Lafayette Utilities System this week started the first phase in developing a plan for the future success of the citizen-owned system.

LUS began developing a six-step Integrated Resource Plan on Tuesday with meetings between staff and consulting engineering firm Burns & McDonnell, plus a stakeholder meeting Wednesday as part of a PlanLafayette comprehensive plan series.

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Jeffrey Stewart, interim director of LUS, center, visits with Virginia Bienvenu, left, and Jeff Leblanc, right, during a town hall meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019, at South Regional Library in Lafayette.

The IRP is expected to take a year to prepare, interim LUS Director Jeff Stewart said. He hopes by next summer to make a presentation to the new city council.

A few years ago, Stewart said, LUS started an IRP, but residents objected because they said they weren't involved in the process.

"We paused to do it again with public involvement," he said.

The goal is to outline steps officials can take over the next five years to set LUS up for success in the long term. The plan will consider issues such as the forecast supply and cost of fuel, how much renewable energy the city should use, new technology, possible increased demand for electricity from advances such as electric cars, the city's existing coal and gas plants, partnerships and power purchase agreements.

"The cheapest plan may not be the most reliable," Mike Borgstadt, project manager with Burns & McDonnell, said at the PlanLafayette meeting Wednesday. It's important to strike a balance between cost and reliability in a utility system, he said.

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A Lafayette Utilities System water tower and power lines are pictured Monday, July 16, 2018, in Lafayette, La. 

Several LUS projects are underway, coming up soon or recently completely to improve operations or allow for growth, Stewart said.

Along Ambassador Caffery Parkway extension, from Verot School Road to Bonin Road, water and sewer lines were installed to accommodate new apartments, an assisted living facility and Super One store, he said. Electric and fiber lines were already in place.

Land was bought recently at the intersection of Butcher Switch Road and Moss Street to build Moss Street electric substation, Steward said. The substation will help LUS handle growth in north and northeast Lafayette and improve reliability, he said.

Changes are underway at the south sewer treatment plant on West Bayou Parkway, Stewart said, to expand capacity as demand grows. When the upgrades are complete, it will cost $30 million to $40 million, he said.

A water plant on Commission Boulevard off Pinhook Road is due for an upgrade to its chemical treatment filtering system. Stewart said an employee has to man the system 24/7 to adjust controls and test the quality of the water that goes to part of South Lafayette, Broussard and Youngsville. The upgrade, which should be finished in 2021, will automate the monitoring and adjustments.

A south gravity sewer system upgrade will help downtown, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the Girard Park area by bypassing bottlenecks in the system, Stewart said. The upgrade completion is expected by 2026, because of the time it takes to obtain servitude agreements from private property owners. He said LUS will ask public works for access to bore under streets instead to speed up the work.

Email Claire Taylor at ctaylor@theadvocate.com.