By David Hazledine
WARSAW — Lakeland Regional Sewer District Board of Trustees held a monthly meeting June 16, wherein members addressed a seasonal increase in pump failures as well as a rise in costs for replacements.
Astbury Water Technologies’ Don Neff, LRSD plant manager, reported an increase in pump failures in June, with six as of June 16. According to Neff, it is not uncommon for there to be a spike at this time of year as people return to their lake homes.
However, Neff also reported higher prices for new and rebuilt pumps from Gasvoda, with new pumps costing roughly $3,000 apiece. “They’re going to start raking us with prices,” he opined. In contrast, Neff said American Pump, another local provider, quoted $2,400 for new pumps. He had not yet received a rebuilt price.
The district’s roughly 1,400 pumps were manufactured by Crane Barnes and purchased with five year warranties, many of which are expiring “as we speak,” said Neff.
Board President Jim Haney requested Casey Erwin of DLZ Engineering provide a master list of pumps and start-up dates to assist Astbury in tracking pumps. Haney also suggested the district spot-check a small percentage of the pumps for accuracy.
Erwin noted the district was in a “unique situation” at its inception, when it was able to deal with Crane Barnes more directly to get reduced prices on pumps and grinders through Gasvoda.
Now, however, as Neff pointed out, an alternative dealer could “save the district a lot of money.”
Gasvoda came up again in relation to an ongoing drainage problem at 45 EMS B48A. A riser intended to lift a grinder lid out of standing water was delivered by Gasvoda in the wrong size. “We’re stuck until they send the right size,” Neff reported.
Treasurer Mike DeWald reported the district currently has roughly $2,023,000 in various accounts; $789,000 is owed to USDA. He added collections are currently $14,300 better than budget predictions.
Expenses, on the other hand are at approximately $285,000, $24,000 over budget. DeWald attributed this to purchases for resale and drainage assessment, and he expects the overages to “take care of themselves over time.” Monthly payments for May were $53,822.67.
In the matter of unpaid balances owed the district from former property owners, the board voted to send three balances under $100 to a collection agency if not paid by June 30. Two other balances on properties now connected, and on which the district has collected a “fair amount of failure to connect penalties,” according to Haney, are to be written off as bad debt.
The board agreed to table a decision on property owner responsibility to maintain electrical service for a grinder. LRSD attorney Chris Nusbaum informed members there is currently language in the use/rate ordinance stating the owner/user shall maintain the grinder so as not to cause disruption of the sewer works. The maximum penalty for not doing so is $2,500 per violation per day.
The matter came to light when a shared grinder overflowed after one property owner’s electrical went out at the same time the other property owner had shut off power in the home and to the grinder while away. Haney noted it was the first such incident in the district after four years of operation.
The board also voted not to pursue a SWIF grant currently offered by Indiana Finance Authority. Applications are due by July 15. Factors in the decision included the lack of specification on what percentage the district would be required to pay and whether the district would be required to pay the full amount up front. DeWald also noted the operations fund would have less than $50,000 to put toward a project if the district held to its policy of keeping $250,000 on hold. The grant also requires an asset management plan, which Erwin estimated could cost anywhere from $15,000-$40,000. Erwin also said he believed the grant would be available again in 2022, though there was no guarantee.
Frank Kurth noted the district was “so new” it was unlikely some requests would be granted; Bob Marcuccilli agreed, citing the 5-year-old pumps. DeWald summed up by saying it seemed as though they were “looking for ways to spend money.”
The lone vote against the decision was from Joe Cleland, who said the district should try for any funds it could.
Lastly, the board agreed to allow DLZ to provide Jones Petrie Rafinski with LRSD mapping information for a small area near Shoe Lake for its use in the Tippecanoe Chapman Lakes Regional Sewer District project. Haney also stipulated DLZ craft a letter explaining the information does not relinquish responsibility to call 811 for locates.