Archive for Wednesday, March 21, 2001

Busy slate for council with 46 percent sewer increase

March 21, 2001

During the Baldwin City Council meeting Monday, City Administrator Larry Paine gave City Clerk Peggy Nichols special recognition, approval was given for the appeal of the BPU lawsuit and a 46 percent increase in sewer rates was discussed.

Nichols has suggested some cash flow changes that could result in the city earning an additional 1 percent on its investment funds. Given the state of the city's financial affairs four years ago several council members commented on the city's near bankruptcy the end-of-year summary is looking very good.

BPU appeal approved

The council voted unanimously to authorize Bob Bezek, city attorney, to proceed with the appeal against the Board of Public Utilities (BPU). He reported that the six other cities, including Ottawa, involved in the lawsuit based on the Nearman electric generating plant failure two years ago, also gave the go-ahead to appeal the case.

This should cost between $8,000 to $10,000 in fees, which will be divided among the cities in a manner yet to be determined. But it will not cost Baldwin more than a few thousand dollars for its share.

The original $1.4 million lawsuit was dismissed last month by Franklin County District Court Judge James Smith.

Sewer rates to rise

During regular business, the council conducted a public hearing regarding the proposed improvements to the Baldwin City Wastewater Treatment Plant. Prior to the regular meeting, a public hearing was held to answer questions on this issue.

Representatives from BG Consultants were present to explain the facility plan.

Based on a residential growth rate of 2 percent, rate charges needed in 2001 to produce revenue for the wastewater improvements may rise at least 46 percent. For example, the current residential rate of $19 a month would go up to $28. Beginning in 2006, rate increases to raise revenue would fall to the single-digit range or zero.

Cost of wastewater improvements will total $3,392,050. To cover $400,000 of this cost, the city will apply for a community development block grant in April. All Kansas cities apply for these limited funds, making it a very competitive process. The balance of the money will come from the state revolving loan fund at about 3 percent over 20 years.

The new treatment plant will have a capacity of 900,000 gallons of wastewater per day. The current treatment plant has a capacity of 430,000 gallons. Parts of the old plant will be used or retrofitted as appropriate to meet the needs of the system.

Two treatment streams will provide the necessary redundancy in the system, allowing one stream to be shut down in off-peak times for maintenance and repair.

State requirements determine the minimum size of the new wastewater plant and the length of time it is supposed to last a minimum of 20 years is the industry standard. The plant should satisfy the wastewater needs of a population of 9,000. Current Baldwin population is 3,400.

"When the population reaches 80 percent of 9,000, we'll have to begin this process all over again," said Paine.

The city will have the ability to add a third basin to the system, should population growth dictate it in the future.

During the public hearing segment of the council meeting, BG consultant David Hamby explained the rate increases required to pay for improvements to the wastewater plant. He suggested an initial rate increase of 46 percent beginning in 2001 based on residential growth rates of 2 or 4 percent. Additional rate increases will be determined by how much population growth occurs.

"What happens if we don't get the community development grant?" asked council member Gene Nelson, concerned over the competitive nature of the grant process.

"We're assuming we'll get it," Hamby said. He indicated that not getting the grant wouldn't be that significant since $400,000 is only 15 percent of the $3 million price tag.

Electrical upgrades

Under new business, the council heard from Terry McKinney, city utility director. He explained the current development plan for improving the 35 miles of electrical infrastructure. Seventeen miles of primary lines have been upgraded to 12,470 volts. By the end of March, the city will have installed more than 5 miles of new primary lines for the FireTree Estates development north of town.

There are four areas in the city that require special attention: in West Baldwin, along and near Orange Street, along and near Second Street, and east of the Baker campus. These are the areas where major overloads occur, sometimes causing the melting of the copper wires.

"There's so much work to do before hot weather" and peak electrical usage, said McKinney. He's asked Mid-Plains Electric to make improvements to one of these problem spots: the electrical service along and near the alley between Fifth and Sixth Streets east of the campus. The council approved the contract with Mid-Plains, which will cost $25,000 and will be covered by the $218,550 budget allowed for the current electrical improvements.

By the end of the summer, 80 percent of the electrical distribution system will have been installed or upgraded. It will take about two years to complete all improvements to the system.

KCPL faulted for outages

McKinney also reported on several electrical outages Thursday night. At 9:30 p.m., 10:50 p.m., and 1:30 a.m. the power went out in the city. KCPL reported an "operation," a sensing of a fault on the line which causes a momentary voltage drop, in the Gardner substation. Each time the power went out, Baldwin City relays were reset by city employees at the Newton substation.

"The city would not have experienced any outages if KCPL had not had any problems," said McKinney.

On Friday, the city crew identified a problem on the city end of the outage. Relays for low voltage on the line side (high voltage) of the breaker had been set too sensitive when installed. By extending the time interval for tripping, this problem should be corrected in the future.

School/street issues

McKinney reported he had met with the school district to resolve most of the issues where Sixth Street construction involves Baldwin Elementary. No construction will occur along Sixth Street near the school until after school lets out for the year.

Changes include no parking on Sixth Street between Baker and Chapel; instead a drop-off and pick-up area will be arranged for on Eighth Street between Baker and Chapel. Seventh Street between Chapel and Dearborn will be made two-way on a temporary basis.

Depending on the success of these trial-basis changes, Baker Street could be widened between Sixth and Eighth streets and a pull-off lane provided, said McKinney. But that would not be a project for this year.

In other business

Paine has been talking with Monte Ezell, from the recreation commission, regarding operation of the city swimming pool again this summer. The council was very pleased with the way the recreation commission handled the pool last year, and is looking forward to a final report on the fine-tuning of a contract for this year.

Bezek brought up the subject of adequate insurance for the pool. Current insurance covers only one accident, and if two children are involved in one accident that would tap out the coverage and make it difficult to get additional insurance. He suggested that "adequate" insurance would mean coverage for two separate disasters in one season. Mayor Stan Krysztof instructed Paine and Ezell to make sure this is fully covered in their final report.

The Budget Committee reported on the workload distribution at City Hall. Possible changes include hiring a part-time person to handle special projects. One important project will be to identify how much every electric customer paid during the Nearman crisis so that they can receive appropriate refunds if the city wins the law suit against BPU.

In other new business, the city approved a request from the Maple Leaf Committee to use city sidewalks during the festival; approved amendments to the contract with Douglas County Rural Water District IV; and approved the appointment of Steve Bauer to fill the unexpired term of Bill Parrot on the City Planning Commission.

The Public Safety Committee will meet next week to consider downtown parking as brought up by the Barker Pharmacy on High Street.

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