Indiana city does more with less after value engineering
When the estimate for Huntington’s Rabbit Run combined sewer overflow (CSO) came in at $26 million, the city asked its project engineers to go back to the drawing board. With the city already looking at a significant increase to its ratepayers, the cost of the project had to come down.
The project engineers were able to get the cost of the project down to about $14.5 million when the city asked F.A. Wilhelm Construction to find additional savings- a real challenge considering the complexity of the project.
Wilhelm succeeded, and working with the project engineers and the city was able to provide initial value engineering options to reduce the cost of the project by another $750,000.
“$750,000 may not seem like a big number in this business. But it meant 1.8 percent savings on a rate increase,” Anthony Goodnight, Director of Public Works and Engineering Services for the City of Huntington, said.
The Rabbit Run Project involved the construction of a new cast-in-place concrete CSO tank with a diversion structure to direct storm water into the tank. Polluted water that used to flow directly to the river through the CSO now flows into the tank and is held there until after a storm event, when the city’s wastewater treatment plant can treat the extra water.
Goodnight said the tank is part of Huntington’s Long Term CSO Control Plan to reduce or eliminate overflows to the city’s surface waters in the next 7-8 years. The Rabbit Run project, along with a previously-installed interceptor, is an important part of that plan, eliminating one CSO and significantly reducing overflows at two other locations.
Goodnight also said the new tank will hold up to 2.25 million gallons of storm water, the equivalent of what might be expected in the biggest storm of a given year.
“This is going to allow us to hold and treat that first flush,” Goodnight said. “Before, storm water would flow into the river, full of grit and sewage and everything else that runs off of parking lots and streets. Now, we can treat that water fully to clean it up before it gets into the river.”
Goodnight is referring to the Little River that flows through the middle of Huntington, winding its way to the Wabash River to the west of the city. Before this project, storm sewers that drain most of the city’s south side would carry polluted storm water into Rabbit Run and into the Little River downstream. By capturing storm water, the city can now expect to see water quality improvements in both Rabbit Run and the Little River.
Goodnight said the project was originally going to be located across the river on property already owned by the city. One of the options Wilhelm developed was to build the tank at its existing sewage treatment plant instead, Goodnight said this was a good idea, “Now, everything will be handled at one location, which makes everything easier.”
When asked about his experience with Wilhelm, Goodnight said that this project faced a lot of challenges right from the start. First, the project was threatened with delays due to severe winter weather of 2013 and then by escalating costs. Wilhelm handled both- getting and keeping the project on track with a tight timeline and saving the city the initial $75,000 and an additional $1,000,000 through the guaranteed savings process.
“We’re very happy,” Goodnight said, adding that Wilhelm’s value engineering helped to get better equipment for the upgrade, providing more value in the long term. “We initially thought we weren’t going to be able to afford all the equipment we wanted for this project. But Wilhelm was able to negotiate better prices for us and with its value engineering found enough savings to get us almost everything we wanted to begin with,” Goodnight said.
Goodnight said that some of these savings will go into improvements that are more visible to the public. “As our mayor says, we deal with the ‘humanness’ of society. No one wants to invest in sewer or water infrastructure. But, if you get those things done, you can begin to invest in the quality of life in the community, things like parks and trails that people want and enjoy.”