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Pierce City City Council takes steps to resolve water issues

Friday, July 23, 2010

The City Council in Pierce City will take several steps to resolve the city's ongoing water system issues following action acten at the July council meeting.

Aldermen approved a contract with Westrum Leak Detection of Stratford, Iowa, for an examination of the town's water mains for $1,500. Westrum offered the use of its computerized leak detection technology. The City of Monett recently agreed to work with Westrum, reported Mayor Allen Stockton, thus eliminating any additional mobilization costs for coming to the area. Westrum is expected to arrive in September.

Recent numbers continue to show only around 30 percent of the water pumped from city wells reaches a meter.

TJ Watley with Scott Consulting Engineers reported the city has qualified for a much larger grant than originally expected for a water system study through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The city had previously used Scott's help to apply for a $10,000 grant.

Thanks to federal stimulus funds, the city could secure a $23,000 grant, Watley said. A larger grant would require a 10 percent match, but even that amount may be waived in light of Pierce City's need. Watley said Scott could build a computerized model of the city's system that should help answer most of the questions about the water system.

To secure grant money, Watley said Scott would make population projections, a storage evaluation and recommend rate changes. The availability of grant money would depend on the city's ability to pay for bonds and would require a rate increase to pay for improvements.

Latest sewer problems

Other issues continue to keep stress on Pierce City's sewer operation. Stockton reported Street Superintendent Wayne Sooter, who was cross-trained to run the wastewater treatment plant in an emergency, has kept the plant running after the operator suddenly quit. Stockton went to review the situation initially and found contents of the clarifiers had turned upside down. Monett's Utilities Department provided an operator who figured out the plant had not been run properly. Sludge was hauled out of the clarifiers and gradually the test numbers returned to acceptable levels.

"Wayne babysat it day and night," Stockton said. "Without Wayne, we'd been in trouble."

Efforts are continuing to hire a new wastewater operator. Stockton said to date no one has been interested. Another possibility has been contracting with an operator just to handle the water and wastewater, leaving the repair of leaks up to city crews.

In addition, the generator on the main lift station has been starting and quitting. Cummins Mid-America from Joplin replaced a faulty thermostat on the generator. Stockton said the city needs grant money to convert the lift station to submersible pumps to eliminate the washout issue.

"The town won't be a town without these systems," Stockton said. "We will have to be helping ourselves. Water and sewer rates will have to come up."

With staffing stretched to the limit, Stockton said city personnel cannot begin hooking up the larger backup generator at the wastewater plant for fear of being interrupted by an emergency elsewhere. Aldermen agreed to seek bids for a contractor to complete the changeover between generators, a process that's been on hold for three months.

Personnel moves

Aldermen agreed to place Sooter back on a 40-hour week in light of the need for his help with the sewer plant.

In trying to return the city hall staff to normal hours, council members placed Clerk Julie Johnson and Billing Clerk Shelly Yonker back on a 40-hour schedule on a trial basis, depending on whether cash flow can support it until the new sales taxes kick in around October.

The probationary period for new police officer Jacob Crahan will conclude on July 19. Aldermen agreed to raise Crahan's pay by 25 cents an hour and make him eligible for health insurance under the city's plan.

Department reports

Police Chief Mike Abramovitz reported officers responded to 16 major incidents during June. As the city's nuisance officer, Abramovitz said he had made numerous contacts about overgrown properties and as a result a number of places have been cleaned up.

Johnson reported the city's new wastewater permit had come from DNR calling for higher standards. More tests would be required by September and an ultraviolet treatment would be needed at the end of the system by 2013. Watley estimated the ultraviolet system would cost around $100,000. Stockton said it would take grant money to pay for an ultraviolet system.

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