City leaders took the first step Tuesday night in order to provide water and stormwater services for the Rock Island Arsenal.
Council members approved a resolution allowing city staff time to study the operations and maintenance of the Arsenal's water treatment plant on a short-term basis with the goal of eventually connecting to Moline’s water distribution system.
The move is part of ongoing efforts by the federal government to shift maintenance of water services from military installations to local municipalities around the country.
Aldermen discussed the opportunity at length during the Aug. 6 committee of the whole meeting last week.
"We are positioned to treat their water and run their plant," Public Works Director J.D. Schulte said. "We've had some conversations about what it would look like if we offered (the Arsenal) a proposal to make connections to them from our supply through the slough. I think that's something we should look at for the long term because they are a 250,000 to 350,000-gallon-a-day customer.
"The thing that makes the most sense is to supply them water from our plant."
Ald. David Parker, Ward 2, asked Schulte about the condition of the Arsenal's water treatment plant.
"It's antiquated and it's old," Schulte said. "It has no electronic SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) system. We have SCADA controls; we have advanced technology in our plant. I think some of the efficiencies we can deliver would be to possibly operate our plant from their site while we have boots on the ground there."
"I would not be in favor of us operating their system," Ald Kevin Schoonmaker, Ward 6, said. "I would be in favor of us running a pipe over and selling them water, using our excess capacity."
Ald. Michael Waldron, Ward 7, said he also has reservations about taking over the Arsenal's distribution system.
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"You and I both know their infrastructure is 50-to-100-years old in some cases," Waldron said. "Why would we want to maintain that? What do you see as a benefit of ours in maintaining that?"
Schulte said he looks at it as an opportunity to "get in the door" with the Rock Island Arsenal and sees minimal challenges ahead.
"The team of people we've got at our water distribution (plant) that have experience on the Arsenal before they came here don't think it's much of a hill to climb," Schulte said. "We've got some pretty good talent out there."
Schulte said the government would compensate Moline for running the plant and for any possible repairs.
Schoonmaker asked attorney Derke Price if the city would be liable for any problems with the water on the Arsenal while under Moline's operation.
"The difference is if you get into a fight, they have a much bigger budget," Price said.
"What's good for the Arsenal is good for us," Ald. Mike Wendt, Ward 3, said. "I think we can find a solution where we are able to provide them the best water in the state of Illinois and do it in a way that’s cost-effective and less expensive than what they’re doing right now."
After the resolution passed Tuesday, Schulte said the next step is to analyze the scope of work in operating the water treatment plant on the Arsenal. Processes, materials and water chemistry will have to evaluated, in addition to staffing needs, budgeting and a business plan.
"It's going to be a lot of work, especially during budget time," Schulte said. "We'll go in and learn their system and learn their processes and chemistry. Every distribution system is different. While we're making those determinations, we'll be looking at the feasibility to make the physical connection to our supply."