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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Wastewater Treatment Plant Electric Bills Show Savings

Issue Date: August 27, 2014

Reconstruction of Peshtigo’s Wastewater Treatment Plant seem to be paying off in terms of reduced utility bills, according to information presented at the Water and Sewer Committee meeting Monday, Aug. 25.

Financial reports show electric use dropped significantly since the installation of new blowers and other changes involved with the Wastewater Treatment Plant rebuild completed earlier this year. In May of this year, electricity cost $5,467, and in May of 2013 the cost was $11,166. That compares with $9,047 for the same month in 2012. Other months show similar savings. For example, the February light bill was $6,308 in 2014, compared with $12,319 for the same month in 2013 and $11,380 a year earlier.

Public Works Director George Cowell reported there have ben problems with one of the flow meters and replacement is strongly recommended. There were problems with one of the refurbished sludge pumps as well.

There have been difficulties treating sharp and unanticipated increases in flow volume from major industries, and the operators can’t react quickly enough, Cowell told the committee. He expects the DNR to send a letter before long requiring an automated chlorination and de-chlorination system. There were suggestions he contact the industries, particularly BPM, Inc. with a request for notice when they will be releasing larger than usual volumes of wastewater.

Flushing of the city’s water mains continued into the first week of August, Cowell said. All mains in the community have now been completely flushed within the 2-year window, So we’re in compliance, Cowell said, adding, and that will continue.

Committee Chair Tom Gryzwa asked if there had been any problems with discoloration of water. Cowell said there was nothing major, but he recommends they continue doing the flushing at night, when there is less chance of getting discolored water into someone’s laundry. Gryzwa commented that’s good, except for those on the WPS power program that requires them to use major appliances at night.

The company contracted to handle cross connection inspections of residences has finished all initial inspections and will be back to re-inspect those that needed changes.

City crews have checked for cross connections at the two schools and the two Rennes facilities, and next they will be inspecting the paper mill.

There were several water main breaks and a few sewer breaks, Cowell said.

After some discussion the committee agreed to recommend to City Council that a new half ton 4-wheel drive pickup truck be purchased for the Water Department for $22,700 from the state bid plan. The old one, with 23,000 miles on the odometer, will be sold to the Sewer Utility for use at the Wastewater Treatment Plant. The Streets Department recently also got a new truck.

The Utility recently spent $19,000 to set up the new lab at the Wastewater treatment plant. Cowell suggested they could recoup that expenditure by using the approximately $16,000 that remains available from the bond issue and the Clean Water Fund Loan.

Gryzwa commented the interest rate is low.

Committee member Fred Meintz said at the end of June the sewer utility was still $427,000 in the red. That number should be getting better, however. Cowell said the utility collected $180,000 in July. Payments still have not been finalized on the $1.575 bond issue.

Since we’re in the red, take it (the lab equipment money) from the Clean Water Fund Loan proceeds, Meintz recommended. Gryzwa and Dan Seymour agreed, so the vote in favor was unanimous.

Parts of the roof at the Wastewater Treatment Plant Service Building are apparently in such bad shape that they cannot last the winter. Cowell said he had called twice and e-mailed twice trying to get a price quote from a roofing consultant recommended by one of the committee members but got no response. Then, on Friday afternoon he contacted a different firm and promptly got a proposal.

Meintz said the firm had worked on the Menominee Library roofing job, and just 10 years later there were problems. And they were stupid enough to hire them again, he commented. Cowell said the firm has a new architect. This is not architecture, this is a roof, Meintz declared, adding, I’m not concerned about the money, I’m worried about their history in doing roofing!

Seymour said he would try to contact at least one other firm that day. Gryzwa agreed it would be good to get another estimate.

Cowell expressed thanks to the firm that did respond so promptly to his request for a cost estimate. He said the roof needs to be fixed this fall, and if there was no decision today they would need a special meeting to make that happen. No one minded the idea of a special session, and Gryzwa pointed out they need just 1 hour advance notice for an emergency meeting. Another alternative would be to do some patching this fall and wait until next year for the full roof.

Discussion moved on to discussion on next year’s budget. We’ve taken on a big responsibility with operation of the wastewater treatment plant, Gryzwa commented. He said basically they have been operating the Utilities without a budget, and they should have one.

They have numbers put together by the consultant, and two years of records for the water utility.

Meintz noted expenses on the water side have been very controlled, and personnel expenses have been kept low.

Gryzwa said the water utility earned a 1.53 percent rate of return, which is great.

Cowell commented the bitter cold of last winter caused problems that led to some overtime expenses. He said there were 32 freezeups last winter, compared with none for either of the previous two years.

He said city crew members move over to help out at the Water and Sewer Departments when needed. Their time is then charged against the utility, so it lowers the cost charged on the DPW side of the ledger. The utility is significantly under spending projections for chemical expenses.

Talk turned to problems with a line near the feed mill that needs to be replaced. There were repairs recently and DPW a temporary patch on the road, but the job will need to be done correctly in the near future. There also are problems with a water line in Badger Park.

Meintz suggested having more of the repairs done by the Department of Public Works (DPW) instead of an outside contractor. Cowell felt that would not work well. He said generally the jobs cost only a couple of thousand dollars, and the city doesn’t own the big equipment or have men trained to use it and the contractor has. He said their response has always been prompt. He said they would also need to build up a whole parts inventory if the city were handling the repairs.

He said the city crew takes care of water main shutoffs, haul gravel, fix the blacktop and haul debris when the contractor is called in for water and sewer repair work, so they keep the costs down.

The budget will be discussed again at a future meeting. The next regular meeting was set for 9 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 9, but a special meeting may be called before then to settle the roofing issue.


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