Witt Council Hears From Water Operator

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Mayor Jim Van Ostran called the November meeting of the Witt City Council to order at 7:03 on Wednesday, Nov. 26.  The council heard a preliminary report from Eric Emmerich, representative of EJ Water Co-op.  In an effort to address their water department issues, the City of Witt has contracted with EJ Water to manage their water supply. 

As Emmerich reviewed with the council, the agreement officially went into effect on Nov. 1, but he reported the co-op had personnel in Witt working with city employees since Oct. 14.  As it was outside the scope of the formal agreement, Emmerich said the co-op was considering those days as "training expense" for co-op staff and would not be charged to the city.  He said he felt the training had contributed greatly to a good transition to the new system.

Emmerich went on to explain the preferred procedure by which Witt employees and co-op staff would address service calls and emergencies.  He said that starting Dec. 2, an after-hours system would be available that featured an on-call customer service hotline for leaks and other problems.  Both he and clerk Nancy Hughes thought putting the number on the water bill along with the note, "To report a water main leak after hours" would be a good method to get that information out to users.  Hughes told the council the bill the note could go on would be the January billing, so they had time to consider alternate notes if they wished. 

Emmerich then went over various potential scenarios with the council involving after-hours and maintenance situations.

He also reported to the council that staff had found some issues already which he would potentially need authorization from them to address.  First, staff would try to fix it in-house to save costs and they would attempt to use the parts and filter already on hand, but he cautioned that it was not an easy task to complete and an outside vendor might need to be used. 

Emmerich explained that, going forward as they manage and upgrade the system, the co-op will present the council with a monthly report that includes a prioritized and budgeted needs list.  He said because the relationship is so young, what he was providing to them at this meeting was not an accurate representation of future reports, as they lacked the baseline knowledge to put a comprehensive report together at this time, but he stated future reports would be more comprehensive and informative.  He did report that while they were still acclimating to the Witt system, the co-op had found that a chlorine analyzer needs to be purchased.  A new one costs approximately $4,000, but the co-op has a used one they will sell Witt for $1,000 including a one year warranty.  Councilman David Cearlock, who requested the warranty on the used piece, made a motion for the city to purchase the used equipment.  The motion was seconded by Randy Lowe and unanimously approved on council vote.

Emmerich also reported the co-op believed it was possible the city was not testing for manganese.  The mayor said they had entered into the agreement in order to provide a better product to their customers and they expected the co-op to uncover some problems initially.  Councilman Jay Martin followed with a motion to allow EJ Water to start necessary testing they deemed needed.   The motion was seconded by Councilman John Baurerle and approved on a unanimous council vote.

Wrapping up his report to the council, Emmerich reported staff had found no known leaks in the Witt system as of yet.  He also spoke directly to fire chief Tom Rogers, who was in attendance and said he would provide the fire department with a map indicating all their hydrants and specs on the hydrants for the department's use in case of rural fires.  They also discussed the notification protocol to be used when the departments had a fire call and would be drawing on the water supply. 

Lastly, Emmerich reported the need to replace a door on a lift station in the wastewater portion of the Witt system.  Martin made a motion to authorize EJ Water to replace the lift station door, which was seconded by Cearlock.  The motion passed on a unanimous vote.

In general business, there were no standing committee reports, which prompted Councilman Tim Taylor to state he thought the committees needed to be reestablished.  The mayor agreed and presented the council with a draft plan of committees and members he had put together.  He felt he built his draft around what he thought were the strengths of each council member.  He asked them to take the draft, consider it, and be prepared to offer input at the next meeting.

Martin made a motion to add the EJ Water Coop monthly fee to the pre-approved bills.  The motion was seconded by Taylor and approved unanimously.

Martin then presented a draft of the budget and explained the change related to water as being because of entering the agreement with EJ Water.  He asked the rest of the council to review the budget, at which time they raised the number for mowing to $6,000 per year.  Lowe made a motion to approve the budget as amended with a second from Kelly Vellelonga.  The council voted to approve with five votes in favor and Martin abstaining on the grounds he submitted the budget.

In other items, the city clerk accidentally sold plots in the city cemetery that were not cordoned off to be plots.  Before the error was discovered, a stone had been placed where it was assumed the plots to be.  All felt it was the city's responsibility to move the stone at the city's expense.  Taylor moved that the city pay to have the stone moved at the estimated cost of $537.  After the second, the council unanimously approved the motion.

On a motion by Bauerle and a second by Vellelonga, the council agreed to allow the sewer bill adjustment applied for by Greg Elliot.  As per ordinance, he could not now apply for another adjustment for 12 months.  The mayor wanted to make sure Elliot knew this was the policy prior to following thru with the approved adjustment.

With winter approaching, Taylor requested the city buy some type of salt spreader to help treat icy conditions around the downtown area.  Martin volunteered the use of a spreader he had, if it would work.  Vellelonga made a motion to authorize the purchase of a spreader not to exceed the cost of $250.  The motion was seconded by Martin and approved unanimously.

The council went into closed session at 9:02 p.m. to discuss employee issues and adjourned after the session.

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