AUBURN — After failing to get state support, the city of Auburn may bond for $2,250,000 to upgrade the disinfection process of its wastewater treatment plant and to map the city's sewer system.
Seth Jensen, Auburn's director of municipal utilities, gave city councilors the lay of the wastewater land Thursday night and explained where those funds are needed.
About $2 million of the proposed amount would go toward upgrading a 24-year-old UV system, the last part of the treatment process that helps disinfect the effluent. Currently the city spends about $40,000 a year fixing the system, Jensen said, and it can't even handle the design's maximum capacity of 24.5 million gallons per day.
The system caps out about 19 million gallons per day, which concerns Jensen considering the heavier storm and flow events the region experienced this past summer.
Jensen hopes to expand the new UV system's useful life to 40 years by housing it in a pole barn. This would reduce algae growth and protect the system from outside elements.
For two years the city applied to the state Department of Environmental Conservation's Water Quality Improvement Project program to get funding for the upgrades. Jensen said both times were unsuccessful. Should the bond ordinance be approved by councilors next week, the bonding period could be 20 or 30 years, and Jensen hopes the project would be completed by November 2019 at the latest.
"This is a good water quality project," Jensen said. "This isn't (in) the (Owasco) lake watershed, but it's a tributary to the next community down. It's a disinfection project, and it's there for the community beyond the city of Auburn, so, it's good."
The additional $250,000, Jensen and the city's planning and economic development team have proposed, would go towards mapping the sewer and storm system and labeling manholes. The project would also allow a condition assessment of the infrastructure and determine areas to focus and upgrade for the future.
Councilors are expected to vote on bonding for the project at next week's meeting 6 p.m. Thursday, March 15 at Memorial City Hall, 24 South St.
In other news:
• Auburn Police Chief Shawn Butler has had times in his career where he could not hold seized firearms from an individual, though he wanted to and wished he could have.
A recent incident with police instigated the chief to look at something called "Red Flag" legislation, he told councilors Thursday night. The law allows officers to keep possessed firearms following a probable cause investigation and court order to keep someone from harming his or herself or others. The law still requires due process, where the individual can respond to the evidence presented in court, according to Butler's presentation.
Butler said the only way law enforcement can intervene with firearms now is if a person is declared mentally incompetent, something that does not happen often. He worries about suicide the most, and cited a Center for Disease Control study that shows of nearly 43,000 people who took their own life in 2014, about half used a firearm.
"We've returned firearms against our better judgement," he said. "I have trouble sleeping thinking about that."
Currently legislation called "Extreme Risk Protection Orders" is floating through the U.S. Senate and the state Assembly. Butler has reached out to both state and federal representatives asking for their support. Rep. John Katko has told Butler he supports it. He hopes councilors will give their support at next week's meeting, too.
"I applaud you for taking a proactive approach in response to a specific issue in our community, said Councilor Jimmy Giannettino. "To me, this is common sense."
Councilor Dia Carabajal said Butler had her support, and Councilor Debby McCormick said she didn't understand why the law hadn't been passed already.
• On International Women's Day, abolitionist Harriet Tubman was honored a little early Thursday night with a city proclamation naming Saturday, March 10 Harriet Tubman Day. Pauline Copes-Johnson, the great-great-grandniece of the "Station Master of the Underground Railroad" received the plaque from Mayor Michael Quill.
Copes-Johnson took the opportunity to make mention of her ancestor's potential to be placed on the $20 bill, though that project appeared to stall when President Donald Trump's administration came into office.
"I'm hoping she'll be on the $20 bill, and if she's not on the $20 bill, I'm hoping they'll make a $25 bill," she said, laughing.