Nokomis Council Approves Water Operator Contract

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The Nokomis City Council held their regularly scheduled meeting Monday night, April 22, and a spirited discussion broke out again, as in the previous two council meetings, centered around the need and details of Nokomis entering a contract with Woodard and Curran to manage the city's water and sewer functions and the current council's rationale behind moving forward with the decision.  Also present for the meeting representing Woodard and Curran were Mark Thomas, Greg Frieden, and Tim Ferguson.  

Commissioner-elect Jocko Nash spoke first. "I'm going to ask for the third time that the sitting council pass this contract on to the newly elected council.  If you want to discuss that–if you're adamant about signing–I've got some questions."  

When asked by Commissioner Jeanne Voyles what his questions were, he again asked, "Why are we hiring an outside firm after all these years?"

Commissioner Tim Brookshire said the answer was complex, but touched on the main points of water quality and staff knowledge and ability to handle problems going forward.  When asked by another resident why the council hadn't addressed the problem sooner instead of rushing into a contract at the last minute of their term, Brookshire added the problem had been passed on for decades by previous councils and the sitting council had worked to this conclusion as the best to remedy the situation.  Commissioner Voyles added that "this is not just something that happened overnight," and they have been working on this over the course of their term.

Voyles pointed out that the city was not issued a license to run the plants, the individual operators are licensed and if they became unavailable for whatever reason, it could cause a problem, whereas Woodard and Curran could simply transfer in another licensed operator from their staff to fill the void, citing their greater resources of personnel and knowledge.

When questioned by another resident as to the status of the city budget and why a copy of the treasurer's report was not provided to all in attendance, Voyles said copies are not passed out at the meetings, but were available to view at the city hall.  The resident then asked for a general idea as to if the city "was in the black or in the red."  Voyles answered, "We are fine. We are in the black."   She then pointed out that the water and wastewater department were their own entity and operate off of the water fees, not taxes.  She explained the five dollar per month meter charge was part of the money used to fund department operations.

Nash asked again, "Why are you so adamant about signing this tonight? You passed off other issues on to us.  Why is it tonight this thing has got to be signed?  Why don't you want us to deal with this?  Because if it goes south, is it going to reflect on you?"

Voyles said "yes" and Brookshire began to explain because the sitting council had worked on it for four years, when Mayor Terry Hill recognized resident Mike Glenn.

Glenn asked if it would be better if the actual signing be deferred on to the new council rather than have them take the complaints for the next four years of their terms potentially for an agreement they inherited. He thought passing the agreement to them and having them then deal with the complaints of taking action or not taking action was more fair.  He was also concerned if the new council wanted to get out of the signed contract because they didn't like it, it would create unnecessary legal costs for the city.

Attendee Trevor Loafman immediately followed Glenn and acknowledged his point, but said if the contract signing was deferred to the next council and then not signed, then the time and effort put in by this council would be wasted.  He thought the chance to get professional management that had been well researched seemed like a good idea.

At that time, Thomas explained the up-front fee of roughly $50,000 would be backed out on a pro-rated basis should the city decide to leave the contract.  The council and the Woodard and Curran representatives then attempted to answer various questions regarding sections of the contract regarding the leasing of city equipment, the existence of lead lines with respect to the EPA mandates, and responsibilities of Woodard and Curran employees versus city employees in the event of a problem such as a line break.  Frieden explained that the up-front $50,000 number was based on an estimate by Woodard of money needed to commence the operation and would be invested back into the water and sewer operation.

Nash maintained the incoming commissioners were not against the idea, but wanted to review the work done by the current commissioners before the city committed to the contract.  He felt that certain areas of the contract seemed too vague.  He also asked if any other alternatives had been considered.  Commissioners Hard, Brookshire, and Voils assured him they had talked to others including EJ Water and American Water and the Woodard proposal was the one they were most comfortable with.

Nash concluded his dissent by stating he felt there were too many variables that were not spelled out in detail in the contract and again urged the council to defer signing the contract to the incoming council and allowing them to first review it.  

"Let us look into it also," he said.

Brookshire then moved to accept the contract with Woodard and Curran to take over management of the water and sewer plant May 1.  The motion was seconded by Voils and approved by the council with Mayor Hill voting no.

In new business, Commissioner Voyles reported $1,711.97 and $3,671.29 from the video gaming tax and telecommunication tax, respectively.  She then made a motion to approve the payment of bills in the amount of $15,900.40,  approved unanimously by the council.

Commissioner Hard made a motion to approve two building permits for a fence construction at 405 Lincoln and a patio and sidewalk replacement at 521 W. Central which he found to be in order.  The motion was seconded by Voyles and approved by the council.  He then made a motion to approve the building permit for the foundation for a modular home at 312 S. Elm; the new council would have the final inspection for the tie-down.  He added he had seen the certification tags for the modular home and it appeared to be acceptable.  Voils seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.  Lastly, he presented a motion for a park permit for Shane Cole Memorial Park for June 1, which was also approved by the council.

Commissioner Voils reported to the council that Brandi Chausse had intended to speak to the council that night about putting a nine-hole putt-putt golf course at Shane Cole Park south of the courts.  She is already on the agenda for the next council meeting and will further address the new council on the matter at that time.

Voils then opened the only bid received for the sale by the city of a 2000 GMC pickup truck.  The $750 bid submitted by Mervell Parker met the minimum established, so Voils made a motion to accept the bid and sell the truck to Mr. Parker.  The motion was seconded by Hard and approved unanimously by the council.

Commissioner Voyles made a motion that the council go into executive session to discuss terms and conditions of employment and collective bargaining at 8:08 p.m.  The motion was seconded and approved. The board returned from executive session at 8:17 p.m. with nothing to report.

Voyles made a motion to adjourn at 8:18 p.m., seconded by Voils and approved by the council.  

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