It appears the City of Fountain has some reason to celebrate. After several years’ worth of frustration, issues at the waste water treatment plant may be finding some remedy. Richard Parr, Senior Project Manager for WSB & Associates presented a monthly summary to the council at the Thursday, February 2 meeting.
The city has been out of Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) compliance since October 24 and was given until December 23 to do written corrective action. The plan was submitted and MPCA had until January 22 to comment on the plan. Parr went over the 12 plan questions and explanations with the council at the meeting.
A simulator program, BioWin, is being utilized for the plant. Data is continuing to be compilied and items are being pulled in now or set aside and added into WSB’s project plans, depending on need. The system design will track more efficiently with automation, but Parr indicated that PeopleService’s Rick Whitney, who is currently assisting with the project, will need to make three to four 12 a.m. data ‘grabs’ during the low usage hours, to help determine highs. “We’ll complete the initial runs and see how different changes affect the plant and how we anticipate we will respond,” stated Parr.
In addition, Parr indicated there are five parameters for testing and he’s coordinating with Valley Design, the system’s largest user, for some sampling. He indicated that the company began toting water out and shipping it because the company didn’t want to be a part of the equation. It appears that it may be affecting the system as a whole and that they may have to revert to sending it to the plant. Whatever is decided, MPCA will be notified, according to Parr.
Parr also indicated that Whitney is drafting a penalty ordinance for review at the next council meeting. The ordinance relates to exceeding of the Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) Loading at the plant.
WSB is also continuing to look for funding sources for solutions and upgrades at the plant. The three options presented by Parr included United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development, Minnesota Department of Commerce Port Authority, and a Point Source Implementation Grant. The Port Authority has limited sources for funding and Parr is waiting on clarifications regarding as it would only cover aeration portions of the project. A conversation with USDA presented some good information, however, and Parr was able to discuss a Water and Waste Disposal Grant Program with a USDA representative. Funding from the Public Facilities Authority (PFA) may still be the best option for the city due to low interest rates. The Implementation Grant is still PFA, but it goes to cities with more strict discharge requirements. Fountain is in the fundable range for the grant.
“We ran some quick numbers,” said Parr. “The bottom line is the city qualifies for intermediate rate.” The rate is currently 2.75%. He further stated that the project is expected to be more than $556,000 and if the city can secure half in grant funding, it would be looking at roughly $225,000 ($200,000-250,000 range) bonded. He stated it equated to an annual fee of $8,000-8,500 for 40 years.
If a grant is not possible, Parr indicated that Rural Development can process loans in 90 days or less. “It comes down to if there’s no PFA Bonding Bill, we’ll be looking at a loan with Rural Development. We don’t know how much PFA is going to push back.”
“It’s a best case and worst case scenario,” responded Councilor Brian Ostby.
“We don’t have much choice at the moment,” added Councilor Chad Wangen.
In related news, Parr said he’d had discussion with the MPCA regarding the correction plan and designs including a pricey heat exchanger. Currently $163,000 is allotted for that equipment. Parr is looking to see if the exchanger can be removed from the plan because it’s been shown that the ‘bugs’ converting do better in warmer air. “It’s suspected to be a big factor,” said Parr. “The plant has been in compliance and it makes me question whether it’s prudent to put in a heat exchanger. It’s a big cost; operational and maintenance. The plant is doing really well right now.” Removing the exchanger could reduce the full project cost to $360,000-370,000, as well as reduced yearly operational costs.
Parr also noted that the plant was in compliance for three of the four weeks or December and in January, the plant maintained full compliance.
In other news, the city had an in-depth discussion with Police Chief Tom Mosher, who is looking to retire near the end of the year. According to Mosher, only two cities in the state still have a one-man police force; Fountain and Ostrander. Both of the communities are served by Mosher.
The council will continue discussion with Mosher and the county department regarding the needs of the city and the matter will be addressed further at the April meeting.
Lastly, the city council has opted to alter the schedule of its meeting days. Beginning in April, the monthly council meeting will be held the first Wednesday of each month, at 7:30 p.m., at city hall. The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 2. The public is encouraged to attend.