Cape looks to outsource ‘bio-solids’ processing
City council is expected on Monday to instruct staff to keep moving forward with a proposal that would change how the city handles its sewage byproducts, a proposal that could involve an interlocal agreement with another municipality or county.
Documentation shows that the city hopes for a 20-plus year arrangement with the unnamed government, one that has an operational facility or one in the permitting process.
It’s unknown which municipality or government would be part of this agreement as of now, but previous discussion identified Charlotte County as the only government with a facility that could handle the added capacity.
That same documentation, available on the city’s website, states that Cape Coral will be able to save up to $750,000 annually by doing less processing and contracting for the finished product and its disposal. The proposal could also lead to a zero water rate increase if used in conjunction with the infill assessment, which also is part council’s Monday agenda.
“The bottom line is to save between $500,000 and $800,000 a year by moving to a different alternative with no up-front capital costs,” said Jeff Pearson, the city’s utilities director.
Pearson said the savings would be achieved largely through cutting lime and transportation costs. He also said the city could seek to sell its sludge drying equipment as part of the proposal. It’s been sitting idle since the city paid roughly $15 million for the equipment and the necessary TECO gas line.
“We’re going to be seeking direction on whether they want us to market that equipment or keep it,” Pearson added.
Councilmember Kevin McGrail said previously that the city should be using its sludge drying equipment as a means to turn a profit. But as a short-term solution, McGrail thinks the interlocal makes sense, because it validates the council’s mission of lowering water rates.
“That was the goal of the COW meetings in the first place … a short-term agreement will buy us time,” he said. “Charlotte has the excess capacity and it’s like free money to them.”
Councilmember Pete Brandt said it was crucial the city receives a long-term deal in this proposal, or a at least a 10-year deal with five-year renewal options.
Brandt said he can see council having some trepidation with the infill assessment but thinks the biosolids proposal is certainly a win for the city.
“I can’t see us turning down the biosolids. It’s a slam dunk, there’s no question,” he said.
Councilmember Marty McClain said he thinks the city will only get between 25 and 30 cents on the dollar should it decide to sell its sludge drying equipment.
McClain said current ratepayers will continue to pay the debt service on the equipment even if it’s sold, and that an interlocal agreement with Charlotte County would only help them to pay off their expansion.
“They are incurring debt so they’d be thrilled to have someone supplement their debt, but to what extent is unknown,” he said.