The City of Valdosta received the 2017 Project of the Year Award from the American Public Works Association—Georgia Chapter for the construction of the Withlacoochee Water Pollution Control Plant (WPCP) and the 6.2 mile Force Main Project. The award was presented in the category of Small City/Rural Communities Disaster or Emergency Construction/Repair at the APWA-GA Annual Meeting, on July 26, in Jekyll Island, Georgia.
In 2016, the city celebrated the completion of the $23 million Withlacoochee WPCP, which was relocated to a new site approximately a mile from the former plant and approximately 60 feet higher in elevation to avoid future flooding concerns. The $36 million Force Main Project was completed at the same time and has successfully reduced stormwater inflow & infiltration issues and eliminated all sewer overflows in flood-prone areas of this watershed during heavy rain events. Since 2016, these award-winning projects have been tested by Mother Nature several times and have weathered the storms effectively.
“I think we can all agree that public utilities are important and essential needs in any community, particularly the water and wastewater services that local government provides,” said City Manager Larry Hanson. “This APWA award bestowed upon the City of Valdosta recognizes the innovative and cost-efficient ways we completed these projects for our citizens. The projects were designed and constructed to address present issues but also to meet the needs of the future. Having state-of-the-art utilities is a critical component to attracting jobs and industry, and these facilities have both the capacity and the quality to serve our community for many years.”
Henry Hicks, who joined the City of Valdosta as its Utilities Director just six months prior to the presidentially-declared disaster flood of 2009, directed the treatment plant and force main projects from start to finish. Hicks credits the success of the projects to the city’s utilization of an innovative design-build process—a comprehensive project delivery method in which the design and construction contractors simultaneously work as a team to complete the project. The seamless process accelerated the city’s projects and minimized the costs, resulting in approximately $60 million of major improvement projects completed in less than two years, ahead of schedule and under budget.
“Through the completion of these projects, the city has shown its commitment to our citizens, the environment and to future generations,” said Hicks. “We are proud of what has resulted from an otherwise unexpected event in the history of our city. However, we look forward to sharing the experiences we have learned to assist other communities who encounter similar circumstances.”
The responsible funding of these Valdosta projects is also getting some attention. The Withlacoochee WPCP, which opened debt free in 2016, was paid in full with SPLOST VII funds approved by taxpayers of the city and county. The Force Main Project was funded by a low-interest Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) loan, utilizing SPLOST VII revenue for a portion of the repayment. Consequently, GEFA has recently produced a video that will be shown to cities and counties across the state, beginning Aug. 3, featuring the City of Valdosta as an example of how to deal with an emergency disaster and how to utilize cost-effective methods like design-build.
At the APWA awards event, city leaders expressed their appreciation to the Valdosta Mayor and City Council, city and county leaders, Utilities Department staff, its contractors and engineers, GEFA, Georgia EPD, and all local taxpayers.
“Without the support of these community stakeholders and state agencies, it would be impossible to accomplish this magnitude of unplanned and unbudgeted projects that can arise from a natural disaster,” said Mayor John Gayle. “We are grateful for the positive recognition from the APWA and others across the state and nation that reinforces the city’s commitment to providing excellent water, wastewater treatment, and other quality of life services for our citizens and visitors for years to come.”
For more information, visit www.valdostacity.com.