Elizabeth City officials are exploring bringing an off-line waste station at the city’s wastewater treatment facility back into service as a way to expand the city’s sewer capacity.

City Manager Montre Freeman recently told City Council during a budget work session that if the off-line unit can be brought back into use it would give the city time to better plan financing for a needed new wastewater treatment plant.

That financing plan could include a combination of water and sewer rate hikes over the next several years along will borrowing money to finance a new wastewater plant.

“That will give us some time,” Freeman said of possibly bringing the unit back into service. “We can plan out economically what we need for a new facility. Ultimately, we are going to need a new one. We know we can’t do that overnight.’’

City Council was told in May 2020 by an outside consultant that the city needed to spend $37 million over the next 10 years to upgrade its system. That report included almost $6.5 million for a new Public Utilities Multiplex in fiscal year 2028-29.

About half of the $37 million in those suggested capital upgrades would go toward improving performance of city sewer lines.

Freeman told council that it is too early to provide accurate cost estimates for bringing the off-line unit back into service and building a new wastewater treatment plant.

The city is set to have an engineering firm inspect the off-line unit to determine the cost of bringing it back online.

“We have a team of engineers now looking at what we need to do,” Freeman said. “What we need to do right away, and what we need to do over a period of time. This engineering firm will answer all of the questions that we have and any questions that we haven’t thought of yet.”