New water plant requires talks with railroads

By Gary Scott on April 20, 2015 at 1:38pm

The latest update on the new Jacksonville water treatment plant project involves paying railroad companies a pretty penny for right-of-way.

Reggie Benton of Benton and Associates told aldermen at last week’s city council meeting that it will cost $28,000 to allow utilities connecting to the new plant on Hardin Avenue to cross underneath railways.

“The challenge that we have is the railroad has many rules required to comply with, and in addition to that, they also require a rather significant fee to allow our utilities to go underneath the railroad and connect the portion of the water treatment plant that’s going to be on the west side to the east side,” says Benton.

“It always takes longer than you would like it to get these permits completed and negotiated.”

Benton explains why the utilities are necessary.

“We have the lime sludge lagoons that are on the old property at the east side of the railroad tracks, so all of our discharge from the new water treatment plant that relates to lime softening has to get over to the east side, as well as, we want to have potable water over there because we’re going to also have a bulk water salesman over there for non-Jacksonville resident customers to buy bulk water,” he explains.

Officials are still negotiating the length of the permit agreement. Benton says the city wants 40 years, while the railroad companies want ten.

Benton adds a verbal agreement was in place for a tree removal contract along the railways in connection to the needed utilities, but that local rail companies didn’t want trees removed on their embankment.

“It took longer than we had hoped to get that negotiated, and in the end run, they didn’t actually want us to remove a few of the trees,” Benton says. “So, the contract had to be modified slightly.”

Bid-opening for water plant construction is scheduled for next Wednesday, the 29th, at 2 p.m. Benton says a successful bidder could be chosen at the first city council meeting in May.