Cologne hears proposals for wastewater treatment services

The City of Cologne finds itself in a period of considerable transition as the end of the year approaches after the departure of a pair of high-level employees.

After the voluntary resignation of the city’s main utilities employee and the termination of city administrator John Douville, the council took steps toward addressing the operation of its wastewater treatment plant during its meeting on Nov. 5.

A delegation from PeopleService, Inc., a water and wastewater contractor with a regional office in Arlington, attended the meeting to outline how they could provide licensed personnel and expertise to operate the city’s plant. Company representatives outlined a full range of services that would be available to the city, and presented a draft contract for five years with an annual cost of $142,000.

“What we’ve offered is a turnkey solution to all your water / wastewater issues,” one of the representatives told the council.

Mayor Bernie Shambour Jr. thanked the group for coming and for assisting the city since the departure of its licensed utility employee. He said that the city was still examining the cost impact of contracting for the work vs. other options and added that the decision will also rest partly on city staffing needs.

He added that the proposed services looked good and that the city has had a good experience working with the contractor so far, but said the city still needed to “crunch the numbers” to find the most cost-effective solution since the PeopleService proposal included the cost of treatment chemicals and other benefits.

Immediately following that exchange, the council also heard from Curt Reetz of Water/Wastewater Operations & Technical Assistance, a former PeopleService employee now running his own business. Reetz, an Arlington City Council member, said that Arlington uses PeopleService and is pleased with the contractor’s performance.

He said that he performs more of a mentor/trainer role in helping city employees learn how to operate the system most effectively and get licensed. His most recent work with a city took place in Winthrop.

“Basically what I do is help cities get back on their feet,” he said.

Reetz suggested a monthly fee of $1,681, an annual amount of just over $20,000.

Shambour said that while that rate was more affordable, he had concerns that Reetz was a one-man operation without any backup staff. He added that the council would closely evaluate both proposals and see which was a better fit for the city before making a final decision.

“This is a huge step for the city,” he said.

In other business, the council:
• Heard a proposal from Steve Mattson of Northland Securities, who briefly described a refinancing of bonds that would save the city over $1 million by the year 2033. The council withheld a decision on the matter until a second proposal could be heard.

• Took action to allow Modern Design to construct a building addition of approximately 1,350 square feet on the rear of the existing business space.

• Approved a final plat for the 13th addition in the Village at Cologne, a parcel that includes four single-family lots on Silver Leaf Trail.