Rehoboth ocean outfall cost projections could slow project down
Delaware officials have approved a plan for the City of Rehoboth Beach to start releasing wastewater into the Atlantic Ocean, but some city officials worry the cost of the outfall project could sink it before it becomes reality.
Rehoboth residents authorized the city to borrow $52.5 million to construct the outfall two years ago.
But the cost estimate for the project is from 11 years ago and Rehoboth Beach Commissioner Kathy McGuiness said she worries that could be an issue.
“What happens if we do go over? It sounds like if we do go over, the bid comes in over the $52.5 million which we’re approved to borrow, I think step one - at least what I’m hearing today - is there will be less upgrades on the $10.5 [million] treatment plant upgrade,” said McGuiness after a Rehoboth Board of Commissioners meeting Monday.
Rehoboth voters approved borrowing $52.5 million to pay for the outfall in 2015. Mayor Sam Cooper said at the time, the outfall pipe was the least costly option.
“It had the most straightforward plan in the sense of not having to acquire land and those sorts of things. I think environmentally, it’s as good as any that were out there, and it gives the city the most control into the future,” Cooper said.
The city took out several loans for the outfall approved through the Clean Water Advisory Council including $25 million for the outfall project, $10.5 million for upgrades at the city’s treatment plant and $12.5 million to handle biosolids. The city has $4.5 million remaining to cover any extra, remaining costs.
Mayor Sam Cooper said those estimates could change when bids come in mid-July.
“It’s always a concern. We are hopefully about six weeks away from opening a bid. That’s when we’ll find out. There’s no point in losing sleep over it when we’ll know in six weeks,” Cooper said.
Cooper said it’s also possible the total cost could add up to less than the $52.5 million borrowed.
But if the cost comes out higher than predicted, the city would need to borrow more money and go back to voters for permission.
When asked about what happens if the city borrowed less money than needed for the outfall project, Cooper said, "Tell me how much more we need. $1 million? $20 million? $50 million? I don't know. It may come in under-budget and we can spend [the remaining money] on something else."
Once Rehoboth puts the outfall project out to bid in July, officials will find out if $52.5 million still covers the project’s cost.
Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control granted the City of Rehoboth permission in May to construct an outfall to dump treated wastewater into the Atlantic Ocean.