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Castle Rock pursuing loan for water repairs

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The Castle Rock City Council has opted to pursue a state loan for repairs to their drinking water plant in a move likely to increase utility rates but also likely to avoid potential failures of the system.

Discussed during the council's Sept. 8 meeting, Public Works Director Dave Vorse told officials one of the two filters at the city's water plant has been shut off since May after a metal tank housing it began to leak, leaving the other filter to service plant on its own, which has since been operating at 50-percent capacity.

Vorse noted the failing tank had been built in the 1970s and, due to conditions of poor ventilation at the plant, which were corrected in the mid 90s, it began to corrode sooner than expected.

Vorse said, while the other filter, built in 1985, remains operational and the system is not in immediate danger of failure, it came uncomfortably close during the summer months as consumption of water almost outpaced the plant's ability to produce it.

With this potential for failure in mind, and a lack of effective long-term alternatives, the council determined to pursue recoating the tank with polyurethane at an estimated cost of around $100,000.

"By the time that wears out, it'll be time to build another plant," said Mayor Paul Helenberg of the polyurethane option, which had been considered along with a $498,000 option to replace the filter entirely.

Funding for the repairs, which will also include upgrades to the plant's radio telemetry and cleaning of the intake system, are expected to come from a loan provided by the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, payable at a rate of 1.5 percent APR over 20 years. The total of the loan request, however, is uncertain at this time, as Vorse is looking into the possibility of having members of the Cowlitz County Dive Rescue Team volunteer to clean the tanks, which they have done in the past as they are in need of venues for training.

"We've been very, very blessed to have a dive crew that needs practice," said Vorse, with engineering estimates placing the cost of professional cleaning as high as $120,000, while the cost to upgrade radio telemetry would be around $30,000.

It is expected loan payments, as well as anticipated increases in the costs of operating the sewer and water systems, could lead the council to consider a rate increase of around $5 per month during their upcoming budget cycle, stated Helenberg, adding it is not the council's wish to see rates go up but rather its obligation to maintain the system.

"I realize that there's a lot of retired people in this community that that's a lot of money to them," he said. "But at the same token, when you turn that water on every morning, it's there. We don't have problems with water staining anything. When you flush your toilet it goes down every morning. It costs money to have that kind of service. It's unfortunate that we're in this dilemma with the filter, but it's something we have to do."

The council is expected to approve an official loan application during their next meeting on Sept. 22, with the application for the loan due to the state by Sept. 29. As of press time, it was confirmed Vorse is still researching whether or not the filters could be cleaned by Cowlitz County Dive Rescue Team, and it is expected his findings will be presented Sept. 22.

Those with questions about the meeting, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in the Senior Center, or in need of accommodations may call City Hall at (360) 274-8181.

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