The City of University Place will get a big infusion of cash – $2.25 million – as advance payment for permits and other work that’s required to expand the county’s Chambers Creek Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant, according to a county-city agreement.
The money will pay for the city to do inspections, review plans and issue permits for the $353 million expansion of the sewage treatment facility inside city limits, next door to Chamber Bay Golf Course.
The expansion will increase capacity and meet treatment regulations that are expected to get more strict. Major construction on the nearly four-year project is expected to begin in November.
“We’re giving them the cash up-front, which is probably a bit unusual because normally we would just piece-meal this through,” deputy utility manager Joe Scorcio told a Pierce County Council committee last week.
But Scorcio said the single-fee approach is necessary because of the large size of the project and to make sure permits are processed “in a very timely manner.”
The project is also unusual because it is large and has many components. Scorcio called it “a very, very large plumbing project” with a handful of buildings. The expansion will require dozens of building, mechanical and plumbing permits to be issued by the city.
The council’s Rules and Operations Committee voted 3-0 on Aug. 20 to recommend that the full County Council approve the agreement later this month. The University Place City Council unanimously approved it the same night.
County Council committee member Dick Muri, R-Steilacoom, wondered about the price tag of $2.25 million.
“That’s a lot of (full-time equivalents) of engineers, inspectors and all that,” Muri said at last week’s committee meeting.
Scorcio replied: “It’s a lot of hours but it’s spread over a very long period of time.”
As an elected official representing sewer ratepayers, Muri said, “I want to make sure we’re not spending more money than we have to on this project.”
Scorcio said estimates for the amount of work ranged from just under $2 million to $3 million.
Council committee member Stan Flemming, R-University Place, asked if cost overruns occurred, how they would be handled. Flemming is a former UP city councilman.
Scorcio said excess costs “beyond the norm” would be negotiated.
“This is a one size fits all,” Scorcio said. “Assuming it’s built in accordance with what our plans are today, this is the fee.”
Scorcio said the agreement is the best option for both the county and city – which has jurisdiction over the permitting – because it gives them predictability.
University Place Mayor Ken Grassi said the one-time payment will help city officials plan for the work with the staff they have.
“It helps us gauge the amount of staffing,” he said Thursday.
When the city receives the money by the end of September, it will add to the $15 million general fund.
While the city’s budget is balanced, Grassi said the county’s lump-sum payment will improve UP’s financial condition by increasing ending fund balances.
“We believe it’s a good deal for the county and University Place,” Grassi firstname.lastname@example.org