City discussion on SED basins lead to possible project postponement

By: 
KATHLEEN GILLULY
Outlook managing editor

Public Works Director Kurt Markegard told the city council at the Tuesday, July 25th workshop that he had thought the new water intake was on and in use when he told them that at the July 11 workshop. At that meeting, he had explained in detail how the intake was in use only 12 hours every day and because of manpower issues wouldn’t be fully operational without new sedimentation basins.
When questioned by Councilman Chuck Dickerson on why Markegard didn’t have the correct information for the council previously, Tim Reiter told them it was because he hadn’t informed the public works director.
“That was my decision. It was an operations decision,” Reiter said. He also told council the intake is fully operational, even without the new sedimentation basins the city had planned to build this fall until bids came in. The lowest one was $1.6 million above the amount estimated by Great West Engineering.
“I didn’t explain the actuator valve well,” Markegard said. That valve would be operated by computer with the new SED basins, but doesn’t interfere with the use of the intake.
The city had budgeted about $6.4 million for the project which would remove sedimentation from turbid river water prior to treatment. CHS has committed $1.8 million towards the project so the refinery can get sediment-free non-chlorinated water.
Although the city is still owed $2 million from FEMA for the construction of the intake, the state failed to pay its 25 percent share leaving the city in debt.
Finance Clerk Bethany Keeler told the council the city could pursue a loan for $7.2 million to complete the SED basins, but yearly payments would be $523,000. She noted that, “if something happens we have no reserves,” and no bonding capacity. Council members Doug Poehls and Emelie Eaton also pointed out that every large project the city has undertaken has resulted in change orders, costing more than planned and that the engineering firm hired by the city should be held accountable somehow.
“As far as the $1.8 million, it’s a moot point because we don’t have the [rest of the] money,” said Councilman Tom Nelson. He added that the council should, “step back until we are on sound financial footing.”
Other items discussed were implementing fines for those who fail to remove yard sale signs after a reasonable time, weeds growing along ditches on Bernhardt Rd. and elsewhere throughout the city and errors in the management budget.
The city council’s next business meeting is Tuesday, Aug. 1, at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall. Meetings can be viewed at www.laureloutlook.com

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