The Taney County Commission approved an amendment to a funding agreement between the county and the city of Rockaway Beach for it’s Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility Capital Improvements Project.

At a meeting on Dec. 16, Taney County Environmental Services Department Project Coordinator John Soutee presented commissioners with an amended agreement that would provide the city of Rockaway Beach with additional funding in the amount of $121,813.40 and an extended project deadline of June 30 to complete the facility improvement project.

The original funding agreement with the county and Rockaway Beach was approved on Nov. 26, 2018. The project cost was set at $1,885,685 and the project was given a deadline completion date of March 31, 2020. Soutee explained that the need for this project came to be after the neighborhood located near the treatment facility began to complain of the odors coming from the facility. 

“That’s what led to the attention being placed on the treatment facility in the first place, which that attention led to a change in the operation of the facility with Ozarks Environmental Services and David Casaletto’s people coming in to take over the operation of the treatment plant.” said Soutee. “Then the second phase of that was to do this feasibility study or engineering study to identify what happened, how it happened and what pumps at that treatment facility need to be updated.

“The outcome of that study identified several aspects of the treatment facility and the components thereof that basically needed to be rehabilitated or updated and that’s how this project came together.”

Soutee added that this process took around a year, but in that time they were able to get the plant operating properly. 

However, due to the design of the plant and the equipment within being around two decades old, the difficultly to operate the plant became apparent. 

“Some of the equipment the plant was originally outfitted with was obsolete in this day and age, so that led to discussions about the improvements and rehabilitation of the treatment plant and thus the original funding agreement,” Soutee said. “Rockaway Beach came to the county with requests in order to better protect the environment in that area and get the treatment plant back up to a state where it should be.”

Items listed to receive updates or receive funding in the original funding project, included influent headwork improvements, ultraviolet disinfection system improvements, sludge processing improvements, return activated sludge pumping improvements, selector basin improvements, creation system improvements, tertiary backwash filter equalization improvements, the addition of an emergency backup power generator and engineering services to oversee the project, according to documents in the inter-governmental funding agreement. 

Soutee said once rehabilitation work began on the facility in early 2019, crews began to discover other issues with the plant that were in need of updates or rehab. This led the city to return to the commission to request an additional nearly $122,000-worth of funding.

“With any rehabilitation, it’s similar to rebuilding an old house. You really don’t know what you’re going to get into until you start tearing into in. Well, as they went through this process of rehabilitation and the upgrades of the treatment facility, they found some other things along the way that would make a good project … a great project. So they came back before the commission here recently with change order No. 1 that outlined these additional things that they would like to do.”

Those additional improvements will include a $22,250 mechanical screen rebuild, $20,463 in clarifier and RAS Value improvements, $20,277 in water line improvements, $18,170 to clean the influent pump station, $1,660 to put in a motive pump pit cover, $2,732.40 to make automatic transfer switch upgrades, $11,000 to install aerator draft tube extensions, $5,261 to pour a concrete pad for chemical delivery, $10,000 in contingency funds and $10,000 for construction administration and observation of the project, according to documents in the amended inter-government funding agreement. 

The funding for this project and many other sewer-related projects in Taney County have only been made possible by the half-cent sewer sales tax that was initially passed in 1993 and re-approved in 2000. Soutee said that, over the years, the sewer sales tax has been the saving grace for many cities, towns and villages across the county, including the city of Rockaway Beach. 

“Without that sales tax, there wouldn’t have been any money,” Soutee said. “Without the sewer sales tax, I honestly have no idea what they would be doing down there right now.

“This is $1.8 million that would have had to come from somewhere. For them to get a loan they would have had to pass a revenue bond or something down there. If it doesn’t pass, then what do you do? Then you still have the sewer and that sludge running into Lake Taneycomo like it was. It was crazy. It was really bad. So that sewer sales tax has been such a blessing to everybody.”

With the commission’s approval of the additionally requested funds, the revised funding agreement for the Rockaway Beach Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility Capitol Improvements Project comes to a total of $2,007,498.40. 

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