City Engineer Staci Belcastro addressed concerns Wednesday night at Albany City Council over a wet-weather lift stationed planned for the Dave Clark Trail that has drawn the ire of some residents.
Earlier this month, Council heard concerns from a resident about the lift station’s effect on the trail and surrounding community. Mayor Sharon Konopa and Councilor Dick Olsen weighed in, noting they too had concerns and requested more information from staff.
The lift station is a cost-saving solution to what would have been a $20 million dollar construction project to alleviate sewage overflows at the Riverfront Interceptor — the city’s largest and oldest sewer line. The plan calls for a pump to divert water to the Albany-Millersburg Water Reclamation Facility. The lift station’s cost of $13 million is being funded by a loan the Council approved in March of 2018.
During Wednesday’s meeting, Belcastro highlighted a 2015 alternatives analysis that explored two other locations for the lift station. However, those locations would have cost the city anywhere from an additional $1 million to $2 million to construct. Technical issues also prevented the lift station from being placed elsewhere.
Resident Courtney Minyard suggested moving the lift station to a location under the Lyon Street Bridge. Belcastro informed Council that, after consulting with an electrical engineer, staff was told the lift station could not be placed more than 150 feet away from the pumps needed to divert the water. The Lyon Street Bridge is approximately 800 feet from the pumps.
The heart of the complaint from neighbors of the proposed location is an electrical building that will service the lift station. Concerns over homeless individuals using it for shelter and its effect on the view from nearby townhouses were raised. During a December 14 meeting with neighbors, city staff agreed to relocate the electrical building from just west of the Wheelhouse parking lot, 421 Water Ave. NE, to the Montgomery Street right of way. Staff also included a mandate in the design that the building match the aesthetic of the neighborhood.
A list of questions was submitted to Councilor Dick Olsen and was addressed by Belcastro Wednesday night. One question asked how staff justified not seeking public comment. Belcastro explained that there had been several public City Council meetings discussing the project, as well as budget meetings the project was included in, and staff responded to resident questions culminating in the December 14 meeting.
Another question was asked about ownership of the property, contending that the state parks department owned the property, not the city. Councilor Rich Kellum noted that the city had received the property from state parks and because the land was not being used for a park, it had to gain approval from the department, which he said was discussed at a public meeting.
Public Works Engineering and Community Development Director Jeff Blaine informed Council that delaying or altering the project would affect the city’s loan and could subject the city to fines from the DEQ, noting that the city had not assessed fines for its sanitary sewer overflow in the area because the lift station plan was in place.
Belcastro said that, barring any action from the Council, the city would go out to bid on the project in mid-April. The Council took no action. Construction, Belcastro said, would hopefully take place during the summer.