Pinellas News

Tarpon water plant on budget, but slightly off schedule

— Work on the city’s reverse-osmosis water treatment plant continues to flow toward its 2015 completion date, according to project managers.

The $45 million drinkinjg water production facility being built north of the Anclote River was originally approved by voters more than eight years ago. Since-resolved legal issues put the project on a lengthy hold, but ground was finally broken last April.

During a presentation at last week’s city commission meeting, three project managers provided a glimpse into what’s happening beyond the fences at the end of L&R Industrial Boulevard.

Bob Robertson, the project manager for design and construction, presented a real-time aerial view of the site provided by a remote-controlled drone. He reported that although the project is on budget, it is slightly behind schedule.

“The schedule is running about three weeks behind,” Robertson said. “We think there’s still plenty of time to make up that time. Our contractor is committed to meeting our schedule.”

As for the budget, nearly half of the $45 million cost is being covered by a $20.1 million grant from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, which encourages the development of alternative drinking water sources. Paul Smith, Tarpon Springs Public Services director and the overall project manager, said that about $6.3 million of that cost has been reimbursed for completed construction and design work.

Mayor David Archie praised the management team and its positive impact on the project’s budget. “Because of your work in-house, that’s basically saved us thousands and thousands of dollars and it shows what type of employees we have here with the city.”

Planning has already begun for staffing of the facility, according to Utilities Superintendent Raymond Page, who will be the plant operator. Hiring of key operating staff positions is expected in early fiscal year 2015, which begins Oct. 1.

“All these pieces are falling into place so that, hopefully, we’ll have a great startup on the facility and start producing water immediately,” Page said.

Upon completion the facility is expected to provide water independence to Tarpon Springs.

The city’s current water system produces about 3.2 million gallons a day by utilizing its fresh groundwater treatment facilities and purchasing from Pinellas County. When the reverse-osmosis plant goes online it will take the place of the county service and bump up production potential to 5 millions gallons per day.