Elodie Reed, St. Albans Messenger
Contractor urging engineering study
ST. ALBANS TOWN — There may not have been many people there, but the St. Albans Town Hall meeting room was full of possibilities Thursday afternoon as selectboard members discussed a wastewater treatment plant with PC Construction.
No decisions were made at the special selectboard meeting. Moving forward, selectboard members must decide whether it wants to conduct a preliminary engineering report to assess cost, size, location and permitting options for building the town’s own plant.
The firm’s director of business development Nicole LaBrecque and construction executive Brian Walker made their presentation to four selectboard members (Brent Palmer was absent) on the various ways wastewater treatment plant projects can be approached.
New town planner Nathaniel Neider, Public Works Department director Steve Beauregard, town manager Carrie Johnson, and resident Al Voegele also were on hand to hear from PC Construction representatives.
“This is exactly what Brian and I love to do – and I’m serious,” said LaBrecque to chuckles from the audience.
Before they began, selectboard member Bruce Cheeseman laid out the situation as it stands now.
“We have nothing right now,” said Cheeseman. “We’re using the city’s sewage treatment plant. There is some infrastructure in the ground, but it all leads to the city’s sewage treatment plant.”
Cheeseman – who disclosed that he previously worked for PC Construction, formerly known as Pizzagalli Construction, for 14 years – then told other selectboard members he chose the company specifically to come in and educate them about wastewater treatment plant construction.
“There was only one name that came up – this company has built sewage treatment plants all [over],” said Cheeseman. “I’ve seen them in tough situations and the outcome has always been good.”
St. Albans Town
While it was understood on Thursday that PC Construction was speaking with the selectboard initially just to educate, LaBrecque and Walker did explain that their company has the resources to complete a wastewater treatment plant in St. Albans Town, including experienced cost estimators, craft workers, design review, construction equipment.
To get selectboard members thinking about a project in the town, Walker asked some questions.
“The town covers a huge geographic area – what are the best options?” said Walker. He added that several package plants – the pre-manufactured, small-scale facilities – may be more appropriate for the town than one larger facility.
Cheeseman responded, “Those are questions we’ve been asking ourselves.”
Walker also asked about where effluent could be discharged. “That’s going to be a big evaluation and big cost,” he said.
He added, “One of the biggest things I think you have to evaluate and think about it, what is the [town’s future] growth?”
Cheeseman said, “That’s a tough one, but I’m a firm believer that – especially with this town – that we have a lot of potential for growth. I think there’s a lot of people out there waiting.”
He said that he thought the town would have to begin making preparations for new developments, and then they would come. Cheeseman added, “There’s a lot of large companies that won’t even consider our area unless the lots are shovel ready.”
Selectboard member Stan Dukas asked Walker what the permitting process was like for other wastewater treatment plant projects.
“The permitting process can vary,” Walker said. “It can be as short as a six-month window… and other projects can be over a year.”
He added that a preliminary engineering report, or a preconstruction analysis, could help determine many of the factors previously mentioned as well as design studies for different parts of St. Albans Town, timelines, cost budgets and other items.
“It’s going to be able to evaluate different options,” said Walker. “So at this point, I think the town should think about having this done.”
The selectboard and Voegele brought up concerns about effluent discharges, especially in light of the state’s focus on cleaning up Vermont’s waterways.
“There’s a lot of different technologies that have been developed in the last 10 to 15 years,” said Walker. He added that PC Construction does a lot of work in the Washington, D.C., Virginia and North Carolina areas, where phosphorous and nitrogen pollution is a big issue, and wastewater treatment facilities adapt accordingly.
“It changes the technologies,” said Walker.
Beauregard wondered whether the town could discharge in the current areas that are permitted for St. Albans City. Walker said it would certainly be easier to get permits in those places.
Cheeseman, however, worried about doubling up discharge amounts in one area.
“That may be a tough nut to crack,” he said.
After several other similar questions, Walker strongly suggested the town conduct a preliminary engineering report. Beauregard asked how long that would take.
“Sometimes preliminary engineering reports take 120 to 180 days,” said Walker, adding that it depended on the Town’s meeting schedule with PC Construction.
“It sounds like once we make our decision – and we have a whole lot of decisions to make – it wouldn’t take you long,” said Cheeseman.
Walker said it wouldn’t, and that PC Construction was happy to help the town move forward. “You’ve got an expert down the street from you,” he said. “We’re willing to help.”
He added, “You’ve got a lot of decisions to make.”
Dukas replied, chuckling, “Yeah, thank you! But it’s positive, it’s going forward.”
Cheeseman said, “We’ve got to keep marching forward on this road.”
Walker gave the board examples of the four ways the town could approach a wastewater treatment project:
- Design-Bid-Build — The town would hire an architect and engineer to design a project and then bid out for a lump sum
- Design-Build — The town would hire a single entity to do both design and construction
- Construction Management-At-Risk — The town town would hire a construction manager during the design period as a “consultant,” who would then carry out the project
- Public Private Partnership (P3) — The town would hire an entity for a set capital cost to complete the project and then the Town would pay a fee to that entity for operations and maintenance
In addition, Walker mentioned several projects as potential models for the town, among them:
- A “package plant” expansion in Mooresville, N.C., or pre-manufactured treatment facilities that are appropriate for small communities and are quickly completed;
- A renovation at the Rutland Wastewater Treatment Facility using pre-cast concrete planks and roofing for a quick construction process;
- and the expansion of the Mylan Technologies pharmaceutical manufacturing facility utilizing a fast-tracked process.
Of the last local example, Walker said, “Everyone left the project very happy.”
LaBrecque and Walker began their half-hour presentation with some history of PC Constructions. Begun in 1958 as Pizzagalli Pre-Cast Stone, the South Burlington company evolved from masonry to commercial, industrial and institutional construction and in 2009, it came under the ownership of its 900 employees in 2009. Known as PC Construction beginning in 2011, the company now boasts of completing 2 million self-performed man-hours every year.
“Each person at PC Construction has a vested interest in what it does,” said LaBrecque.
The company has projects all along the East Coast, including several wastewater treatment plant upgrades and new construction. Walker said those plant projects range from $2 million to $200 million in cost.
“Our experience kind of goes all over the map,” said Walker.
In Franklin County, PC Construction has had Green Mountain Power, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), Mylan Technologies and Northwestern Medical Center as clients.
“We are just about to start the major expansion on Northwestern Medical Center,” said Walker.
He added that PC Construction recently completed the upgrade at the Airport Parkway Wastewater Treatment Facility in South Burlington. “As you think about building a facility, this would be a good one to go visit,” said Walker.
The topic will be further discussed at the selectboard meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday at St. Albans Town Hall.