City confronted with big bill to repair water-plant filters

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
An operating error some time in the unidentifiable past will cost the City of Hillsboro an unplanned $85,000 to $100,000 in 2002, the Hillsboro City Council was told at their Dec. 18 meeting.



Al Reiss, an engineer for the city from Reiss & Goodness, described in detail how all three under-drain filters at the city’s water treatment plant are cracked and need to be replaced before production demands for water increase significantly in summer.



“All three filters are blown,” Reiss said. “There’s no question about it.”



He said cracks in under-drains are extremely rare. He deduced from his inspection of the plant that the damage occurred when an employee ran too much air pressure through the system an unknown number of years ago.



Running water through the under-drain system is part of the disinfecting process.



But Reiss emphasized the water being produced at the plant is well within safety parameters. Public health is not threatened by the situation.



“We’re meeting all of the state’s water standards-we’re just not meeting our own standards,” said Steven Garrett, city administrator.



Rather than being a public safety issue, Reiss said the urgency is that repairs need to be completed as soon as possible because the adjustments plant workers have made in the operation has reduced the amount of treated water the plant can produce in a given period. That amount will triple by next June.



“We need to get it done by May,” Garrett said. “The question is, where will the money come from?”



He said the city has the money in its capital-improvement fund, but those funds have been designated for other projects.



After finding out the city could take out temporary notes on the project and then roll them into a larger financing plan-involving a combination of grants and loans-that will fund major planned improvements at the water-treatment plant, the council agreed unanimously to move ahead with the repairs.



“I don’t think we have any choice,” Mayor Delores Dalke said. “We have to do it. I don’t think we can continue the way we are.”



In other business, the council:



— accepted Emprise Bank’s bid to be the depository for city funds in 2002. Emprise offered a fixed interest rate of 2.65 percent.



— approved cereal malt beverage licenses for 2002 to Casey’s General Store, Cooperative Grain & Supply for its Ampride convenience store, Prime Time Stores, and the Hillsboro Municipal Golf Association.



— approved the mayor’s recommendation to appoint Pat Nuss to the Hillsboro Historical Society Board and Sherry Kunkel to the Hillsboro Planning and Development Commission.



— agreed to pay invoices of $89,800 from APAC-Kansas for construction work and $2,639.78 from Reiss & Goodness for engineering work on the sewer outfall line.



— approved Garrett’s recommendation of giving a 2.6 cost of living pay increase to city workers for 2002.



— agreed to raise city utility deposits from $100 to $150 for first-time residents. The deposit can be waved if the new resident can show a letter of credit.



— confirmed an earlier discussion not to involve the city in correcting some drainage problems at the Hillsboro Industrial Park because the city does not have easements in the park and is not obligated to assist.



— awarded the contract for the city’s lead-base paint inspector for the housing-grant project planned for four blocks along Hillsboro’s north edge to Pittsburg State University for a $9,900 fee.

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