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A work session was held at the conclusion of the May 15 meeting of the Wellman City Council to discuss the direction the city planned to take when their PeopleService Inc. contract expires in November.
The new proposed annual contract comes with a price tag of $176,080, which would cover everything inside of the fences. If the city decided not to renew, the chemical costs would be about the same, but there would be other costs, like costs for training, testing, and the purchase of some equipment that PeopleService brought to the table when they signed on.
According to Mayor Ryan Miller, if the city would hire their own operator at about $30 an hour, he considered the costs to be pretty much a push.
The general sense from the council is they were ready to move on.
When the contract was signed nearly five years ago, the deal had been deemed necessary.
“At that point, we did not have our own operator. We were kind of left in a no-win situation. Originally, when we went with them we did it because we knew for five years we didn’t have to worry about it,” Mayor Ryan Miller said.
Winding back up in that situation is the only concern councilmember Fern Bontrager would have in moving on from the company.
City Administrator Kelly Litwiller said that according to the contract with PeopleService, the city cannot rehire any PeopleSEervice employees for the period of a year after the terminations of the contract.
Litwiller is hopeful that the city can negotiate with the company to keep current operator Josh Dean at the expiration of the contract. The council members all agreed to let Litwiller commence negotiations on that front.
Water issues also loomed large in the normal session, as Andrew Marsh from HR Green was present for his monthly update. On one issue Marsh was tasked for investigating for the council, he had to report back with some bad news.
At the wishes of the council, he looked at the possibility that the city could rehab Well 3 to make it a viable full-time option instead of paying for a new well. Even though that process would be much cheaper, Marsh stated there were still a number of drawbacks with the scenario and held firm in his suggestion that the city start planning for a new well at an estimated cost of $750,000.
He also researched the possibility of using lightly used membranes from a pharmaceutical company as compared to buying new membranes for the water treatment plant. The cost is better, $18,000 compared to $25,000, but Marsh suggested that they check with the Department of Natural Resources before committing those funds to make sure such a move was acceptable.
The council members advised Marsh to move ahead with his letter.
He did have some positive news, however. In repairing the leaks, one leak may be bigger than initially thought. A leak that was noted to make repairs on was timed at leaking 40 gallons a minute, good for 1.6 million dollars a month and would go a long way to closing the gap between the amount of water the city billed for and the amount the plant pumps in a month.
Construction on the waste water treatment plant is still on target and should be ready next month.