City issues certificate of substantial completion for wastewater treatment facility, final installment and testing of last-minute ragging fix remains
FARMERSVILLE – Farmersville is opening the floodgates for growth upon the completion of the wastewater treatment facility expansion, the most expensive public works project in the city’s history.
The newly-updated wastewater treatment facility comes in at about $23 million, switching from percolating basins to updated technology like digesters and clarifiers to meet the city’s growing population and updated state requirements. City manager Jennifer Gomez said she’s excited to see the project of over 10 years come to completion.
“Now that it’s done and operating, we are totally ready to take on new development,” Gomez said. “Whether it’s residential, commercial or industrial we no longer will have a capacity issue with the new plant, and that’s something I’m excited to see.”
Gomez said there has already been interest from residential and commercial developers over the last year, accommodations sorely needed for Farmersville.
“We definitely need more houses to be constructed here,” Gomez said. “We always need more commercial development, because so many citizens here have to drive to Visalia or Exeter to do some of their shopping. Getting more housing and more commercial retail stores here, then the community can actually shop local.”
Industrial development is also an open opportunity for Farmersville, although Gomez said the city lacks existing infrastructure in their industrial zones, and developers would need to construct things like streets and sewer and water lines.
“Industrial would be great because it would bring new jobs for people that live here,” Gomez said, “but for your everyday resident I think more options in housing and shopping opportunities is probably more important.”
All that remains to finish the project is remedying a literal snag in the system—clogged pipes. Gomez said installment and testing of the last-minute mechanical bar screen and inline grinder should be done by next week—a $500,000 fix due to residents flushing rags, paper towels, diapers, wipes, masks and other linen-like objects during their extended stays at home during the pandemic.
In addition to the ragging issue, Farmersville also faced a staffing issue in February at the wastewater treatment facility two weeks before the facility was to be fully operational. The part-time chief plant operator quit within a month of being hired with no notice, putting the city out of compliance requiring staff with certifications.
A quick pivot from Gomez, and Farmersville’s wastewater treatment facility is now operated by engineering contractor Central Cal Waterworks—also contracted with Exeter—albeit at a price of $317,748 a year for a chief wastewater treatment plant operation, chief water distribution operator and two wastewater operators. At the time, Gomez said although the price tag for Central Cal Waterworks is comparable to what it would be to hire their own staff, sustaining future costs with high-cost contracts is a concern that could come back to bite ratepayers.
“If someone’s contract is really high, then that’s just going to force us to increase rates with the public to help pay for those contacts,” Gomez said, “and that’s something we want to try to avoid.”