system requires chlorine to be transported from an off-site location currently.

Bridges told council he is planning to bring before the members the idea of setting aside $150,000 annually for a water main replacement fund. "We have several water mains that are aging," he said.

The streets division is also operated by the Public Works Department. That department has in the past year met several goals, including the completion of the South First Street project.

Because of the project the 2010 budget was at its peak, but Bridges has projected the 2011-12 biennial budget at just under $1 million annually.

His department is eyeing several future projects, including upgrades to the signal system at South 16th Street and East Lincoln Avenue. Bridges believes a video detection system for the traffic signal may be a benefit to the citizens, as well as the school district.

The idea, said Bridges, is under exploration and he has been talking with the school district to discuss ways in which the city and schools can work together to have a traffic engineer assist in making the best decisions for intersections affected by school traffic.

"Otherwise, we aren't looking for additional funding for the next year...there will be inflation-related increases and I have a list of seal-coated streets due for chip-sealing," said Bridges.

For the airport, he said his department is considering the benefits of installing an Automatic Weather Observation System. Currently the idea is being bandied about by the airport committee.

The projected airport budget is just shy of $25,000 annually for 2011 and 2012.

Bridges said the federal government provides $150,000 in funding for the airport each year, but it doesn't go directly into the city coffers. The money is set aside in a savings fund until the city requests to use the funding.

The stormwater fund has only been in place since 2007, and the main objective in the near future is to resolve issues with billing and rates. "The fund is a high priority because rates have not yet been calculated," Bridges told council yesterday.

He made a note of informing the city council Sunnyside may find itself exempt from the stormwater regulation because of its combined water and sewage system. Stormwater in the city is channeled to the wastewater treatment plant and treated.

It is a possibility Bridges plans to investigate further.

Sunnyside's equipment rental fund is also overseen by the Public Works Department. Bridges told council the division is responsible for maintaining all equipment and vehicles operated by the city of Sunnyside employees.

Large repairs, he said, are completed by the dealerships because the shop is not large enough or equipped for those repairs.

Two vehicle or equipment purchases are slated for the next two years. They include seven vehicles for the police department and a street sweeper.

Fuel costs are a concern to the equipment rental fund because the city speculates costs and some funding is tied up in the budget to offset high fuel prices.

The division is projected to operate within a budget of more than $1.2 million over the next two years, which is about $700,000 less than the past two years.

The Public Works Service Center is an aging building and Bridges told council he is proposing the replacement of gas heaters for the building. "One failed this past year," he said.

Because of its age, the center also has issues with deterioration of the ceiling insulation. Bridges said the replacement of the insulation may be a future consideration.

Otherwise, the proposed budget is about $4,000 less for 2011-12 than 2009-10.


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