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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Former Alderman Asks City To Cooperate With BPM, Inc.

Issue Date: October 24, 2019

At the Peshtigo Water and Sewer Committee meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 22, Father John Harper made a strong plea for the city to cooperate with BPM, Inc. by reducing their wastewater treatment charges rather than letting them move forward with plans to construct their own wastewater treatment facility on property adjacent to the paper mill.

Identifying himself as a former city alderman and son of a long-time former city mayor, Father Harper declared the city and Badger had accomplished some good things by working together in the past, and declared, "I am very concerned we're losing our spirit of cooperation....Badger would not be asking for a concession if it wasn't necessary!"

Referring to a full page ad that had appeared in the Peshtigo Times spelling out the rate increases that residential users of the city utility will face if BPM, Inc. moves forward with plans to construct its own plant, Father Harper declared he, like many others in Peshtigo, is on a limited income. "If my sewer bill goes up 80 percent, I will have to move!" he declared. Data in the ad stated user rates will go up 11 percent if BPM, Inc.. gets the requested rate reduction, but will increase by 80 percent in four years or so if it ceases being a user of the utility.

"I am shocked that there wasn't a flood of mail responses and letters to the editor after that ad," Father Harper declared. "Badger would't be asking for a concession if it wasn't necessary!" He said BPM, Inc has been very patient with the city, but the city is not cooperating and repeated his request for the committee to seriously consider coming to some sort of agreement that will prevent BPM, Inc. from building its proposed facility. He said Jim Koronkiewicz, general manager of BPM., Inc. had told him the mill can build its own plant and pay for it in six years with the savings they would realize by not having to pay the rates charged by the city utility for handling its wastewater. Harper said Koronkiewicz also told him the mill owners had been trying for five years to get something done about its sewer rates and declared that in the past he had always taken great pride in the spirit of cooperation that existed between Badger and the city.

Since the statements were made during time for public comment and were not part of the meeting agenda committee members were not allowed to respond.

Present for the meeting in addition to Father Harper were Koronkiewicz, Public Works Director George Cowell, Mayor Cathi Malke, Consultant Taryn Nall, and committee members Fred Meintz, Dan Seymour and Chair Tom Gryzwa.

Major business of the meeting had centered on a notice of non-compliance the city had received from the Department of Natural Resources for sanitary sewer overflows on May 9, July 15, Sept. 13, Sept. 22 and Oct. 1. The notice pointed out the WPDES permit prohibits any overflow or discharge of wastewater from the sewage collection system. The overflows occurred through the top of a manhole at a siphon river crossing, which Cowell said is the main crossing from the city's west side to the wastewater treatment plant on the east side of the river.

Some of the overflows were caused by a partially plugged pipe , while others occurred because of high precipitation levels.

The letter noted the city had taken immediate corrective action, contacted the Department and issued public notices in a timely manner. However, the letter also set a Nov. 15 deadline for the city to update the DNR on several issues, including plans to reduce illegal sump pump connections to the sanitary sewer system, repair two collapsed sections upstream of the river crossing area, prepare a draft proposal for a preliminary investigation to replace the river crossing pipes that is being prepared by the city's consulting engineer, report of smoke testing results from the mobile home park that inflow problems in the last storm, update appropriate sections of plans for a clear response to emergency situations, hang posters around the community including in assisted living homes, nursing homes, health facilities and public rest rooms about not flushing sanitary wipes (and provide copies of posters and door hangers) and obtain wastewater operator certification for the Sanitary Sewerage Collection system by June 30 of 2020.

Cowell outlined plans for inspection of homes for illegal sump pump connections, and ways to enforce it, including possible ordinance changes providing for hefty surcharges each month for homes that have not allowed inspections. Nall said the City of Menasha surcharge is $50 a month

Malke liked a suggestion for city funding of grants to help homeowners replace leaky sewer laterals. Nall said some cities have a loan program with 20-year repayment plans for the lateral replacements.

The proposed ordinance will come up for discussion at the next Water and Sewer Committee meeting, which is set for 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov 12, three days before the DNR deadline for the city's reply to their non-compliance notice.


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