Kevin Graves, standing, of WHKS, updates Wykoff's city council on wastewater treatment plant construction planning progress, citing better prospects once the government reopened.  <br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 --><br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->
Kevin Graves, standing, of WHKS, updates Wykoff's city council on wastewater treatment plant construction planning progress, citing better prospects once the government reopened.

Wykoff's city council received some welcome news during its October meeting, held last Tuesday due to the Columbus Day holiday. WHKS engineer Kevin Graves reported that progress in planning a new wastewater treatment plant - an operation that was put on hold last month due to funding difficulties - is now mostly back on track.

"This month's update on the wastewater treatment facility...Rural Development, with the cost overrun, requires a subsequent loan application, a new application and an amendment to the preliminary engineering report that was done in 2010 and 2011," Graves reported to the council. "We've re-evaluated all the feasible alternatives to do the most effective thing for Wykoff's wastewater treatment needs. We want to be more aggressive, with a mid-October deadline. Everything's ready to go, but with the government shutdown, Rural Development is closed. We have the amendment ready to turn in so we can try to be near the top of their list.

"The project need remains the same as it was three years ago, and the equipment is not getting any younger and is requiring more maintenance costs. As far as design flows are concerned, we included the last few years' data, and it stayed the same. The unknown portion is Rural Development's time element, but we'd like to solicit bids in January, take them in February, and be ready in March 2014."

Graves reviewed the wastewater treatment plant options the council originally considered, noting, "stabilization ponds are not a good option in the karst topography. Regionalization - sending wastewater to a nearby community's plant - won't work because Fountain is not able to handle it, and Spring Valley is not willing to take it on. The other option is a deactivated sludge package plant, what we've been working on. The bottom line is $2.3 million, but the current forecasted construction cost bids came in at $2.5 million. This bidding climate...things are likely to stay the same. In addition to construction costs are soft costs and contingency funding, so it totals approximately $2.9 million.

"There were questions raised at the last meeting regarding engineering fees. We did move ahead with this, because time is of the essence for the city. With the shutdown, we have no specific answers, but WHKS has been working for the city for 15 years, since 1998, and we value the relationship we have. Any additional fees will be only to provide work that is of benefit to the city."

Mayor Lyman Hare inquired of Graves, "You mentioned any additional costs. Would it be improper for us to ask if we can come up and meet with your supervisors? We're not doubting you, but I'd like it if I and another council member could come up."

Graves agreed that Hare and a council member, Megan Larson, who volunteered, could come to the WHKS offices for a meeting as soon as one could be arranged.

The council also received news that the city maintenance foreman hiring candidate, who had given serious consideration to taking the position following city maintenance foreman Al Williams's retirement, had chosen to remain in his current workplace and advance as his supervisor retires. That raised the question of whether Williams and part-time city maintenance worker Harvey Schmidt would be forced to work above and beyond their pension-allotted hours.

Williams arrived just as the council was discussing the matter, and he explained that he can log no more than 1,040 hours per year, but Schmidt, who attended the meeting from the beginning, stated that if necessary, he could take on extra hours.

Just how to attract and retain someone such as the candidate the city intended to hire came next on the agenda, as the council needs to employ a Class B wastewater treatment plant operator 60 days before the plant opens in 2014.

Wykoff's fire chief, Wade Baker, was in attendance at the meeting for other purposes, but he suggested that the council offer candidates Class B licensing pay at the outset in order to retain them, instead of waiting until the plant is operational, since the city will need someone to apprentice with Williams in other city maintenance functions before that point in time.

The council then spoke about where to advertise to reach potential candidates and how soon they might be able to hire someone, and also approved Williams's retirement severance pay.

The Kingsland Middle School tennis courts may soon become a parking lot if the city chooses to arrange a transaction with the school district. Hare stated, "That would make a nice parking lot. The school district already thought it was ours. They're interested in selling, and we're short on parking, so we'd have to make an offer. I'd like an OK from the council to see what they have in mind."

Councilor Rocky Vreeman said, "It's a good idea, but I don't know about buying property right now."

Councilor Jeremy Comstock commented, "I guess it wouldn't hurt if we find out."

Councilors addressed the possibility of sealing cracks in city streets before it becomes too cold to do so, heard that the police contract from the county would be in need of further review before anyone signs it, approved a water rate increase of $1.70 for the first 1,000 gallons used by a water customer from $17 to $18.70, and accepted a hardship letter from a resident who shared that she would not be able to pay her bill on time but would pay it. The council agreed that while the letter excused the resident from having her water turned off, the city would incur a penalty on her utility bill to prevent setting a precedent for others who submit hardship letters regarding their utility bills.

The next Wykoff city council meeting is set for Tuesday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m. at City Hall, as Monday, Nov. 11, is Veterans' Day, a legal holiday.