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Material costs cause new Monument water tank cost to double to over  million | Thetribune

Material costs cause new Monument water tank cost to double to over $10 million | Thetribune

MONUMENT • Town staff informed the Monument Board of Trustees last week that the multimilliion-dollar cost for a new water tank for the town has nearly doubled.

Tom Tharnish, director of public works, provided a board update regarding a major cost increase to the town’s new water storage tank April 4. Tharnish said the department has been seeing cost increases in its latest water system projects, but the projected cost iincrease for the new water tank prompted him to give the board a “heads up” of expectations over the next year or two.

The two-million gallon water tank project had a price tag of $3.4 million when the department received the original estimate in 2019, approximately six months prior to the COVID-19 pandemic reaching El Paso County. The board of trustees approved the project several meetings ago.

Tharnish said the previous average cost of building a new tank was approximately $1 per gallon. He said that has increased to $1.75/gallon since the project estimates were done.

A larger issue Tharnish noted was a recent engineer’s estimate the department received for the pipelines that connect the tank to bring the water into town. Originally, the cost of the pipeline was estimated at $3 million, but the project design has changed to a two-pipeline system — with one water supply line and one return line with connections every thousand feet or so. Tharnish said this is similar to the system that connects to the water storage tank on Monument Hill.

The two-line system adds redundancy and reliability, and allows leaks or structural failures of the pipelines to be isolated and continue water flow, Tharnish said. However, the cost of the two-pipeline system increased to an anticipated $7.36 million.

This brings the new water tank project, and its pipelines, to a total estimated cost of between $10 million and $10.8 million.

“I’m bringing this to your attention about what’s going on and that it’s going up to $10.8 million from an original $5 million project from two-and-a-half years ago,” Tharnish said. “It’s going to cause us to make some hard decisions on where we’re going to find that money. We have additional funds in other projects which have not started yet.”

Tharnish said the department is also exploring ways to reduce the cost of the project depending on which materials are used, particularly the type of piping for the lines. He added that the department will do its best to knock the cost down. He also said some of the town’s completed water system projects have come in under budget, which would help offset the water-tank cost increases.

Tharnish is working with Town Manager Mike Foreman to design a best course of action.

When asked what projects may be put on the back burner to help fund the cost increase, Tharnish noted a plan to build a new water treatment plant may be put on hold. The reason is with Monument’s inclusion in the El Paso County Loop project, town staff came to learn the water received from the loop would already be treated, whereas previously they understood it would be raw water.

However, pausing on the water treatment plant may put the town at risk of not making use of all its Certificate of Participation Bond funds for its water projects, for which it has three years to spend.

“We may not need that treatment plant, but even by holding onto that money, we run the risk of starting a project with that money too late,” Foreman said. “I think we could set aside that project for now. If we decide to do that project in the future, not using COP funds, we do have money in the 2A fund which would be able to fund that project.”

Tharnish said approximately 31% of the town’s available COP Bond funds have been used thus far.

Foreman noted two or three current projects would make use of the majority of those funds before the end of 2022, and the remainder would be spent before the end of next year.

The town may also qualify for an extension of its timeline to spend the COP Bond funds because of increased materials costs and pandemic related disruptions, Foreman said.

Tharnish said six of the water-system projects on the list have been completed.

Mayor Don Wilson said the increased cost of the water-tank project doesn’t change the town’s need for it. “This is a huge cost increase, but it’s also well behind,” Wilson said. “We needed this new tank five years ago, if not longer. I don’t want to run the risk of any momentum stopping when we have a failing tank and we can’t use it. I think we bite the bullet on this and keep moving forward.”

The board was in agreement the new tank project needed to be completed as soon as possible and instructed town staff to continue moving forward with it.