The Pearland City Council moved forward with two contract updates for a Barry Rose Water Reclamation Facility expansion due to approaching state-mandated deadlines and aged infrastructure.

The project entails the expansion of the Barry Rose Water Reclamation Facility and the decommissioning of the Longwood WRF. This is one of the several water and wastewater improvement projects the city is taking on, leading to increased water rates for residents to pay for the new infrastructure.

The contracts that were approved at a Feb. 20 meeting included an amendment to a preconstruction service agreement with McCarthy Building Companies and a design services contract with Freese and Nichols Inc. Preconstruction means construction work that would address critical repairs ahead of the main project to keep the facilities running in the coming years.

Interim City Manager Trent Epperson said life safety repairs were previously made, and operational repairs are yet to be made.

“There’s a few things in each plant that we need to deal with so that we can have those plants in good operating order for the next three years,” Epperson said.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality mandates a construction planning process must begin for wastewater plants when they reach 75% capacity, which the Barry Rose facility has reached, according to city officials. Additionally, the TCEQ requires construction to start at a facility when it reaches 90% capacity.

Epperson said the Longwood WRF reached 90% capacity, and construction must begin soon, but he said since the basin is not experiencing much growth the city was able to work with the TCEQ to push the construction back slightly. He also said the age and condition of both plants that were built in the 1960s are in need of replacements regardless of the state’s capacity guidelines.

The preconstruction contract amendment adds $1.2 million to the contract, totaling about $2.4 million. The design contract is estimated to cost $13.4 million.

The sole dissenter to the preconstruction contract update was Council Member Alex Kamkar, who protested the agreement due to the use of certificates of obligation, or COs, to pay for parts of it.

COs provide a way of borrowing money local governments can use to fund infrastructure projects without first requiring voter approval. Kamkar expressed discomfort with the idea of not getting voter approval for this part of the project.

Epperson said the COs were used as part of the city’s enterprise fund, which is the source of funding for the city’s water and wastewater projects. He said using this form of borrowing rather than the standard revenue bonds has a smaller impact on the enterprise tax rate, or residents’ water rates.

“The reason we went with COs is for a better rate that helps manage the expense of [the] enterprise fund and keep the water rates low,” Council Member Tony Carbone said. “[I am a] big fan of going to the voters for general bonds, but when we’re on the enterprise fund side it only makes sense to go with the COs to reduce our interest rate cost.”