Harrisburg City Council had in recent meetings discussed replacing a certain number of water meters a year for the next several years in an effort to get the city's 23 percent water loss reigned in.
Water Superintendent Kelly Hefner at Thursday's meeting proposed a more aggressive strategy of replacing all meters, citywide, in a six-month period.
Hefner said to change out all meters would cost an estimated $1.5 million and the effort would pay for itself in seven years. He anticipates that move alone would cut the water loss amount to at least 15 percent. Waterloo, Mo., took that step and cut a 22 percent water loss to 8 percent several years ago and have maintained 8 to 9 percent loss ever since.
He expects the city would save $233,000 a year.
"If we don't do anything, over the next 20 years we're looking to lose $5 million in revenue with what we're losing right now," Hefner said.
He proposes funding the project through a lease purchase.
The system he is proposing uses a radio tower that reads all the meters at any time needed and that the system would be in synch with the city's water provider, Saline Valley Conservancy District, so the two entity's readings of the water provided would be the same, or "apples to apples."
Hefner said the move would also do away with the need for meter readers and proposed one water department employee position could be eliminated after a retirement of a current employee.
Council approved advertising for bids for the project, though the city is not committed to embarking on the replacement.
Hefner also brought to council's attention a problem with a 10-year contract with the LOCIS Inc. software he says was improperly signed by an employee rather than an official with authority to sign.
Former Treasurer Charles Will signed the document.
Council proposed City Attorney Todd Bittle reach out to the company to try to renegotiate the length of the contract from 10 years to one year as the city does with other contracts.
The software is used by the water department and treasurer's office.
Hefner said there was another issue with the software brought up during a recent audit.
Previous councils wrote off some water debts between the years of 1996 and 2010 as uncollectible. But those uncollected debts are included in accounts receivable in the new software in the amount owed of $3,675.
"It's making our books look like a wreck," Hefner said.
He said LOCIS could remove those bill written off.
Hefner said bills owed since May 1, 2010, are considered collectible. There is $773 in uncollected bills owed since that time and he said those would be turned over to a collections agency.
Council agreed Bittle should pursue a new contract.
Page 2 of 3 - Will contacted the Daily Register/Daily Journal following the meeting to "set the record straight," he said. He was not at the meeting, but was listening to the meeting broadcast over the WEBQ Web site.
Will contends the city treasurer — who he considers to be an official rather than an employee — had the authority to sign the LOCIS contract and acted only after receiving the approval of council.
"The contract with LOCIS was approved by the city council. I presented it, they approved it and it took a city official to sign it," Will said.
"It is in the minutes. They approved the contract."
He also said the LOCIS software inserted nothing into accounts receivable that was not in the original software.
"It was converted exactly what was in the sewer and water department software," Will said.
Leaf and limb site
Hefner told council there is a problem with local tree cutters and landscapers working outside the city and hauling debris to the city's burn site that is supposed to be used only by the city and its citizens. He said he followed one tree cutter to his job site which was in Ledford. He said managing the loads dumped takes much time for city workers. He proposed a large sign be placed in the area indicating no commercial operations are permitted.
Council indicated this has been a long-standing issue and that as council is looking at developing the Veterans Drive area, there may be a need to reconsider the use of the leaf and limb site. Commissioner Ron Fearheiley said he would like to see the burn site shut down.
Harrisburg Clean Up Month
Mayor Eric Gregg said he wants to declare April Harrisburg Clean Up Month.
"This month I want to encourage everyone to take the initiative to pick up trash," he said.
"He wants Harrisburg to be presentable and said, "a lot of that work starts with us as citizens."
He encourages anyone who sees trash and a garbage can to make the effort to pick it up and put it in.
During the meeting:
- Council awarded bids for the Hazel Street Water Main Extension Project near the cemetery on property recently annexed by the city to J.M. Jones in the amount of $144,257.
- n J.M. Jones also submitted the low bid for the Veterans Drive Water Main Extension in the amount of $64,602. Council will not approve that bid until the TIF Joint Review Board has completed the process of approving funding for that project with TIF money. There will be a public hearing on whether to spend TIF money on additional project not approved in the original TIF 8 a.m. April 30 at City Hall.
Page 3 of 3 - Gregg reported at a reconvened Joint TIF Review Board meeting Thursday morning "there was no dissension on the projects."
- Follow DeNeal at twitter.com/tkane_DR