Lime Springs uses as much water as Cresco

Tim Courtney and Rod Freidhof speak at Lime Springs Council meeting..

by Marcie Klomp

What?! Lime Springs, population 505, uses as much water as Cresco, population 3,808?

Lime Springs is pumping anywhere from 100,000 to 148,000 gallons of water a day from the well. This is way more water than a town with the population of 505 should be pumping.

After 16-year maintenance person Dennis “Navajo” Grabau was suspended at the Feb. 7, 2012 meeting (Grabau retired on Feb. 14.), Mayor Barb Robinson made a call to Rod Freidhof (Cresco Sewer) and to Tim Courtney (Cresco Water) requesting emergency help with affidavit operations licensing. The next call that went out was to Mike Wade, DNR Environmental Senior Specialist, Wastewater and Water Supply, requesting help and a full inspection of the Lime Springs facilities.

At the March 6 Council meeting Robinson introduced the men to the council.

“I did a quick emergency call to Cresco, and Rod and Tim agreed to help.” They are on the DNR list of “Affidavits for Hire.”

Freidhof elaborated, “Barb called us to see if we could help out since you are without an operator. We are here to help until Lime Springs gets its legs underneath it and we’re willing to help out for as long as it takes for a new person to get certified.” He continued, “Tim and I are doing this personally. This has nothing to do with the City of Cresco.”

Robinson added “This is like anyone else working a part time or second job.”

Council approved a monthly payment of $300 for Courtney and $200 for Freidhof for the Affidavit of their licenses. Courtney was reassured they both were covered by the city’s liability insurance.

Wade and Amber Sauser from the DNR came to Lime Springs on Feb. 15, to go over reports and inspect all facilities. After spending most of the day at the pump houses and going over reports, it was decided they would come back later this spring to inspect the sewer plant.

Robinson stated, “They found our pump house is in need of serious maintenance and repair or replacement. Mike suggested we contact Iowa Rural Water Association, which Lime Springs is a member of, and request help getting some replacement equipment and having some testing done for leaks. He also suggested we contact our pump and well vendor and have them come out and go over a few things.”

Jennifer Schwoob was here from Iowa Rural Water and brought a new loaner composite tester for the sewer plant. Freidhof talked to Wade about the tester and found it did not need replaced . . . yet.

Iowa Rural Water also loaned the city a new digital chlorine test kit until the city can purchase one. The chlorine tester at the water tower is old school, where a color wheel was being used. The price on the new chlorine test kit is being investigated now. The Council approved the purchase, as it is a needed piece of equipment. Estimated cost is somewhere between $400 and $700.

Schwoob will be back in a few weeks to do leak detection testing, to see if they can locate where there may be leaks that need to be fixed. Robinson noted, “Schwoob said she thought she had been here about four years ago and had found several leaks and wondered if they had been repaired.”

Robinson checked the old minutes and found nothing recorded and no bills indicating that a large quantity of leaks were ever fixed around that timeframe. “With the amount of water we are pumping, we may have a huge amount of leaks that will need to be dug up and repaired,” explained the mayor.

Northway Pump & Well were called. They suggested Lime Springs do testing for iron in the water. If there are not high iron amounts in the water then the big iron filters would not have to be replaced, which would be a huge savings. Courtney and Clerk Carla Moser have ordered out iron testing supplies, and tests will be done this coming week.

Applications for the maintenance position were due March 15. Once someone is hired, they will have to take the classes required for the Grade 1 certification process. After the classes are completed, they must be on the job for six months, doing the job under a certified operator before they can even take the exams/tests for the certifications.

They will have to be certified in three categories: Wastewater, Water Distribution and Water Treatment. Depending on the amount of water actually used, if the city is truly using over 100,000 gallons per day, then they will have to become Grade 2 certified, which means more classes and more time on the job and more tests.

Deputy maintenance person Ed Hampe has been doing what he can to help out. He will replace the door to the old water pump house, the trim and caulk where needed. He is also taking many of the daily readings at the water and sewer plants.

The chlorine scale is in bad shape, but Courtney said, “I think you can get by with it for the time being.”

Water meters need replaced on a consistent basis. Council person Kevin Bill reminded Council, “We voted to replace three [meters] per month and the ball got dropped.” Cost per meter is about $80.00.

Obviously all of these required updates need to be paid for somehow.

Water and sewer is supposed to be self-sustainable, which means an increase in water/sewer rates. Four or five years ago, the council voted to increase the rates, but that was never done, so now the City is trying to play catch up. Council agreed with member Gary Klomp when he said, “We’re trying to fix 30 years’ worth of stuff in one year.” Council just needs to find a way to fix the most important things first.

A 10 percent increase has already been added to the budget for 2012-13. In the past, money for equipment maintenance and replacement was never figured into the budget. Now, the budget has a “cushion” for unexpected expenditures of $4,000 in water and $1,000 in sewer. That’s not much, when you consider a new aerolator at the sewer plant costs around $10,000.

One was replaced last fall, and at least two others will need to be replaced in the future. Also, a lift pump was ordered for about $10,000 recently, and two more will need to be replaced.

Moser said “Clerk Net (a helpful tool for city clerks) has been buzzing about everybody raising their rates.” To increase coffers, she suggested raising rates another 5-10 percent or adding a surcharge for a certain amount of time. A 10 percent increase would raise a water bill for a residence that consumes 400 cubic feet of water per month about $3.00. That number goes to $3.79 at 600 cubic feet.

Bill thought a surcharge would be the way to go. “You would raise more money by charging a flat rate of $5.00 per residence and $10.00 per business.”

Moser also found, “We have break down insurance. They may pay towards the repair or the replacement of the lift pump.” This would save money on the already-ordered lift pump.

Robinson added, “Mike Wade has told me to check into DNR SRS loans, low interest loans, and there are some forgivable loans out there for small towns like us. We also need to check with Upper Explorerland for grants, but we cannot really start moving on this until we know exactly what we need to replace or repair or until we get estimates.” For some good news, a few of the expensive updates might be able to be done with little cost to the City.

Another concern for the City is the new Lime Springs Beef LLC business going in at Highway 63. It is unknown what impact it will have on the water and sewer plants. City Engineer George Tekippe was at the Council meeting and is checking on the impact this may have.

Necessary and impending expenses may seem like the downfall of the town, but Lime Springs is trying to keep its head above water. Drowning is not an option for this resilient town.

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