11/13/2020 2:38:00 PM Water and Light office closes for COVID-19 quarantine
One of the first steps taken by the newly expanded five-member North Branch utility commission in mid-summer was to hire a comprehensive water study, which last week WSB engineering consultants unveiled in a work session.
The Water and Light Commission meeting began on a rough note though -- with the commission chair announcing the utility office is closed for covid-19 quarantine. One Water and Light staff member had tested positive so, as of Thursday last week, the office closed for the stay-home isolation period for exposed staff. Workers in the field and in the electrical generation plant continue to perform essential tasks. Utility General Manager Scott Hautala participated in the commission work session by internet.
The Comprehensive Water Plan will become the foundation for upcoming projects plus it provides invaluable information and background in applying for loans and grants.
North Branch Water and Light is responsible for 44 miles of water main. There are six water wells, two water treatment plants and three towers.
WSB engineer Lee Gustafson and his colleague John Christianson, explained North Branch’s priority needs in the water system and provided useful calculations.
The priorities start as soon as next year and stretch out to the year 2030. They revolve around the need to upsize water main in and around Main Street, Elm and Cedar. The new pipes could run about $300,000.
The utility will need to replace tower number one with a new tower-- recommended to be basically in the same location-- demolishing the existing one. The utility needs to rehab the other two towers.
The water system has storage volume estimated as sufficient until 2040. Growth will need to be monitored, the commissioners agreed, and multi-unit housing plats will affect the system gallons consumed faster than single family occupation.
Christianson said the use per person per day is at 70 gallons, which is termed “commendable” under state water appropriation guidelines. There are 7,620 persons on the water system now and the study was based on growth to 9,740.
North Branch is unique in that the city once was surrounded by a rural area with large lots and septic/wells known as “Branch” which over 20 years ago was absorbed into North Branch. Many properties that came into the city still have wells.
Christianson said the study supports the continuation of projects that result in looping of the water system wherever feasible. The next chore will be reviewing funding for work that is considered more urgent. Gustafson, who is also the engineer for the City of North Branch, said the data the utility has now at its fingertips will substantiate applications to qualify for outside funding sources, and that staff at the city level are working alongside with the utility as needed.
In other matters: three audit firms made pitches. Spokespersons for Abdo, Eick, and Meyers for Clifton Larson Allen and for Schlenner, Wenner and Co. offered their proposals to serve as utility auditor (CLA already serves the city.) There were nine firms originally expressing interest and utility staff narrowed these to three finalists. One major consideration has been the timing of past audits, which were coming in later in and not of use in doing the city’s final annual fiscal reports. The commission will vote to hire a firm at the regular Nov 18 meeting.