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February 22, 2020

12/26/2019 2:28:00 PM
Sewage Treatment Commissioners award Phase I to Pember

The Chisago Lakes Joint Sewage Treatment Commission awarded a bid last week for the multi-year systemwide improvements and repairs that are part of a facilities plan adopted in 2019.  The vote was unanimous;  minus members Tony Olivolo, Stacy and Jeremy Dresel, who is one of Chisago City’s two members.  The commission consists of one each from Center City, the county board, and Stacy-- and two from Wyoming, Lindstrom and Chisago City. Memberships are based on use and capacity in the regional wastewater treatment operation.

Pember Companies out of Wisconsin won this first phase of corridor projects which will be done this summer, with its bid of $686,320.  Next closest was R & R Excavating at $727,125.

Stantec, Engineering Consultant Ron LaFond, told the commission the range of five total bids was good.  Pember is known to LaFond as a desireable contractor which also did a lift station project previously for the CLJSTC and “knows the area,” he pointed out.

The corridor work will address capacity improving existing controls, pipes and valves, generator and replacing three pumps, among other operational needs.  
Next up in 2021 there will be capital investments such as total main lift station replacements.

In 2022 the facilities plan calls for equipment upgrades and rehabilitation of some mechanical functions.

In 2023 the Chisago Main, Lift Station, built in 1987 is scheduled to basically be replaced (pumps, valves, odor controls, etc.)

The borrowing for this plan to happen is being worked into the budget.  The nice part is that long term debt service now covered by the CLJSTC will be paid-off about the same time the multi-year list is done and payments ramp up for the installments being drawn down annually.

Long before these projects are completed, however, the commission will have to deal with a big challenge.

Word is a retirement notice is in the works for plant manager Mark Nelson, as of April 2021.  CLJSTC Clerk and records person Deb Steele also plans to step down relatively soon,  and there’s going to be an opening for a wastewater  operator.  Replacing these highly qualified and knowledgeable  staff in this extensive collection and treatment organization is not going to be simple.

In fact, this must be an opportune time to hand everything over to a private company-- or is it?

There was a recommendation introduced last week from the budget committee to NOT pursue privatization.  The consensus from all the members was the same.

Chair Mark Wolcott, Center City, commented that he’s been around long enough to remember another time when a private operator was being investigated to takeover the collection network and

 treatment plant. He said his experience is they “low ball” their proposal and later, when “they get you in” and all the old structure is eliminated, the company has you at their mercy and costs rise.

Commission members agreed to pencil into the 2020 budget enough for four months of shadowing of Nelson by a new hire, and possible another four months in 2021.  Nelson has extensive knowledge of the system and plant and CLJSTC members want him to impart as much of that background as possible to any hire.  

The final budget, now that the decision against privatization has been made,  will be adopted at the January meeting.


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