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Evanston aldermen this week approved spending $86,000 to come up with a cost-efficient long-term strategy for storing water at the city’s water plant.

The vote came despite complaints from two residents that the study was unnecessary.

Barbara Janes of 802 Colfax St. and Junad Rizki of 2784 Sheridan Rd. both aregued that the city had conducted enough studies and should simply take the lowest-cost short-term solution and repair the roof of the existing reservoir.

But Richard Lanyon, of 1019 Mulford St., the chair of the city’s Utilities Commission, said 
the study would be money well spent “to integrate the prior studies and provide guidance to the city on the replacement of this vital infrastructure.”

Utilities Director Dave Stoneback said repairs now could extend the life of the 80-year-old reservoir for perhaps 20 years, but that it would then have to be fully replaced.

Estimates for repairing the roof have run around $4 million, while a full replacement has been estimated to cost about $26 million.

And Stoneback says borrowing costs are very low now, and may be higher in 20 years.

An image from a 2012 report of the interior of the reservoir while it was drained for the study.

In addition to the 5 million gallon reservoir under a Northwestern University parking lot off Lincoln Street, the city has a collection of eight clearwells at the water plant, some dating back to 1913, which provide an additional 4.4 million gallons of storage.

A 2010 engineering study indicated that the oldest of the clearwells need extensive repair work. Studies in 2012 and 2013 revealed extensive cracking in the roof of the reservoir and recommended that it be repaired or replaced within five years.

Stoneback said the total reservoir capacity is now considered adequate — but that because not all the water can be pumped from the reservoir and it’s generally not filled to capacity — the city could run out of water in the event of an extended production shutdown.

In recent years the city has on occasion had to reduce water production when icing conditions partially blocked the intake pipes in Lake Michigan.

While Rizki has repeatedly claimed that city officials are planning to find a new location for the reservoir to be able to return the property to university control, Stoneback, in response to a question from Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, said the university has not asked him to move the tank.

“I anticipate that there weill always be a city water reservoir on that property,” Stoneback added.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said she supported the study because “we have to think beyond 20 years in terms of preserving our water system in the city.”

Related stories

Vote postponed on reservoir study (3/25/14)

Study to explore six water reservoir options (3/21/14)

Quinn offers hope for reservoir cash (2/27/14)

City makes case for new reservoir (10/28/13)

Projected cost of water reservoir project soars (10/2/13)

Water reservoir to require $4 million in repairs (1/28/13)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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7 Comments

  1. Why spend $26M when $4M will do?

    "Utilities Director Dave Stoneback said repairs now could extend the life of the 80-year-old reservoir for perhaps 20 years, but that it would then have to be fully replaced.

    Estimates for repairing the roof have run around $4 million, while a full replacement has been estimated to cost about $26 million.

    And Stoneback says borrowing costs are very low now, and may be higher in 20 years."

    Regardless of what interest rates are now or 20 years from now, the interest payments on $26M are greater than on $4M. Readers should consider the analogy of a homeowner with a leaky roof. Should it be replaced or should the whole house be rebuilt? If one was planning for a larger family, rebuilding or moving to a bigger house might be a good idea. However, it is unclear that Evanston has to increase its storage capacity because it might sell water to some other unrelated party. (They're not part of the "family" of Evanston residents.) Those customers can build their own storage facilities, if they don't already have them.

    I'm not a civil engineer, but as an Evanston property taxpayer, I will need some real convincing that spending $26M instead of $4M is a smart course of action. What is it with City staff? It was a big issue whether to build a new Civic Center. Eventually, the roof was replaced. Big plans were proposed for the Noyes Cultural Center. Eventually, the roof was replaced. Want to spend $26M? Replace Robert Crown- it needs more than a new roof.

  2. RFP for water reservoir
    The following are from the RFP for the Reservoir anyone can see on the city web site.

    2.3.5 Alternative 3: Replace 1934 Reservoir in larger footprint
    2.3.5.1 Utilizing future capital improvement plans and input provided by Northwestern University, prepare a preliminary design for a new reservoir encompassing the existing reservoir footprint plus additional area to the north, south, east, and/or west.
    2.3.5.2 Preliminary design to include addition of an overflow and provision to prevent tank from floating (if needed), increased depth (if feasible), and provision to utilize the entire volume given the hydraulic limitations of the existing high lift pump suction piping.
    2.3.5.3 Determine if any of the existing walls and/or floor slab can be re-purposed as part of a new reservoir based on potential tank configurations and anticipated remaining useful life of the concrete.

    2.3.6 Alternative 4: Construct new reservoir on east side of Sheridan Road
    2.3.6.1 Prepare a preliminary design for a new reservoir on the east side of Sheridan Road between Milburn Street and the existing Head House of the WTP. This includes the parcel currently occupied by a single family residence (2437 Sheridan Road).

    2.3.7 Alternative 5: Construct new reservoir at Leahy Park
    2.3.7.1 Prepare a preliminary design for a new reservoir on the south side of Lincoln Street between Ridge Avenue and the North Shore Channel (beneath Leahy Park, a City-owned site).
    2.3.7.2 Preliminary design to include a below grade reservoir fed by existing large diameter feeder mains on Lincoln Street, with a below grade booster pumping station.

    2.6.3 Task 2.3 – Up to three half-day meetings with Northwestern University to confirm the most likely scenario for constructing a larger reservoir on University property (i.e. beyond the existing reservoir footprint).

    The above information is very interesting we have the city claiming the concrete is NO good and will last only 20 years but in alternate 3, they want to reuse it?

    Also the claim at Council there will always be a reservoir on NU property, then please explain alternate 5 to us – you want to move it to a public park?

    Let me clearify my views, the issue I keep on saying is we taxpayers should only pay for the $3-4 million top repair, versus moving the tank off the site or moving the tank on the site all which will cost us up to $28 million plus dollars, Let NU pay for this!

    Also one last point look at Staffs memo to the council in the packet where they explain this proposal and this proposal RFP14-10 Reservoir Planning study – nothing is in agreement, its a total mess!

  3. Reservoir, Civic Center, Short Term

    We're seeing the same short term thinking that we saw a few years ago when there was discussion of getting rid of our decrepit Civic Center…and it is by the exact same people.   Instead of thinking about building an modern and efficient {reservoir, city hall} that will last for a long time , be cheaper in the long run, and better serve the needs of the city….we are told to patch up the existing decrepit {reservoir, Civic Center} and do what is cheapest in the short term.

    Of course, kicking big expenses into the future is part of politics…not just in Evanston or Illinois, but nationwide…as our unfunded pension problems demonstrate.

    Zbesko's family analogy is of course wrong:

    "Readers should consider the analogy of a homeowner with a leaky roof. Should it be replaced or should the whole house be rebuilt? If one was planning for a larger family, rebuilding or moving to a bigger house might be a good idea. – "

    Rebuilding the whole house?  No, Zbesko, if you have a leaky roof you might want to REPLACE YOUR WHOLE ROOF or if your 50-year old furnace goes out you might BUY A NEW FURNACE…or maybe if your 25 year old  25" CRT television goes out you might BUY A NEW TV…flatter and bigger.

    "However, it is unclear that Evanston has to increase its storage capacity because it might sell water to some other unrelated party. (They're not part of the "family" of Evanston residents.) Those customers can build their own storage facilities, if they don't already have them."

    Wrong again, Zbesko.  If the City can make money by selling water to other municipalities, then an investment in a larger reservoir might be an investment that pays off….it's not about other municipalities being part of the 'family' , it is a business investment…more like a busy restaurant thinking of expanding into the shop next door, since having more tables would allow the restaurant to serve more customers… Having a larger reservoir might be necessary if the City wants to sell water to a larger area.  

    And Junad, as usual, is off base:

    "The above information is very interesting we have the city claiming the concrete is NO good and will last only 20 years but in alternate 3, they want to reuse it? "

    That's the whole point, Junad….the short term alternate 3 might extend the life of the reservoir for 20 years, vs new reservoir that will last longer….I don't see any contradiction here..

    1. How about alittle reality?
      Mr enquiring mind, do us all a favor and enquire into the current water business operation of the city – they sell 80% of the current water to other customers. If you think its such a great business operation – tell me the current profit they make, since it appears you have such great knowledge of business investments. Tell us if its making 10% return on investment which Wally was claiming the new customers would pay.

      By the way – explain to us when the plan to replace the current miles of 100 year old water pipe under the streets, they claim it is Ok to let them go to 200 years before replacement ( ofcourse you might tell us all why the line on Central street broke 13 times before they had to do an emergency replacement?) – since you are so smart, why don’t you give us a rough figure what all this is going to cost us water users? If you think about it long enough maybe you might realize why they need to take the cheaper option to repair the roof, then again maybe not.

      Lets see who is REAL off base!

  4. Why can’t the city answer simple questions on the water sales?
    Some simple questions Wally and staff refuse to answer.

    Can you tell we the current profit from each customer? Evanston residents, Skokie and the NW.
    That is add them all up and show me how this is running as a business. Answer so far – we have existing contracts they set our profit. ( that is if there is really any profit)

    Can you show me how the new customers and the existing customers make this business turn a profit?
    That is put the operating costs in, depreciation and revenues – and show us the profit?

    Finally – what is the real future capital need? That is don’t show we just the reservoir which is nothing – the studies show this less than 20% of total capital to rebuild the plant, also what about the 100 year old pipe add this all together and they show us the project costs – chicago is raising the rates for a reason they need to fix thier pipes – so why isn’t Wally factoring this all in?

    Anyone can look at all the reports and data and see it is a very big mess – it is going to cost alot – so we can not waste any money – on a tank we do not need at a 20% water bill increase – to fix the pipes I suspect a 60-80% INCREASE -but the staff is hiding this for now, since they want the reservoir.

    The $86,000 is nothing – to answer any of my questions – huge water bill increases are coming –

    1. Still off base, Junad

      "Finally – what is the real future capital need? That is don't show we just the reservoir which is nothing – the studies show this less than 20% of total capital to rebuild the plant, also what about the 100 year old pipe add this all together and they show us the project costs – chicago is raising the rates for a reason they need to fix thier pipes – so why isn't Wally factoring this all in? "

      I don't see how this is relevant when deciding what to do with the reservoir.  Pipes need to be replaced in Evanston, regardless of what happens to the reservoir.

      To go back to Zbesko's lame analogy, if your roof needs to be fixed, you don't say "Oh no, I won't fix it because the furnace needs to be replaced next year."  Fix the roof. Replace the furace. 

       

       

      1. Mr Enquiring Mind – please enquire?
        Mr Enquring mind, do you personal have unlimited funds? I will not go into an analogy- but if I waste money, you have less money to use for other things, as you might understand the 99% of the population and a large percent of Evanston are below the proverty line, they don’t have extra money to waste.

        The $4 versus the $26 million – if you are going to raise water bills for 20-30 years 3% or 20% what makes sense? If you need the remaining 17% to do more critical repairs. You have not responsed to any of my statements.- how much do you personal want to pay for water bill increases 50% ,100% or 200%? I am not too concerned when the truth comes out in a few years, those left on the council will take the heat

        Your statement
        “.I don’t see how this is relevant when deciding what to do with the reservoir. Pipes need to be replaced in Evanston, regardless of what happens to the reservoir.”
        I suggest you call Mr Stoneback and ask him when he plans to start the massive pipe replacement project?
        He has not shown any change in the capital plan, for years. Ask him how much he plans to raise water bills?

        Also you may not know this but each year the city transfers 3 million dollars out of the water fund to the general fund, at one point they called this profit, but as I keep saying there are no numbers showing how this mess is operation. By the way if this is so profitable why did Stoneback ask for a 10% water bill increase and get it at the end of the budget cycle and the only justification was they need for finanicing NOT and new capital improvements!

        If you really interested in this issue go research it, not reading bits and pieces and political statements. John and myself, sign our name, to our statements, If you are really interested in understanding this issue
        you can contact me.

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