Gilbert wastewater plant nearing completion

GILBERT — Construction of a multi-million-dollar city wastewater plant is more than 90 percent complete, Ron LaFond, an official with design firm Stantec, told the Gilbert City Council Tuesday, and the system has been up and running since November. But Mayor Karl Oberstar Jr. said in a text message the volume of unnecessary water entering the system must be reduced, “otherwise this plant will still not be big enough.”

Talk of a new sewage disposal system began five or six years ago, the mayor said, “because the State of Minnesota PCA (Pollution Control Agency) pressed the issue. They did not like how Gilbert was treating the wastewater.... so much water... so much mercury in that water.” The federal PCA has determined that mercury can cause kidney damage. “It was a long-standing problem for Gilbert, but I guess enough was enough with the MPCA,” Oberstar said.

“Gilbert needs to stop the inflow and infiltration of unnecessary water going to the sewer plant. (There needs to be) more work on in-home and outside-home pipelines, to keep rainwater and sewage water separated. So only sewer water (wastewater) goes to the plant and gets treated,” Oberstar said in his text message.

General contractor for the project is Magney Construction Inc. Stantec is the engineering firm which designed the system. Gilbert operations director Sam Lautigar and John Jamnick, city engineer, meet with Magney and Stantec officials at least once a month. Construction started in late 2017. Total completion is expected in October. The mayor said the city has received some $11.5 million in grants, “but still has a bond for $5 million to pay off in 20 years, which is the $19.50 service charge you see on your sewer bill.”

At the meeting LaFond addressed an issue of replacing 26 cables needed for the project. “The contractor has been trying to find an economical source for steel cable” that complies with guidelines of the American Iron and Steel Institute. Non-domestic steel cable is less costly, LaFond said, adding that he knows the mayor and city councilors want to use American-made materials.

To purchase American-made wire cable, the order has to be a minimum 5,000 feet, LaFond said, and only 1,200 feet is needed. The cost for 5,000 feet would be $28,000, a figure that LaFond called “pretty crazy.” Another option that LaFond described as the best one is cable that would cost $10,737 and would provide the strength needed.

Councilor Rebecca Robich made a motion to table the vote until the next meeting, and the council agreed.

Also, City Clerk and Administrator Jim Paulsen discussed the city’s problem with inflow and infiltration. Inflow refers to clear water from rain and melting snow that improperly drains into the sanitary sewer system. Infiltration refers to ground water that leaks into the sanitary sewer system through cracked or faulty sewer pipes. Homes in the city are being inspected. The city’s water storage tanks and the water tower need some repairs on leaks, Paulsen said.

In other business, Fire Chief Mark Heitzman discussed a grant application due by March 13 so that the department can purchase new gear that would be compatible with equipment of Eveleth and Fayal Township. The fire departments had been denied a grant when the three units applied together, so the Gilbert Fire Department decided to apply on their own, Heitzman said. Voting to allow the department to proceed with the grant application were Mayor Oberstar and councilors Jeremy Skenzich and Rocco Leoni, and voting no were councilors Robich and Joseph Pulis. There was no discussion.

Also, the council discussed recommendations made by the cemetery board. The first proposal is that a family grave plot can have only one headstone. The second proposal is that it would be beneficial if fill excavated during the Highway 37 reconstruction could be used in the cemetery expansion, as the area has ledge rock close to the surface. The matter will be discussed with the contractor.

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