by ADAM GRUENEWALD
Heavy rains this season combined with dry weather have led to spikes in the amount of water in the Cologne wastewater treatment plant.
To address this issue moving forward, Cologne council members approved, 3-0 with a vacant position and Don Meyer absent, the inflow and infiltration (I/I) reduction plan for the facility on Monday, July 1.
As required, the written plan examines the existing wastewater system, sources of infiltration and the compliance schedule and plan of implementation.
Jake Saulsbury, principal engineer with Bolton & Mink, explained that inflow refers to the direct water that comes in, storm sewer connected to the sanitary sewer for example, while infiltration refers to the storm water processed as ground water which comes from cracks in pipes, leaky joints and deteriorated manholes.
Over the past three years, the city is treating an average of 42 million gallons per year. Using the comparisons with dry months, Saulsbury estimated there is about 9.4 million gallons per year of inflow and infiltration.
“The city is treating spending roughly $19,000 a year treating water that could be removed from the system,” he said. “That’s my attempt to explain the magnitude of the problem.”
As mandated by the state, the plan calls for a five-year sewer capital improvement plan to reduce inflow and infiltration by inspecting lift stations and sump pump inspections in addition to larger mainline sewer maintenance projects in five separate districts.
There is some flexibility for the city to conduct maintenance as it would be completed as budget constraints allow.
“The city would need to take some steps towards compliance by the end of the year,” he said. “I would say it’s probably a winter planning type project and move forward with something in the spring.”
Saulsbury said the process would begin with an examination and cleaning out of District 1 which covers the older part of town, which is likely where most of the problems are going to be, and continue with sump pump inspections.
Saulsbury estimates that the cost of District 1, which incorporates 15,100 feet of sewer, will be close to $20,000, while other districts will be less expensive.
“What we’re hoping to find there would be very minimal problems,” he said. “Maybe a couple of spot repairs need to be done and then it’s more of a maintenance. I wouldn’t envision we’d have to go through those every four or five years, maybe 10 years.”
The exact financial demand on the city is unknown, but Saulsbury said he is not familiar with grants because it is considered a maintenance project and when questioned by Councilman Scott Williams on the payment process, Saulsbury said some cities pay for all of it, while others ask homeowners to pay for a portion.
“We know it’s a problem, and we need to approach it and improve upon it,” he said.
Also, council members heard a presentation and update from Jeff Nielsen, GM/CEO of Winthrop-based United Farmers Cooperative (UFC), a farmer-owned cooperative that provides it’s members with fertilizer, energy and farm equipment
In accordance with a vote on April 1, the company will merge with Waconia Farm Supply as of Sept. 1, making UFC one of the largest feed operations in the Midwest with more than 400 total employees.
UFC would also own Cologne Milling, located at 206 Mill St. East, and Nielsen said very preliminary plans call for potential expansion of the site for feed production, commercial pelleting or additional grain handling.
“It’s a site that has been around for a while, but there are some safety and compliance issues,” he said. “There’s going to be some money spent to get this up to compliance and we will do that.”
Nielsen, emphasizing the preliminary nature of the process, said his company has examined the current site and has even made an offer on one of the houses.
“All told this could be from $500,000 and $5 million worth of investments that need to be made over the next couple of years depending on what we ultimately end up doing,” he said. “We’re not sure what we’re going to do in Cologne… It’s a great community, and we’re happy to be here.”
In other news, council members also approved the vacating portions of Conrad Street, debated providing for uniforms for two public works employees at the cost of $650 to $750, and considered using Klein Bank, in addition to Security Bank, for city funds.
Revisiting the vacant council position, the decision was tabled to the next meeting considering Meyer’s absence and the difficulty of the decision.
Jackie Hamre and Kyle Evenski, both not present at the meeting, are vying for the position vacated by Jill Skaaland, who had announced her resignation in May.
“I’m kind of looking at it if these two names were on the ballot who would I vote for if I didn’t know anything about them,” said Scott Williams. “I’m trying to weigh it all out and basically it’s getting down a flip of a coin.”
In other news, Bill LaRue, representing a group of people in the downtown area fighting a burning nuisance, acknowledged council members for their efforts.
“We’re happy to tell you that he hasn’t burned in 40 days,” he said. “It’s been 40 days and our windows are open, we’ve had no doctors visits, our sinuses are clearing up and we appreciate it very much and we hope you keep it up.”
The Cologne City Council will next meet on Monday, July 15, at 7 p.m.
Contact Adam Gruenewald at [email protected]