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City leaders proposing to bring Mitchell over $20M in water infrastructure improvements

While the groundwater storage tank project was initially estimated to cost around $5 million, Public Works Director Joe Schroeder said a new chemical feed and pump facility has increased the cost of the project to roughly $11 million.

Mitchell water tower.jpg
Shown here is the top of the city of Mitchell's water tower. (Republic file photo)

As 2022 approaches, city officials are focused on improving Mitchell’s water infrastructure with a handful of key and costly projects on deck.

The most costly water infrastructure projects that are proposed to be included in the 2022 budget are the North wastewater treatment plant upgrades and ground water storage tank addition.

To add a backup water supply for Mitchell, the city is seeking to build a 2.5 million gallon groundwater storage tank just south of the Mitchell city limits, located to the northeast of the intersection of 256th Street and State Highway 37, or about 1 mile south of the intersection of Burr Street and Spruce Street.

“It will ultimately bring our total storage up to 5 million gallons. It will give us about three days of water storage in the city if our water were to be shut off,” said Public Works Director Joe Schroeder during a recent Mitchell City Council budgeting work session.

The city’s lone water supply source comes from B-Y Water District, which transports the city’s water from the Missouri River. Most of the state’s first class municipalities, or like-sized cities, have a two- to three-day water supply storage capacity. However, Mitchell’s water supply has a one-day storage capacity.

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While the storage tank project was initially estimated to cost around $5 million, Schroeder said a new chemical feed and pump facility has increased the cost of the project to roughly $11 million.

“This would bring our piping above ground instead of below ground vaults, which is easier for crews to work on. The building would be fairly large,” he said. “As the project evolved, it only made sense to incorporate these items now.”

To help fund the project, Schroeder said the city would need to increase residents’ water rates.

City Administrator Stephanie Ellwein said the rate increase would be needed to cover the SRF financing that's going to be used to fund the project.

Schroeder said the North wastewater treatment plant -- which was constructed in 1970 -- is a critical facility that is in “serious need” of upgrades.

“There is a lot of special equipment and a lot of larger structures and buildings that need to be incorporated,” he said of the estimated $10 million project.

As part of the project, Schroeder said a new headworks building would be constructed. The headworks building would be equipped with new screening and grit removal equipment used to treat wastewater.

In addition, Schroeder said a new equalization base would be built, which he noted will help avoid having to “discharge water” from severe rain events into nearby Firesteel Creek.

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The north wastewater treatment plant -- located at 2141 E. Havens Ave. -- is where crews remove contaminants from wastewater or sewage, which allows it to be returned to the water cycle with minimum environmental impact.

Schroeder said the wastewater project would likely extend into 2024. However, when it’s complete, he noted it would keep the facility smoothly operating for about 30 to 40 years.

Another water system project that city officials are seeking to complete in 2022 is the upgrades to the west water tower along the Highway 37 bypass.

The west water tower project will bring a little over $1 million worth of improvements to the tower. The scope of the project entails replacing the valve and piping next to the tower and repainting the tower. Crews will paint the entire tower with a cream color and place the city’s logo atop.

“It’s very difficult to isolate this tower, and we have to go multiple blocks in order to isolate it. This project will fix that problem,” Schroeder said, noting the color will be the same as the south side water tower.

On the street side of infrastructure projects, city officials are proposing to improve a portion of East 10th Avenue, stretching from North Lawler to North Langdon streets. The scope of the work would entail underground utility improvements and extending the street by about 10 feet.

The project is estimated to cost roughly $955,000.

“We’re replacing the 4-inch cast iron water main with 6-inch vitrified clay pipe. We’ve had water main breaks within this area,” Schroeder said, noting the street will also be extended to a width of 41 feet. “It will bring new curb and sidewalk as well, so it’s a good project.”

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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