Archive for Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Bonner council gets a reminder of the expense of water, wastewater utilities

May 13, 2015

Prior to its regular Monday meeting, the Bonner Springs City Council had a field trip of sorts.

With the millions of dollars the city of Bonner Springs has spent or will be spending on its water and wastewater plants and infrastructure and the 2016 budget planning sessions approaching, it was a good time for the council, including three new members, to see the water operations up close and personal.

“I thought it was a good time to go visit your money, for you rate payers,” John “Jack” Helin, city manger, told the council members as they headed east to the water and wastewater plants.

The city operates its water and wastewater utilities with enterprise funds, which, Helin reminded the council, means the utilities are operated as a separate business, funded by user rates and not property or sales taxes. The council must approve rate increases however, and gradual increases have been made in the last few years and are still to come to ensure that the rates can fund general operations and indebtedness for big improvements.

One of those big improvements was the new $600,000 backwash settling tank. Put into operation just three weeks ago, the tank was required by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment at the city’s water treatment plant because the city is discharging water into the Kansas River.

The city is now required to capture and "treat" the backwash water that is discharged due to normal operations of the filtration process. The filter backwash water contains mineral solids that are removed during the filtration process and chlorine that can be harmful to aquatic life in the Kansas River.

The new tank allows the solids to settle out and a chemical will be pumped into the discharge flow-stream to eliminate chlorine in the water.

The council also viewed relatively new improvements like the SCADA monitoring system for both the water and wastewater plants, which has a double firewall to protect it from hackers, and a new sixth water well.

Rick Sialler, utilities director, also noted some of the repairs needed, like two wastewater pumps that must be replaced for a total of $15,000. These repairs mean the department has already used its entire 2015 wastewater repair budget, and it’s only May.

“This is high-dollar equipment down there,” he told the council. “It’s important that you understand all this money is why we keep asking for increases.”

Speaking of water problems, during the council’s regular meeting, a Bonner Springs resident told the council she would be filing an insurance claim against the city.

During the public comments period, Telesa Tinberg said the recent flushing of water and wastewater lines caused wastewater to back up into her home, damaging several rooms, despite the fact that the drain pipes had been replaced fairly recently.

She said her homeowner’s insurance does not cover water damage from drain pipes — something she didn’t realize even as a professional insurance agent of 31 years. She added she also feels the city was at fault and had difficulty communicating with some city staff members.

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