GIWA water reclamation facility update

October 30, 2020
By Olivia Cameron

BY BONNIE PRINGLE, GIWA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR- Phase II rehabilitation of The Gasparilla Island Water Association’s Water Reclamation Facility, located on Gasparilla Inn & Club’s golf course, is well underway. This summer’s work included the construction of the preliminary treatment structure, which includes two new concrete tanks, and an elevated platform to support new equipment and walkways.  
One tank will be used to equalize incoming wastewater flows throughout the day, allowing for optimal treatment.  This tank is scheduled to be put into service next Spring. The second tank and biological treatment basins are scheduled to be put in service in 2022.
The concrete pours for the two tanks are nearing completion, but the project is running slightly behind. The center span of our temporary bridge was scheduled to be removed by November 15, leaving the channel open to boaters until May 1, 2021, when it was scheduled to be reinstalled. 
To complete this phase of the construction and provide access for an 80-ton crane to set required equipment on an elevated slab, we need the center span to stay in place an additional month.   
We have a very small footprint and need the new flow equalization tank in service so we can demolish the existing equalization tank to allow space for construction of our new state-of-the-art treatment system late next summer.
The U.S. Coast Guard has authorized the center span to remain in place for an additional 60 days. However, our plan is to have all work completed that requires the added weight allowance of the temporary bridge, with the center span removed by December 18, 2020. If we cannot complete the construction of the flow equalization tank this year and put it in service in the spring of 2021 as planned, it will significantly delay the project even further and could result in the bridge being in place an additional summer. 
Phase III scheduled for next summer includes the installation of biological treatment equipment for the two treatment trains, followed by the installation of three membrane bioreactors for ultrafiltration. Plans for Phase IV include the removal of the old steel tanks and the construction of two additional concrete flow equalization tanks. 
Concerning the cost of construction, we have both good and bad news. The bad news is that construction costs are higher than estimated. The original estimate completed in 2016 was $15 million, but it now appears that construction through Phase IV will total closer to $20 million.  
Due to the difficulty of construction in such a small footprint and the limited heavy construction season, estimating what contractors would be bidding throughout the project is challenging.  We also saw higher labor, material and equipment costs than anticipated.
The good news is that with the historically low interest rates, we have drawn $7.5 million of our loan and set the rate at 3.75 percent for 25 years.  We had anticipated a rate of 5.25 percent. This savings will go a long way towards covering the higher construction costs. We are in hopes that future loan draws can be set at these historically low rates as well.
As approved by our membership at their 2017 Annual Meeting, we are scheduled to implement our fifth and final rate increase that is not to exceed 9.5 percent. Now that we have a better understanding of the total costs, your Board of Directors has carefully reviewed our financial statements and determined that the full 9.5 percent rate increase is necessary for GIWA to maintain sound financial conditions by meeting existing and future annual debt service and financial covenants. 
The rate increases have also helped us maintain adequate funding for operation and maintenance of the water and wastewater systems including several renewals and replacements. 
The increase will be effective with our October, 2020 bills.