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Officials give opinions on water plant project

PRINCETON — Not everyone agrees with Princeton Commissioner Joel Quiram’s statements at Monday night’s meeting of the Princeton City Council concerning what Quiram calls the extravagance of the new water tower project and its impact on residents’ water rates.

On Tuesday, Mayor Keith Cain said Quiram has been down this road before. He’s not been supportive of the project, and he (Cain) thinks Quiram’s comments are politically motivated at this time. Everyone has the right to his/her own opinion, and Quiram has the right to his opinion, the mayor said. However, the water treatment plant is near completion, so there’s no changing anything now, Cain added.

On Wednesday, Princeton City Manager Jeff Clawson said the water rates have not increased as much as depicted in Quiram’s statement. The hard part about utilities is that customers forget to factor in their utility use, he said.

“Generally, water rates went up about 20 percent, on the average,” Clawson said. “If they looked at a low usage month without an increase, then a higher usage month with the increase, the overall cost could have gone from $55 to $100. If their bill was $55, and they used the same amount (of water), their new bill would have been in the range
of $63 to $68. The balance over this amount would have been for additional usage.”

Concerning the city needing to pay to get detailed cost numbers for the concrete room portion of the project, Clawson said he has not been in a situation where the city has tried to break down a large project like the water treatment plant into small pieces, especially details that were not the way the project was bid.

“In other words, the engineers spec the details to build the plant in its entirety, and then the general contractors get bids from various subs, who usually do specific things like electrical or plumbing,” Clawson said. “It would be very difficult to look at the project for the perspective of how much did it cost to build this area.”

As far as the need for a concrete room for emergency needs, Clawson said the public typically does not make safety a priority until something bad happens, however, community can never be too prepared.

Clawson said he has seen other communities have various types of concrete rooms
for safety/security type reasons. In fact, he managed a city in Kansas that built a new city hall building in 1996 and made the entire center of the building as a tornado shelter.

No two communities would end up doing a project in the same way, even if the communities were building the same style of plant, Clawson said. Since he was not in Princeton at that (design) time, Clawson said he does not know any of the details on the type of plant that was built or any specific area within.

On Thursday, Princeton Police Chief Tom Root said he supports the idea of having a secure emergency operations center for the community, which could also benefit the entire county. An emergency operations center is an excellent idea, but there will be an additional cost to buy the needed equipment for an emergency operations center, Root said.

“But I do think it’s a good idea for a community like us to have something like this in place,” Root said.

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