Wastewater dept. outgrows space; new building coming in 2018

By Brandi Makuski

The city’s water department is primed for expansion later this year.

The vacant property located at 1925 Cypress St. will become the site of a new service garage for the Stevens Point Water/Wastewater Department later this year. The campus is already comprised of multiple buildings across the street, along with several holding tanks used in the process of treating the city’s wastewater.

But staffing growth has outpaced building space, according to Director Joel Lemke, forcing the department to expand its footprint.

Stevens Point firefighters were permitted to burn down the house formerly at 1925 Cypress St. during a training exercise in September 2016. (Courtesy SPFD)

Lemke oversees the one department that deals with least attractive part of Stevens Point—one that processes the millions of gallons of waste coming from every city property with a storm sewer or toilet.

“We take this waste product everyone flushes down the drain, and never wants to see again, and turn it into clean water, energy and fertilizer,” Lemke said, referencing the department’s waste recycling efforts.

Right now, he said, a service building on the campus meant for seven employees is being used by at least a dozen people, and the tight quarters make work difficult. The building was constructed in 2008, when oversight of the city’s 160 miles of water and sewer pipes was transferred from the streets dept. to the water utility—but it’s not well-insulated, making work in the winter time even tougher for employees.

The new, 37,500-square-foot facility will be constructed closer to the administrative building, the space most residents think of when referencing the water department, and where property owners go to pay their quarterly water bills.

The old building will be used for equipment storage, Lemke said.

The new facility will be gated, according to Mayor Mike Wiza, and is not designed for public use.

“They might include it on a tour when people come to tour the facility, but it’s a utility garage,” Wiza said.

Lemke said the $13-million project will result in a two percent increase in water rates. The project, which was approved by the city in January, is expected to be complete by the end of this year.