Call it a win for the Smoketown neighborhood. Mayor Greg Fischer and Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) Executive Director Tony Parrott have confirmed that the sewer agency will push to redesign the embattled Logan Street CSO Basin as an at-grade facility topped with a community-serving park.
Fischer and Parrott met with leaders from the neighborhood including the Smoketown Neighborhood Association and Reverend Bruce Williams of Bates Memorial Baptist Church ahead of a community meeting scheduled for Wednesday.
“We’ve been looking hard over the past several days to find an option to build at grade,” Parrott said in a conference call Tuesday. MSD has been working with its engineers to determine if such a change of plans is feasible, and Parrott said it appears that now is the perfect time to move in a different direction, despite construction commencing a year ago. “We’re in the preliminary phases of planning the solution and negotiating with our contractor,” he said.
“We’re at a perfect spot in construction in terms of achieving the objectives we want to achieve with regard to the size of the tank,” Parrot said. MSD is under a consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to get Louisville’s Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) problem under control to stop polluting Beargrass Creek and the Ohio River with wastewater.
“If there’s going to be a change, the sooner we make that the less costly it’s going to be,” Mayor Fischer added.
While no cost figures on the change are yet available, Parrott is working on recommendations for an at-grade tank to present at an MSD board meeting on Monday. The board will have the final say on whether the changes move ahead.
Parrott said he needs the board’s authority to negotiate a change order with the contractor, since the bid was issued in 2014.
“This was a 2009 decision” to build the CSO basin, Fischer said of the project. “Smoketown was a different place than it is today… There’s been a lot of change in the neighborhood. When you visit the site and you look around, it makes you think there’s options to go with other than what the original plan was.”
The CSO basin is being built to store excess waste and rainwater from Louisville combined sewer system during storm events until it can be handled by MSD’s treatment plants. The 17-million-gallon tank was originally budgeted at $45 million. Smoketown’s basin was the only one of a dozen in the city not to be designed as an at-grade facility.
Even with an at grade facility, Parrott said an above-grade Control Building housing pumps and generators—about the size of a two-car garage—will be necessary on the site, and he hopes to work with the neighborhood to get input on how that structure might look.
The new park on top of the Logan Street CSO Basin would be designed with community input, and Parrott described its scale as “enormous,” which corresponds with the scale of the overall project. “We’re going to be working with the neighborhood to get feedback,” he said. “We want them to decide what they want in terms of the amenity itself.”
The agency had previously brought in Louisville architecture firm De Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop to lead meetings on redesigning the facade of the above-ground basin, and Parrott said the firm may stay on to work on the redesigned project. “I think we will take a lot of what they have brought to the table and let the neighborhood help us decide,” Parrott said. “They are a great architecture firm and we’d like to continue working with them.”
MSD had received a letter from the Smoketown neighborhood threatening litigation if major changes to the basin project were not made. Those issues have been covered on Broken Sidewalk here and here. Last week, 100 people walked out of a meeting with MSD in protest over the redesign of the above-grade facility.
Fischer praised the Smoketown neighborhood for standing up and voicing their concerns about the CSO basin.
[Top image by De Leon & Primmer from an earlier community design workshop. It does not depict an at-grade facility, but does show green space.]