Sewerage authority approves labor contract

Plant expansion work
is nearly four months behind schedule

By Sherry conohan
Staff Writer

Plant expansion work
is nearly four months behind schedule
By Sherry conohan
Staff Writer

MONMOUTH BEACH — A new labor contract, another digester study, and a construction administration contract capped the agenda at the latest meeting of the Two Rivers Water Reclamation Authority.

The authority commissioners also learned that the work on the massive plant expansion and upgrading project is 114 days behind schedule. Instead of the work being done next August, TRWRA is now looking at a completion date at the end of 2003, according to Michael A. Gianforte, executive director.

The authority commissioners, at their Dec. 17 meeting, approved a new four-year contract with the Communications Workers of America AFL-CIO-CLC GWA covering 29 workers who operate the sewer plant.

Gianforte said the authority would realize a savings of $120,000 in the first year by switching the health care insurance to the state plan, which had been a source of union displeasure when originally proposed. He said the workers will have a choice of several plans within the state health insurance system.

The contract provides for a 2.75 percent pay raise in the first year, a 3 percent raise in the second and third years, and a 3.25 percent raise in the fourth year.

The authority’s board authorized the expenditure of $38,274 on a second digester study. The contract is being awarded to Camp Dresser & McKee, TRWRA’s consulting engineer.

The latest study will look into an aerobic digester — that is one using oxygen. It previously did a study of an anaerobic digester — one without oxygen.

Gianforte said the studies will provide the authority with a complete life cycle analysis of both processes. He said the anaerobic process has a higher capital cost but a lower operating cost, while the aerobic process has a lower capital cost but a higher operating cost.

After the first study was done, the authority decided not to move on acquiring such a digester at this time. It felt the process was good, but the timing was wrong. It was not ready to pass a change order for $7 million to finance the digester on top of the current $48 million plant expansion and upgrade.

Gianforte said the study would take about two months to complete and should be in hand by late February or early March. But, he said, the authority shouldn’t make a decision about whether to acquire a digester until the construction project is completed and the finished plant has been operating for a period of time, so that the sludge content can be analyzed.

He thought six months of operation would be sufficient to make a decision.

Board member William R. Baarck said he didn’t think the authority should do anything until the new plant has been up and running for a couple of years.

An amendment to the resolution authorizing the study provides that any digester considered must be environmentally non-polluting in keeping with state Department of Environmental Protection standards.

Baarck said the digester in Illinois that was looked at in the first study was "smelly."

Gianforte said the decision before the board is whether to do nothing, or to do an aerobic digester or to do an anaerobic digester.

"The preliminary studies show there’s a real opportunity to save money with a digester," he said.

The authority had to raise rates for both member and customer towns this year to finance the plant expansion and upgrade, and may have to again.

The construction administration contract, in an amount not to exceed $31,000, also went to Camp Dresser & McKee. It is for supervision of the installation of the electrical duct bank from the treatment plant to the main pumping station on Meadow Avenue. The duct bank will pass through easements obtained from Sands Point North and the borough.

The contract period is for 10 weeks but the actual work should take only six weeks, Gianforte told the board. He said the engineer supervising the work would not be needed full-time on the duct bank and would use the rest of his time on the job assisting in supervision of the construction at the main plant.

Probably $10,000 of the contract amount will go to plant supervision, he said.

The disclosure of the precise number of days the construction work is behind came in response to a question from board member Ward V. Coles Jr.

"This overage in days is not unusual for this magnitude of a contract and can get caught up in the end," Elwood Baxter, authority chairman, told him.

Gianforte advised the authority board that damages of $1,000 per day kick in if the contractor, PKF of Newtown, Pa., doesn’t meet completion deadlines on four elements: the main pumping station, the electrical substation, substantial completion of Phase II and final completion of Phase II.

He said the contract completion date for Phase I is Jan. 6, but no damages are connected to that date.

The contractor has been put on notice, Gianforte said.

"We’re now looking to finish at the end of 2002," he said.

"We’re obviously keeping a close watch on it," he added. "But progress has been steady, and we want to make sure it’s right."