The proposed construction of a new sewage pump station could cost around $2.3 million, which would be less than the original projection of $3.2 million.

Crist Engineers’ Craig Johnson gave an update to the Pine Bluff Wastewater Utility Commission on Monday about engineering and design work related to the construction of a pump station near Taylor Phillips Road. He said the utility’s existing infrastructure is straining to move wastewater, especially during periods of heavy rainfall.

“We modified our recommendation to include those items that will be either self-performed or deferred to a later date,” Johnson said. “Those include a generator, site development, and included with that option are two improvements to existing pump stations: Highway 65 and the Pines pump station.”

“We walked through all the cost estimates for the project,” Johnson said. “Should you be in concert, we would move from design to construction.”

Johnson said Crist will bid the project in March 2018, and that the winning contractor should start construction in June 2018. He estimated the project would be completed by August 2019.

The wastewater utility commission hired Crist Engineers in March 2017 at a cost of $380,000 to design a pump station between Hazel Street and Taylor Phillips Road and provide construction administration services. Crist is evaluating the system capacity, evaluating the ideal location of a new pump station and looking at operational demands that will be placed on the new station.

Crist has monitored rainfall and flow of wastewater through the pipes, monitored pressure systems, done hydraulic modeling, compiled a preliminary engineering report, done a final design, and provided other construction services.

The commissioners did not vote on anything related to the construction of the pump station.

Craig Johnson is not related to Ken Johnson, the general manager of wastewater utility. Ken Johnson said customers will not lose wastewater service during the construction of the pump station.

“We recognize we have a problem during wet weather conditions,” Ken Johnson said. “We are trying to correct that particular problem by taking a proactive position with the construction of a new pump station that will allow for the conveyance not only during dry weather but when we have an abundance of rainfall.”

“Crist Engineers has evaluated several options,” Ken Johnson said. “The Phillips Road pump station is the least expensive option available.”

In Summit Poultry news, Ken Johnson said this company owes $31,000 to the wastewater utility and has failed to pay money in accordance with an earlier agreement. Woods said he is concerned that Summit Poultry could cease operations without paying its debts to the utility.

Ken Johnson said he has contacted Pine Bluff City Attorney Althea Hadden-Scott to meet with the Summit Poultry lawyers about their client’s intentions to pay their debts. In January, the utility permitted Summit to begin operations after Summit paid $1,250 for the permit and $14,644.37 in outstanding debt. The utility and Summit reached an agreement in January requiring Summit to pay $15,247.07 in 12 monthly installments. The utility waived an additional $10,000 in debts in accordance with that agreement.

Joshua West is an attorney representing Summit Poultry. Given a chance to respond on behalf of his client, he said he needed to follow up with his client.

In employee news, Ken Johnson said Pine Bluff Wastewater Utility employee Dale Ellington retired after 25 years of service.

Commissioner Vandora Demery was absent.

The utility is scheduled to have its next meeting at 8:45 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 21, at 1520 S. Ohio St.