Officials at odds on necessity of expanding sewer line

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo All of the sewer lines in Clovis flow to the Waste Water Treatment Plant southeast of Clovis.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

Clovis has its own version of the chicken or the egg dilemma.

Is Clovis’ west side not expanding because of limited sewer capacity or is there limited sewer capacity on the west side because it’s not growing?

City officials say because there is no indication of growth on the west side, an upgrade is unnecessary.

City Manager Joe Thomas said the city has looked at various options to increase the capacity of the trunk or main line on the west side of town. He said financing has been a constant obstacle.

“Right now, the current system in place is handling the needs,” Thomas said. “And there is no indication of rapid growth in the area.”

Thomas said the sewer’s limitations could have bearing on a lack of development in the area. Thomas added, however, he doesn’t believe that’s the only reason for the city’s unbalanced growth.

City Engineer Justin Howalt said he couldn’t provide even a general cost for upgrading the line because the city hasn’t performed cost estimates on any options.

Howalt said determining if the trunk line on the west needs to be updated or upgraded has not been a priority.

One of the options Howalt discussed is extending a sewer line just west of Prince Street on Llano Estacado to the west if development near Martin Luther King Boulevard needed more capacity. The line feeds into a trunk line on the east side of town that can handle an increase.

“We have not done a cost estimate of doing that either,” he said.

Howalt said there are options for development on the west side.

“You could install a lift station. The cost of things drive it a little more but are not completely stopping it,” he said.

Howalt said typically the sewer line is expanded with developers. He said it would take an outside catalytic event to get the line on the west upgraded.

Former Mayor David Lansford says the new middle school for the Clovis Schools could be the outside push the city needs to increase the sewer’s capacity.

A middle school site at Llano Estacado Boulevard and Martin Luther King Boulevard was discounted, among other reasons, because the district would have to pay to solve the sewer capacity issue. Architects who evaluated the site said a school would need its own waste treatment plant.

Lansford, the city’s mayor from 1996 to 2008, said the sewer line limitations were discovered over 10 years ago during first efforts to bring a cheese plant to Clovis.

The plant broke ground just east of the grain factories west of town on U.S. 60/84, he said, and part of the excitement was that the sewer capacity was going to be increased. The increase would mean more balanced growth for the city, he said.

Since the cheese plant fell through, the sewer didn’t happen either.

“One of the times I ran for mayor, people asked me why the city grows in that one direction,” Lansford said. “It all boils down to effluent capacity.”

Lansford said the cheese plant project more than 10 years ago was a justifiable, pressing reason to increase the line’s capacity.

“Private money is going to go where it will be easier. They don’t want to go to city hall and wait two to three years to get it approved and upgraded,” Lansford said. “Increasing the capacity has never gotten to the top of the list. Other things pop up and push things back.”

Lansford said placing the middle school on the MLK site is the right decision for the city.

“If we really want to revitalize and invigorate Clovis in a balanced way, we need to address that sewer line and we need to do it now,” he said.