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September 22, 2021

7/30/2021 10:44:00 AM
Sewer Commission gets closer to final Veolia contract

The expanded scope for the Veolia contract overseeing the five-city wastewater system in Chisago Lakes could be finalized by next month. Eight of the nine Chisago Lakes Joint Sewage Treatment Commission members went through a draft contract last week with a fine tooth comb and voted their desire to see a final version ready to act on within a few weeks.

The main sticking points to expanding Veolia’s services beyond providing labor—are the status of the South Center Sanitary District (Hazelden and nearby parcels) and cost containment.  The contract privatizing the sewer network and treatment plant started around $600,000 when it was awarded in August 2020.   

While the expanded services next year will add 50 percent, bringing costs to $990,000 total, there will be no staff added.  The expenses increases are for a new Veolia repairs and maintenance regimine, for chemicals and other items shifting to Veolia’s side of the ledger  that had been a commission responsibility.

Veolia General Manager Manager Larry Cook was advised by the commission that the estimated 10 percent additional charges in 2021 (based on reports of increases of $97,000) annually, continuing spread over five years, isn’t ideal.  

This will be paid by member cities based on use of the wastewater system. For example— Center City has the smallest flow and capacity at the plant at 2.4 percent. Its liability will be about $195 per month.  

A large user like Chisago City at 28 percent could see $2,300 a month more.  Lindstrom has 34 percent of the system, and is slated for an increase of $2,700 monthly.

Chisago City’s Commissioner Jeremy Dresel wanted addressing budget inflation spelled out as a “priority” in the contract terms...whether it’s pre-approval of certain expenditures as suggested by Commissioner Marlys Dunne or simply adding wording to promote sustainability as everybody’s mission.

Wyoming Mayor Lisa Iverson would like a five year outline for the CLJSTC to refer to,  listing potential priorities,  and she asked the project manager to weigh in on his “top three” items.  Zach Meyers responded he’d focus on regulatory compliance issues, and improve maintenance and in turn cut down on emergencies.

Commission Attorney Ted Alliegro also asked for more specificity in the contract on the South Center Sanitary District.  As current language reads, it would potentially eliminate Veolia from any responsibility for wastewater equipment repairs and/or maintenance when equipment is physically located on private property.

The “ownership” of some of the system that handles wastewater in the South Center Sanitary District  has been rather unspecific for many years.  The sanitary district has requested to be allowed a seat on the commission— but was told the “county” spot serves in that capacity.  County Board Commissioner Marlys Dunne attends the CLJSTC meetings as representative for the county.  

Last week she assured attendees that county staff is putting the background pieces together,  in search of a resolution on who owns what and where the sanitary district belongs within the CLJSTC.  In the meantime, Cook said Veolia “isn’t going to leave them out there.”  Service will be provided if there’s a lift station breakdown or a malfunction affecting that territory.  “It behooves us to be good community stewards,” Cook said of Veolia.

Cost containment may take more data.  Veolia has only been on-site since September 2020.

Plant operations have seen smooth sailing and Cook said the fact there have been no regulatory fines creates savings, but the numbers have not been compiled.

Fewer emergency call-outs have been noted, Meyers added.  

The CLJSTC was told that what Veolia can provide in operational skills and experience with wastewater situations,  will continue to trim expenses, in addition to bulk buying power of parts and chemicals, and in having staff nationally to consult and advise.


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