With little discussion or comment, the St. Helena City Council approved $40 million in expenditures over the next five years for infrastructure repairs and upgrades by a 5-0 vote Tuesday evening.
The city’s five-year Capital Improvement Plan consists of 48 projects, most involving water, sewer and roads, many of them long-deferred fixes.
Some of the big-ticket items include upgrades at the wastewater treatment plant ($8.1 million), removal of the Upper York Creek dam ($6.5 million), and upgrades to the Dwyer Road booster pump station ($2.6 million).
Several of the wastewater and water projects are considered high priority in order to meet state regulatory requirements. The $8.1 million treatment plant upgrade is only Phase 1. A second phase of plant upgrades ($200,000), improvements to the plant’s reclamation fields ($1.4 million), a new operations building and shop ($1.1 million), sludge removal ($150,000) and new pond levees ($120,000) are listed among future improvements.
The $2.4 million replacement of the Bell Canyon reservoir intake tower is also needed to keep the city in compliance with state regulations, according to the plan.
City officials say that years of deferment have led to this expensive to-do list, and these projects can no longer be put off. The situation at the wastewater treatment plant is especially dire, staff reported, with poor conditions there creating inaccurate measurements.
More than half the funding ($22 million) is slated to come from water and wastewater utilities revenue. Last year, council approved steep increases in those utility rates with an eye toward paying for needed improvements.
Other funding sources include the General Fund ($4.6 million) water bonds ($3.3 million) and the Measure T sales tax passed for roads ($2.4 million over four years).
All of the $5.8 million in project funding budgeted for this fiscal year will come from utilities revenue and gas tax revenues.
“This is not new money, we’re just transferring from existing funds,” said Public Works Director Erica Ahmann Smithies. The Upper York Creek dam removal and the Bell Canyon tower intake are planned for next year.
During public comment, resident Mike Thomas wondered if the project list was comprehensive or merely what was affordable.
“Is this everything we need to do?” Thomas asked. “When this is finished, will the streets be up to where they should be?”
“No,” Smithies replied. “To hit all the streets would take $9 million for one year.”
Tuesday’s council meeting was the first for new City Manager Mark Prestwich, who observed the proceedings without comment.