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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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BPM Inc Proposes New Wastewater Partnership

Issue Date: December 13, 2018

The City of Peshtigo and BPM Inc may again be headed toward a partnership in operating the city's wastewater treatment plant (WWTP), which also serves the paper mill. At a meeting of the Water and Sewer (W&S) Utility Committee on Tuesday, Dec. 11, BPM Inc General Manager Jim Koronkiewicz presented a proposal through which the paper mill would get some rate reductions, and in return provide Operator In Charge services plus assistance with electrical and mechanical maintenance for the WWTP.

Koronkiewicz said if no agreement is reached by April 1 BPM Inc will be inclined to start the permitting process for constructing its own private wastewater treatment facility. "Should BPM construct its own facility the City residents would see dramatic increases in their costs associated with wastewater treatment," he cautioned.

He said if the mill does construct its own plant the equipment, buildings and aeration basins could be located on the old pulp mill property on the banks of the Peshtigo River directly across from Riverfront Park. He said no decision has been made, "...but I want it known that we're looking at this." He added that depending on the outcome of negotiations, other uses for the old pulp mill property could also be considered.

He noted currently the mill's effluent flow pipe connects with the city system on East Front Street near the old railroad bridge. It could be disconnected there and a new transfer pipe could then be installed under the street and follow the "railroad" right-of-way to the old pulp mill property. It

Committee Chair Tom Gryzwa and members Dan Seymour and Fred Meintz agreed to consider the proposal, and Gryzwa said they will set up a special meeting if necessary, but that probably will not happen in the next several weeks due to the holidays and winter vacation plans.

In past years the city and the mill shared use and ownership of the city's wastewater treatment facility and when the new WWTP was built it was operated by Badger Paper Mills and then BPM Inc. until the city decided to end that partnership. At that time the city's Public Works Director was put in charge of plant operations and maintenance.

Wastewater disposal costs have risen. For more than two years Koronkiewicz has been asking the committee to help find ways to cut their price. In a prepared statement presented to the committee at Tuesday's meeting Koronkiewicz said BPM Inc. has been investigating the increasing costs associated with water and sewer services provided by the city. "Several proposals have been reviewed and cost analyses done." He said the savings estimates he came up with are tentative and more work is needed to verify them.

He said BPM Inc is seeking ways to work with the City of Peshtigo on utilization of the existing Water Treatment facility and its costs to insure future stability and growth.

The BPM Inc proposal was for an 18 percent reduction of quarterly fixed charge to Class C customers; a 10 percent reduction in fees for volume flow, BOD and TSS, which he estimated would cut the BPM price by about $65,000 a year. He asked for rates guaranteed for three years.

In return, he offered to have BPM provide Operator In Charge services for the WWTP at no charge for three years, and provide assistance with electrical and mechanical maintenance, all to be coordinated through the Operator In Charge, the City Engineer and plant operators.

In connection with the discussion of a possible BPM decision to build a private wastewater disposal facility on the old pulp mill property, Koronkiewicz referred to a recent Peshtigo Times news report on the Nov. 30 meeting of the Fire, Lighting and Building Committee in which Alderman Archer Leupp was quoted as saying that the city has been working with BPM Inc, "trying to convince them to sell the property to the city..." Koronkiewicz said he was asked if there was a possibility that BPM, Inc. would sell, but there had been no negotiating and no working together on that issue.

Leupp, who was on hand for the W&S Committee meeting, said development of the old pulp mill property into an attractive area with store fronts, a boardwalk with a cafe, bait and tackle shop, restaurant and park with playground equipment as well as perhaps a small hotel or apartments as discussed at the committee meeting is his dream, but agreed aside from a simple question to Koronkiewicz that there have been no negotiations with BPM, Inc.

It was agreed that both the city and BPM, Inc. will do further work to verify figures that will be considered when the special meeting is held, and the committee moved on to other matters, which included review of the proposed 2019 Water Utility budget.

Gryzwa said water rates had just been increased because of recommendations from the auditor, so that utility should be in good financial shape for the coming year and they should be able to put some money away for future major maintenance and improvement projects.

Assistant Clerk/Treasurer Anita Morois said they had just received approval from the Public Service Commission for that rate increase to go into effect on Dec. 20. The increased prices will show up on first quarter water bills that are to be sent out in April.

The budget projects $847,505 revenue for 2019, up from $818,270 projected last year. Expenditures are estimated at $580,129, which is a drop from the $607,936 budgeted for 2018. Morois pointed out that interest on the water system debt is included in the budget, but payments on the loans is not. Those payments come from the capital expenditures accounts.

The first sewer loan will be paid off in 2022, but the next one will not be paid off until 2032. The water loan is to be paid off in 2026.

Public Works Director George Cowell said staffing will remain the same. The budget provides for a 1 percent increase in salaries and an increase in the allocation for electricity. Morois noted there are three electric bills for the utility - one for each of the three wells.

Seymour asked about an apparent flip flop in allocations for materials and contracted work, and Cowell explained most of the repair work is done by his personnel rather than contractors so he increased provisions for purchase of materials and cut the allocation for contractors.

Cowell reported on some maintenance issues, including flooding at Well No. 3 on East Park Drive that occurred when the backwash system kept pouring water into the first floor of the structure until it started pouring out the doors and was reported by police. There was no significant damage because the only electrical equipment down there is the sump pump Cowell said.

Gryzwa mentioned problems with people flushing disposable wipes down the toilets. He said there had been a great TV program showing the difference between breakdown of the wipes versus toilet paper. Toilet paper basically dissolves, while the wipes clump up and eventually collect other materials and cause costly and possibly damaging sewer blockages.

Cowell mentioned a blockage this month caused by clumped up wipes in the six inch sewer main crossing the Peshtigo River He said luckily they caught it before there was an overflow.

Requests were repeated for residents to be careful not to flush things like baby wipes, which should be thrown in the garbage instead.

That brought mention of a clogged sewer on McGraw Street caused by a mop head that seemed to have been there for a long, long time.

The next committee meeting is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 15.


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