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Rushford City Council Report: Council takes action on Water Treatment Plant

Fri, Aug 31st, 2007
Posted in Government

RUSHFORD - The Rushford City Council has held emergency meetings daily since the Rush Creek flood 2-weeks ago. In it's first regular session since flooding devastated the town, Mayor Les Ladewig and Council members Nancy Benson, Laura Deering, Larry Johnson and Herb Highum authorized six spending and hiring measures. No private citizens attended.

Water Treatment Plant

Bids for construction of the Rushford Water Treatment Plant were opened on Friday, August 24, just 5-days after floodwaters contaminated City wells by entering vents and ruined electrical components designed and sited to withstand 100-year-flood levels. The seven-bids all fell within estimates provided by design engineers, BDM of St. Paul. BDM engineer Bill Chang recommended the city award a construction contract to the low bidder, Olympic Builders of Holmen, Wis. at a price of $989,400.

Chang further advised the Council to apply immediately to the Public Facilities Authority, a division of the State agency DEED, for a low interest loan. With loan approval, the City can offer a contract to Olympic, whose bid will remain valid for 60-days.

Flooding revealed that the Water Treatment Plant design elevations would have to be reconsidered, particularly vents and electrical components, to ensure that they would not be vulnerable to another flash flood.

"We feel it would be wise for the City to think ahead and change the design now, build higher," Chang said. Pending specific recommendations by the Corps of Engineers, BDM offered to study the problem and provide redesign services.

Council member Deering asked about existing design concerns. Chang explained that although treatment tanks and piping would be sealed against contamination and could remain at a lower elevation, vents and electronic components would have to be raised. BDM engineer John Stewart stated that raising the entire facility by as much as 5-feet would have cost implications yet to be determined.

City administrator Windy Block noted that the objective of building a treatment plant to improve City water was important to rebuilding and moving forward after the flood. Block recommended holding off redesign until the City received input from the Corps of Engineers.

Mayor Ladewig stated that in light of receiving a low bid under $1-million, the Council should act. Council member Johnson asked if the present location was the right place for a treatment plant given the flood. Chang replied that it was.

The Council voted unanimously to proceed with a loan application to PFA, and then contract with Olympic Builders to construct the Rushford Water Treatment Plant, acknowledging that certain design elements will have to be reconsidered.

Construction Services

Engineers Chang and Stewart presented BDM's proposal to provide construction management and inspection services, not to exceed $157,000. BDM would provide a fulltime inspector during construction of underground works and foundation, then periodic inspections, as well as preparation of change orders, shop drawing review and plant startup. Stewart estimated layout and staking costs at between $2000-$3500 additional.

Block pointed-out that engineering costs should fall within the 15-percent-of-construction-costs estimate used in preparing the City's preliminary budget. The motion to contract with BDM for construction services was unanimously approved.

FEMA Procedures

"Document, document, document." Windy Block echoed the recommendation of FEMA representatives who had explained to him the 90-10 share of Federal to local funding for rebuilding infrastructure. According to Block, FEMA's initial estimate of $22-million for damage to City of Rushford facilities, like the Waste Water Treatment Plant, would require an in-kind contribution of $2.2-million. "We need to provide evidence to support our case," he said.

Block explained that because of the Water Treatment Plant project, BDM engineers have been in town during the flood recovery, and therefore available to advise local Public Works staff on waste water issues and decontamination of City wells.

"We've asked BDM to assign one of their staff to act as a recorder," said Block. Dan Caron will coordinate with local officials to gather journal entries, meeting notes, accounting ledgers, timesheets and any other evidence, like photographs, to illustrate the local contribution to flood recovery and cleanup.

"I'm tracking everything that's come into town, volunteers, contractors, family and friends. The more you can show FEMA, the more willing they will be to provide help," remarked Caron. "Have people bring their photos to City Hall."

The Council unanimously approved the motion to approve hiring a temporary recorder.

Private City Wells

"Sand point wells are a public health problem because of the flood," stated Block. "We need to get rid of them. Hook those who had them up to City water. We don't want to gouge. We'll keep the fee at $300-year. The $1000-hook-up fee we've been considering would seem a little punitive now. Owner costs for digging-in will still run between $1000 to $1500."

Mayor Ladewig suggested that the City contact residents with private wells. "We need to explain to them the necessity and the benefits. If we can bid all 42-wells together, that could lower the cost."

Block added, "We can get a unit price for doing the work. If owners want to get someone else to do the work, that's okay too."

City attorney Terry Chiglo explained that he was working with the League of Minnesota Cities and the State Health Department to draft a ordinance requiring all residents to hook up to City water because private wells have been "deemed a public health concern."

The Council unanimously passed a resolution to enact an emergency water ordinance.

Fire Department

Due to damage incurred by the Rushford Volunteer Fire Department - loss of 2-trucks, a variety of equipment, personnel and fire records - Administrator Block recommended that the Council authorizing hiring a "Temporary Part-time Assistant to the Fire Chief," to assist in rebuilding the department.

"We pay the Chief a small salary. His home was ruined. He has a fulltime job. Asking him to do more at this time is beyond reasonable. This should not cost the City more than $10,000," Block said.

A motion to create the temporary position was unanimously passed.


State Airport Engineer Harris Baker requested the City sign an Agreement Resolution with the FAA in order to move forward with a planned airport rehabilitation project. Because of delays caused by the flood, Block recommended the Council act as soon as possible. Motion to do so passed unanimously.

More Flood-Related Issues

Engineers Chang and Stewart reported that test results Monday had come back showing E.coli still contaminated City wells. They advised continuing with injections of chlorine to kill the bacteria. When the wells no longer test positive for E.coli and after chlorine has been flushed from the system, a "Boil Order" will be issued, advising residents to boil water before using it to drink or cook. [As of Thursday, Aug-30, residents are warned not to drink the water, not to shower, brush teeth or wash dishes in it until the City announces otherwise.]

Mayor Ladewig publicly thanked all volunteers, as well as the Fire Department and all emergency personnel who participated in flood rescue and relief.

"It's been a hard week. But no lives were lost. Next week will be better," he said.

Before closing the meeting, Block read to the Council members a letter from an elderly woman whose father had worked building roads in the Rushford area. She expressed concern and hope for the flood-ravaged city and enclosed a check for $500.

Donations sent to the City should be made out to the Rushford Disaster Relief Fund. In addition, donations can be made at any Associated Bank. The fund will be used to assist Rushford residents and businesses affected by the August 19th flood.

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