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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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City To Take Over WWTP Operation

The long-standing partnership between the City of Peshtigo and its largest customer, BPM, Inc. (formerly Badger Paper Mills, Inc.) for operation of the city’s wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) will apparently come to an end on Friday, Jan. 31, with the city to take over operations on Saturday, Feb. 1. Plans are for the city to hire licensed operators to handle day to day maintenance and management of the utility as a city department, under the direction of Public Works Director George Cowell.

At a meeting Tuesday, Dec. 10 the city’s Water and Sewer Committee discussed the pending changeover. City Council on Tuesday, Dec. 3 had authorized them to proceed with hiring an operator if they so decided. The city’s Personnel Committee has advertised the position. Water and Sewer Committee Chair Tom Gryzwa said there are a number of promising candidates to be interviewed.

BPM, Inc. General Manager Jim Koronkiewicz had informed the city months ago that the mill has been operating the plant at a loss under the current contract, and it would have to be either discontinued or renegotiated. After some renegotiation attempts, the committee decided to seek alternate proposals. Options included contracting with an independent outside provider, renegotiating with BPM, Inc., or hiring licensed personnel to operate it as a city department.

Gryzwa reported only three responses were received to ads for outside operators, including one from BPM, Inc., which offered a price of $249,000 per year, or $20,750 per month. Current BPM, Inc. contract is $14,440 monthly.

Infrastructure Alternatives bid price was $199,050 (which comes to $16,507 per month) for the first year of a 5-year contract, with annual increases bringing the price to $214,950 by the fifth year.

The third bid, from Midwest Contract Operations, did not meet specifications, Gryzwa said.

The city’s decision is to hire operators and run the wastewater treatment plant as a city department at whatever time the existing contract with BPM, Inc. is ended. Gryzwa said the city attorney is looking into ways to discontinue the contract.

Koronkiewicz said the current contract does not spell out termination provisions, “But I believe if the two parties can agree on a time frame, that can be negotiated.”

“BPM will not continue to operate the plant for long at the current rates,” Koronkiewicz declared. “We cannot continue to lose money.”

He expressed hope whatever date the city sets for termination will be at the start of a month.

Gryzwa said the committee had looked at Feb. 1 as the starting date for the new operator, “if everything can fall into place.”

Koronkiewicz found that satisfactory, and said he would put together a proposal to end the contract by mutual consent, and expected to have it ready within the week.

He asked if Council approval was needed, but Committee Member Fred Meintz said they already had received authorization to move forward. Council will need to approve the documents terminating the current contract.

There was talk of waiting until the first Council meeting of 2014, but Meintz felt that would be too late for an orderly turn over. He suggested they should hold a special committee meeting and a special Council session if necessary.

Koronkiewicz said he will have the contract dissolution letter ready by Tuesday, Dec. 17, so a committee meeting was set for 10 a.m. on that day. Mayor Al Krizenesky will be in DePere for the fish viewing platform project at that time, but decision was to schedule the committee meeting then anyway. Water and Sewer Committee members are Gryzwa, Meintz and Dan Seymour, with City Clerk-Treasurer Mary Ann Wills as secretary, and Cowell as an ex-officio member. The mayor is an ex-officio member of all committees.

Several issues to be addressed in connection with the contract dissolution, include how to handle laboratory equipment and supplies for the testing that has been done by BPM, Inc. employees and will now need to be done under city auspices.

Reconstruction of the wastewater treatment plant is nearly complete, but Gryzwa felt the city needs something in writing to that effect. There was no representative on hand from Kaempfer & Associates, designers and construction managers of the project, and Gryzwa said he will call them. Completion deadline is Monday, Dec. 16, but Lead Operator Gary Motkowski pointed out that some issues remain unresolved, including a problem with breakers on a new generator. He said a report from Snyder Electric indicated the breakers may just need adjustments, and will work with suppliers to correct the problems.

Seymour asked about status of the Operating Manual Kaempfer is drawing up for operation of the plant, which includes maintenance schedules, etc. Koronkiewicz said he has seen a draft copy of the document, but nothing after that. Cowell is to contact Kaempfer for an update.

Preparation of the new manual was a requirement of the Clean Water Fund Loan Application to the DNR. Wills reported documents have been submitted to the necessary agencies, and closing for the $1,575,428 loan remains on schedule for Thursday, Dec. 26.

Koronkiewicz submitted the monthly report on Wastewater Treatment Plant inspection issues, and commented nothing much has changed.

Brick on the interior and exterior of the Influent Building needs tuck pointing and some mortar and brick needs replacing. The exhaust/ventilation system is not in operation, and the exterior concrete slab needs repair. Quotes are being obtained from Langer.

Interior and exterior paint is peeling on the Blower Building, and work depends on the current upgrade completion.

Weir repair and painting are needed on the Clarifiers, and the Omni quote is $43,400 per clarifier. The sludge thickener steel is rusted through on the skimmer, and repair and painting are needed on another. The Omni quote is $36,300. Work is in progress on deteriorated piping in the Sludge Building. Concrete walls in the Chlorine contact tank need repair, and a quote has been requested from Langer.

In the Main Building, which is the city’s responsibility, the defunct sludge press needs to be removed. The committee decided to advertise for bids, with the successful bidder to retain salvage rights to the metal involved. BPM, Inc. is not interested in the job or the salvage rights. Gryzwa felt there may be enough value in the salvage that the job can be done without cost to the city. The potable/non-potable water system in the Main Building is a safety issue, and Lindquist has quoted $2,630 for the work.

Cowell reported testing has been done on meters in the city, and reports were submitted to the DNR. “The 2014 tests should put us in compliance with the DNR, in regard to the large meters,” Cowell said. He reported city crews have done some of the cross connection inspections on commercial and some residential addresses where they installed new meters. Addresses needing inspections will be sent to Hydro Designs, the firm contracted for cross connection inspections, and he expects them to start on the inspections shortly after the first of the year. He said when they are ready to start the firm will send cards to residents notifying of the need to have the inspection done and asking them to call for an appointment if the time they suggest does not work out.

Gryzwa said he had been told by a local plumber that one of the main problems with the back flow prevention valves is that people forget to remove them or release the drains in winter and the pipes freeze and break.

“That’s why we don’t want to do it as a utility,” Cowell agreed. He said it would be easy for the city crews to put the valves on, but there is the liability issue if pipes break. He said inspectors in the city do advise people.

There had been problems with testing some of the large meters and LBJ is getting him information on a company that can do the kind of tests needed, Cowell said. “We are working on that to complete the tests within the time limit set by the DNR. All the flushing has been done on the east side of the city, with one section flushed twice because of problems there. He expects to get the west side flushing done in time to comply with the 90-day extension sought by the city and approved by Wendy Anderson of the DNR.

It appears the city’s water rates will be going up again in the near future. The price increase discussed is the 3 percent hike that apparently is allowed by law without formal permission from the Public Service Commission (PSC).

Periodic rate increases for water use to cover budgetary shortfalls had been discussed months ago by the Committee.

“This is something we can do without PSC approval,” Meintz declared. “Wausaukee just did it.”

Cowell said he would need professional assistance to write the application.

Gryzwa agreed with Meintz that the 3 percent increase does not require application to PSC. He recalled kKaempfer had even told them that.

Cowell said in the past the city auditor had done the work.

“Then let’s go through Mary Ann (Wills) and get professional assistance,” Meintz urged. “Why wait? We need to find out what the regulations are, what we can do and how we can do it.”

Wills felt they might be able to get the information needed by going on-line to the PSC site. Cowell said he does not have time to do that, and Wills said with tax payments coming in right now she also has no time to do it.

Cowell again suggested checking with the auditors, since they recommended it.

The water and sewer bills coming out on Jan. 10 will have a new look, mainly to comply with the new federal privacy laws. Wills said she has been assured by the Peshtigo Times that the forms will be delivered prior to the billing date. They will be printed on 81/2 by 11 sheets, with a perforated tear off section. There will be space for short messages to customers, notices about example pending cross connection inspections.


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Peshtigo Times
841 Maple St
PO Box 187
Peshtigo, WI 54157
Phone: 715-582-4541
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