Maintenance of the wastewater treatment plant is an ongoing issue for Fountain. Noting dissatisfaction and lack of communication with the current city engineer, the council began looking for a new engineer last month. As a result, three companies attended the March 1 meeting to provide information.
Mike Saunders, project manager from AE2S, noted the company’s focus on water and wastewater treatment. Ashbrook built the plant in Fountain, and they are working with a similar Ashbrook plant going through stipulations with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
“The company we got it from went belly up and sold it to another company, and they went belly up,” explained Acting Mayor Dave Gudmundson. “We can’t even find plans for this thing. It’s a nightmare.”
“I wouldn’t say our model is normally being a city engineer, but a lot of the issues are related to the wastewater plant,” said Sauders. “I think there’s a lot for us to offer,” said Saunders.
Public Works Director John Hanson described the plant to the companies noting it’s strictly greywater coming out. According to Hanson, every house in town has a septic tank, so the city plant doesn’t get the solids and bacteria it needs to function. The city must augment the system with bacteria to operate and keep biochemical oxygen demand at approved levels.
Engineers Matt Mohs and Jake Pickleman of Bolton & Menk also addressed the council. “We provide the full gamut of engineering services. If you can think of it, we offer it or have connections for it,” said Mohs.
The city is familiar with Mohs. He was previously the city engineer under another company and has worked with wastewater consultant Mike Morris whom the city contracts for maintenance.
“He’s supermanned operations to get the plant where it needs to go, but there are still some things that need to be addressed,” added Mohs.
Pickleman is currently the wastewater engineer from Bolton & Menk. “I’m used to dealing with this type of stuff,” he said. “You have a tough package plant to operate. You’re not going to do any better operating it than you have the last few years. There are a few things to get it performing better.”
The plant design limits flexibility. Additionally, it discharges into a nitrate-impaired trout stream/dry run, creating challenging limits. The city must look at other long-term options with wastewater treatment plants lasting only 20 to 30 years. According to Mohs, Bolton & Menk has a group in-house that tackles funding which can advise the city.
“That hands-on approach, day to day, is something we bring to the table,” added Mohs.
The last company representatives were development strategist Michael Novitzki and engineer Brian Petzel with ISG. “I’ve gotten to see the good, the bad, the ugly of a lot of firms,” said Novitzki. “ISG always stood above all else when it came to communication, thoroughness, intelligence, and the ability to build relationships and work within communities.”
“Our approach is to consider ourselves an extension of city staff. I know a lot about what small communities need,” added Petzel. “We have operators on staff and provide operator training. As far as the operation side, we’re very well versed on that side of the house.”
All three companies will provide the city with a quote for services. After review, the council will approve a new city engineer at the next meeting.
The council approved an audit from Smith Schafer. The General Fund reserves increased by $43,916, equaling 118% of annual expenditures. Both the Sewer and Water Funds are generating sufficient cash flow for operations, debt service, and capital improvements.
Paul Little and Greg Schwartz addressed the council regarding a large portion of First Street owned by Little’s family. A property survey indicates .8 acre of roadway and right-of-way that should be city-owned for street and utility easement and future access for any potential development at the end of the road. Therefore, they are proposing an easement for the city, signed by all adjacent properties. City Clerk Mary Tjepkes will discuss the matter with City Attorney Frederick Suhler.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting is at city hall on Wednesday, April 5, at 7 pm. The public is encouraged to attend.
Leave a Reply