Wellington Council Approves $17 Million Update For Water Plant

The Wellington Village Council discussed water plant improvements and the village’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program on Tuesday, Aug. 14.

The council unanimously approved the plan for the renewal, replacement and expansion of the village’s water treatment plant on Wellington Trace, as well as the $17 million funding for the project.

The project will completely update the nearly 30-year-old reverse-osmosis plant, replacing smaller pumps, reconditioning the laboratories and control rooms, generator fuel system improvements and other miscellaneous piping enhancements.

“All of these improvements will extend the lifecycle of the assets, improving operational efficiency and reliability,” Utilities Director Shannon LaRocque said. “This is not so much a complex construction project, but it is very complex as it relates to operations. It takes a lot of coordination in order to make sure that operations aren’t interrupted, and we can continue providing water service to our customers at all times.”

Village Manager Paul Schofield explained that the $17 million cost was the lowest of three final bids on the project, and that the money to pay for it will come from already available utility funds. “We will not need to borrow any money for this,” Schofield said.

The council members were pleased overall with the funding and project plans.

“I think it’s important to let residents know that we all went out with [LaRocque] and her staff, and she showed us every pipe [that needed to be replaced],” Vice Mayor Michael Drahos said. “It has been a very comprehensive and thorough review and analysis. I’m quite proud of this, and although we are the ones signing the check, there were many councils before this one — as well as leadership on staff — that had the vision to be responsible and put us in the position to be using existing money to be able to keep our utility system up to date and even take it into the future. This is a great day for Wellington.”

Although the council members and village staff were pleased with the improvements to be made to the water plant, resident Jerry Legato felt that the village could do better when it comes to water quality.

“I came to listen to everything being said about the water and the water plant, and I appreciated all of the scientific stuff that I heard,” he said, adding that he remains unhappy about the council’s 2016 decision to add fluoride to Wellington’s potable water. “I have done a lot of research, and I have found nothing that proves that there is any benefit to any human or animal by taking fluoride orally.”

Because of the fluoride decision, he buys bottled water for his family.

“So, I can’t use this wonderful water that’s coming from your plant and, the worst part is, that it’s absorbed through our skin,” Legato said. “We’re not only drinking it, but we’re bathing in it.”

The council also unanimously approved the Community Services Department’s CDBG action plan for the next fiscal year.

“The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development has determined that Wellington is an entitlement community and that we are entitled to federal funds for distribution to areas in the village that have low to moderate income families and individuals,” Community Services Director Paulette Edwards said.

To receive the money, the village must approve an action plan each year.

Wellington was deemed eligible for funds because its population size exceeds 50,000 residents. Communities that qualify receive grants from the program.

“This is the good stuff, and the trigger that happens and makes us entitled is our population,” Gerwig said.

The program, which is operated on a first-come, first-served basis, allows the village to help those who lack means to correct code violations, address health and safety issues, address electrical issues, and fix roofing and flooring in their homes.

“We were awarded $268,938 for the 2018-19 fiscal year, and our activities will be our housing and rehabilitation program, our summer youth employment program — which is the program that we call SWAG — and our senior transportation and rides program. Currently, we have 26 homes that we either have completed or that are underway,” Edwards said.

Along with those 26 homes, there are about five or six people on the waiting list for the program.

“The majority of the residents [helped by the grants] are seniors, and they are all very happy and pleased to not only get the repairs, but also to stay Wellington residents,” Edwards said. “They want to remain Wellington residents, and this is a way for us to make sure that they have a good quality of life.”