October 24, 2014

Council vetos purchase, project

Danedri Thompson
dthompson@gardnernews.com
City Council members vetoed two purchases – a new dump truck and a lightning protection system for the Hillsdale Water Treatment Plant – despite staff recommendations to make the purchases.
After council members voted down the $67,735 dump truck purchase, Interim City Administrator Mike Press told council members that city staff doesn’t make recommendations to the council if they aren’t needed.
“We’re not out for ourselves,” Press said. “We’re not doing this so we can drive around in fancy trucks. These are well thought out ideas.”
Council members budgeted to purchase a new dump truck when they approved this year’s budget last August, however they were divided at the time on budgeting for the purchase.
“This truck is running out of time,” public works director Dave Greene told council members.
Council member Larry Fotovich asked whether the money for a new truck could be used for other projects instead, like replacing leaky manholes or upgrading faulty water meters.
“There’s only so much money to go around,” Greene said. “And this vehicle, we feel it’s time to replace.”
When it came time to vote, three council members did not agree. Council members Fotovich, Kristina Harrison and Chris Morrow voted against making the purchase.
Three council members  opposed installing lightning protection at Hillsdale as well.
Although council did not approve the project when they drafted the 2012 budget, Greene said this early in the year the budget could be re-arranged to fund the $19,655 project.
Lightning struck the Hillsdale Treatment Plant three times in the last four years, and the strikes resulted in damages totaling $13,800.
The first strike in 2009, knocked out the plant’s phone system.
Jim Melvin, water/wastewater manager, told council that cell service is unavailable at the plant.
A second strike in 2010 damaged the plant’s Supervisory Control & Data Acquisition (SCADA) system. That system, assistant city administrator Melissa Mundt said, is responsible for running the plant including chemical treatments for the city’s water supply.
“What this comes back to is a safety mechanism of a plant that delivers water to your homes,” she said. “This is to protect the water.”
A third lightning strike in 2011 damaged one of the plant’s power generators.
Melvin said none of the strikes affected the city’s water.
“There was no interruption to the water supply,” he explained. “We can run those systems manually.”
But Mundt said the strikes meant additional work and overtime for city employees.
Council member Brian Broxterman spoke in favor of making the upgrades to the plant.
“We may not be able to guarantee what’s going to happen if we do have the system, but we know what will happen if we don’t,” he said.
Council member Heath Freeman, who was appointed to fill Dennis Pugh’s seat at the start of the meeting, asked whether the purchase could be put off for a year and funded when next year’s budget is approved.
Fotovich asked whether the city’s insurance covered damages related to the first three lightning strikes and what sort of warranties the installation company would provide in the event that lightning struck a fourth time damaging city property after the system was installed.
Melvin said the manufacturer’s warranty would likely replace the lightning installation system, but he wasn’t certain the manufacturer would cover additional damages related to a lightning strike.
Greene said damages from lightning strikes in the last three years did not reach the city’s insurance deductible. The city recently approved a new insurance policy with lower deductibles.
Council members Fotovich, Freeman and Morrow voted against purchasing a lightning protection system for the plant.
A divided council approved a cereal malt beverage license to Wally Borth for Blazers Restaurant. The license also required the waiver of a distance limitation, because the restaurant is within 200 feet of the Gardner Presbyterian Church.
No church officials or members opposed granting the license. However, Broxterman and Fotovich voted against granting the license.
In other business, council members:
• approved an ordinance to issue $3.9 million in general obligation bonds that will be repaid through a special tax assessment by property owners for the Kill Creek Sanitary Sewer Benefit District.

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