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April 11, 2021

2/26/2021 2:50:00 PM
Could a new joint sewer treatment contract be needed? - good question

The group of cities involved in the Chisago Lakes Joint Sewage Treatment Commission last week saw the full extent of services Veolia could provide, starting a review of expanding the contract with the private firm.  Veolia, a worldwide environmental services provider,  recently tookover the public wastewater system that serves Wyoming, Stacy, Chisago City, Lindstrom, Center City and county sites with a special sewer district (Hazelden/Government Center.)

The elected officials on the commission had directed Veolia to present ways the contract could be revised, to tackle tasks that aren’t normally part of a basic labor/operations package.  

Veolia has a five year contract with the commission now.

It was learned that Veolia could handle everything from sewer customer billing to municipal public works chores if that’s desired.  Right now the contract between the commission and the firm is just for the sewer collections system and treatment plant operations, and Veolia invoices expenditures to the commission.

Veolia spokesperson and liaison to the CLJSTC, Larry Cook, told the commissioners last week the company is “...like a buffet’ and clients pick and choose services.  He said the company will estimate costs based on the requests and Veolia is “not ruling anything out.”

The commission saw sample contracts from a basic wastewater format  (City of Monticello) to extensive responsibility (St Michael) where Veolia has absorbed the city public works water distribution duties in addition to being responsible for the sewer system.
With five cities in the CLJSTC, this contract expansion could get very complicated.  Some have grinder systems both inside and outside of private sites, and some cities have unique issues with pumps and clogging. Veolia could respond to leaks and curb stop issues if a city wants to include its water system in the contract.  In St Michael Veolia does meter reading for 4,700 customers.
The future may necessitate seperate contracts depending on city-specific needs, or the commission itself could comprehensively start re-defining its own structure.

Lindstrom member Bill Schlumbohm said each city is going to need to have a conversation and determine what they want to pay for.

Wyoming commissioner Linda Nanko Yeager asked about benefits other cities have seen in expanded contracts.

Cook said one main benefit is Veolia’s buying power and depth of vendors, plus the fact it has a huge pool of skilled system workers it can pull from.  For example, the chemical expenditures involved in wastewater treatment decrease substantially when a firm like Veolia is procuring thousands of gallons of product versus the CLJSTC buying relatively small amounts.

Cook stressed that local relationships will always be important in the operations, and use of nearby mechanics, heavy equipment parts and repair companies, etc. is a Veolia policy priority.

The commission heard it needs to get serious about an asset management plan, however.  

The publicly-run commission had a 40-year supervisor retire who had everything in his head, Cook explained.  Veolia recommends creating a computer aided long range outline of scheduled maintenance and replacements showing critical looming needs,  and the commission can become more pro-active rather than reactive, Cook stated.

Wyoming Mayor Lisa Iverson, sitting in on the Internet for Dennis Schilling, said she’d like to direct the city administrators to confer on specific city needs referencing the list of services Veolia has ability to provide.  The city administrators know what their systems require and they have infrastructure plans.

(City Administrators Robb Linwood, John Olinger and John Pechman were in on the meeting.) The Veolia plant project manager Zach Meyers and an egineer will also have input.

Chair Kevin Stenson, Lindstrom, commented he is pleased that Veolia didn’t come in with an “all or nothing” contract format for expanding services. “I like what I’m hearing, it’s very appealing from my standpoint.”

The CLJSTC uses engineering consulting firm Stantec, represented at last week’s meeting by Daryl Kirschemon. He said the concept looks good as far as engineering is involved.  Veolia expanded services could handle the “day to day” tasks that engineering used to do in concert with the old plant supervisor—  and Stantec would be happy to be mainly called in on major projects.  The commission is in the middle of a multi-year PFA-loan supported work plan. He said he’d have no problem if discussion led to Stantec continuing that level of consulting.

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