City Council approves two wastewater sites

By BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

While an official decision won’t be made until next month at the earliest, the Ridgecrest City Council officially approved moving forward with a new wastewater treatment facility on one of two sites. Earlier this month, council heard a report from consulting firm Provost & Pritchard detailing the pros and cons of on-base and off-base sites for a new plant.

While a new plant off of base property had many practical benefits, keeping the facility on base is estimated to be the least expensive route at about $51 million compared to $58 million. But the takeaway from the meeting was that as the city delays, the costs are increasing. Previous estimates were as low as $40 million for the project.

“The longer we delay this, the more it’s costing,” said Mayor Pro Tem Mike Mower.

“This is costing us more and more money,” added Mike Neel during public comment, “and from what I understand, the city doesn’t have money to lose.”

Part of the reason for delays is that the city is still waiting to hear back from Navy Southwest Command regarding an easement to grant the city use of the base property. In order to secure financing for the project, the city needs a 50-year easement according to City Manager Dennis Speer.

“There was an expectation that the Navy by this time would have provided the requested easement, but they haven’t,” he said.

“I’m still not convinced the Navy site is the best site,” said Councilmember Lindsey Stephens.

Stephens said that if the city could qualify for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund loan — which would fully cover the project — the site wouldn’t have as much of an effect on cost. She added that the City Infrastructure Committee believes “pretty firmly” that the city site would be ideal.

Mower made a motion that council approve both sites so a decision can be made as soon as possible. He recommended that council should make a decision next month if it doesn’t hear back from the Navy before the May 17 meeting. The motion was unanimously approved.

The next meeting is on Wednesday, May 3, 6 p.m. at City Hall. For more info see ridgecrest-ca.gov/ridgecrest-city-council.

Story First Published: 2017-04-28