MEETING MINUTES OF THE
PLUM CREEK MUNICIPAL AUTHORITY
A regular meeting of the Board of The Plum Creek Municipal Authority was held on November 20, 2012 at the Plum Creek Municipal Authority Business Office Building, South Manheim Township, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.
Board members present at the meeting were Jim Ridderhoff, Tom Nagle, and Matt Gruber. Also in attendance were Dave Bright (PCMA Engineer), Mike Stewart (PCMA Operations Manager), Joe Zerbe (PCMA Attorney), and property owner Brian Moore.
Jim Ridderhoff called the meeting to order at 6:00 p.m.
The minutes of the regular prior meeting held in September 2012 were reviewed and accepted by motion of Tom Nagle, seconded by Matt Gruber, carried by all.
The Treasurer's reports for September 2012 and October 2012 were reviewed and accepted by motion of Tom Nagle, seconded by Matt Gruber, carried by all.
Mike Stewart reviewed his written report relating to managerial matters (submitted to the Board prior to the meeting) which addressed water and sewage operations. In water matters, he reported that:
In sewage matters:
- Two large water leaks were found that caused a loss of approximately 30 to 40 thousand gallons of water a day. Both leaks are on the customersí sides and repairs are in progress.
- Well #1 has been pumping sediment, especially upon start-up, and has started to pull high amps in one leg of the three-phase power. Kohl Bros. pulled the well pump and did a TV inspection of the well casing and well shaft. The well shaft is heavily encrusted with scale, iron, and manganese. The lower part of the well shaft in the area of the pump appears to have about two inches of encrustation, and the lower part is completely blocked. The well shaft will have to be cleaned out before re-installing the well pump. The Aqua Freed method was discussed by Dave Gettle from Kohl Bros. prior to the TV inspection and is probably the best method to use because it cleans deep into the fissures. The TV inspection showed the well shaft to be straight with no cavernous areas despite the heavy encrustation. Different options for cleaning the well will be looked into.
Mike said the repairs at the sewage treatment plant have been completed since he wrote and distributed his report. He also said that he doesnít have all the options together yet for cleaning out Well #1, but intends to have them soon. He said the well needs to be put back online as soon as possible. He noted that the well is 300 feet deep.
- Both pump trucks are operational at this time.
- The two trucks are being run simultaneously most of the time to catch up on the backlog of pumps.
- A new drive shaft was fabricated for the microscreen filter at the sewage treatment plant, and a few associated parts were needed. Repairs are in progress.
Mike said that right now the other three wells can keep up with the demand, but if any of the other three wells went down Well #1 would have to be put back online within a few days or weíll run out of water. He said Well #1 being down by itself doesnít constitute an emergency unless another well went down. If that happened, weíd be in an emergency situation within a few days.
Jim asked if the sediment buildup in Well #1 is a common thing or if it is unusual. Dave Bright said that itís somewhat unusual for the buildup to be as thick as it is. Kohl Bros. said it wasnít unusual to have the encrustation at the top of the well, but itís not generally seen that deep in the well. Matt asked what causes that to happen, and Mike said itís the iron and manganese in the water precipitating out, but Mike said Well #1 was the first well to be drilled and it has never been cleaned out except for acid washing which didnít help that much. He said he checked a lot of sources to find out which would be the best way to handle it, and the Aqua Freed method seems to be the best solution.
Dave said the first things that should be done with Well #1 is to have the encrustation cleaned out before anything else. He said the Aqua Freed wouldnít be effective with the kind of buildup it has. He said any well driller would have the equipment to do that, which would include scrubbing and raking the walls to get all the encrustation out. Mike said that the well may not need the Aqua Freed treatment if the encrustation is removed. Dave said the next step would be determined based on the composition of the removed material. He also said he thinks that the Aqua Freed method may be a proprietary process and somebody else may not have the authority to use it.
Property owner, Brian Moore, asked a number of questions relating to the increase in the holding tank rates and a long discussion ensued. Jim explained that for many years the Board has tried to hold down the cost of pumping holding tanks. About half of all properties utilizing holding tanks are owned by full-time residents. Holding tank properties were originally meant for part-time vacation homes. The PCMA was not charging holding tank people the actual cost of emptying their tanks because the full-time people had them emptied very often. But economics caught up to that way of thinking and the PCMA cannot utilize that same philosophy any longer. The holding tank pump charges have to be brought up to the cost of emptying them. Jim said holding tanks hold about 4,000 gallons whereas septic tanks generally have about 1,000 gallons. But the cost of emptying a holding tank costs about the same as it does to process a septic tank. Tom added that holding tanks are one-fourth less concentrated than a septic tank but thereís four times as much of it. So the cost for processing ends up about the same. Jim said the rate structure was changed to become viable. Had it not done so, the Authority would have been bankrupt within three to four years. He said the PCMA just couldnít keep offering the pumping service at a cost less than what it costs to process it.
Jim said they realize that itís a tremendous burden on the holding tank people, so they chose to raise the rates in steps rather than putting it up all at once to match the septic tank rates. Thatís why the PCMA recommends switching to a septic system if they can. He said it makes no difference to the PCMA whether customers have septics or holding tanks. But it would be economically more feasible for holding tank owners to look into switching to septic systems. Tom also said they looked into letting outside haulers come in and pump but it would not have benefited the customers to do so because their pumping costs would rise dramatically. Jim said, in the final analysis, a larger disproportionate number of the people were paying a much higher operating cost because the smallest percentage of people were paying substantially less for many years.
All of the people have to pay their part of the costs for pumping both holding tanks and septics. Jim said the Board tried to hold the prices as low as possible for the people in the Lake Wynonah development and, after several years of operating at a deficit, the Board was advised by the auditors and accountants that they had to change the prices or the PCMA would go out of business. Tom added that operating costs rose significantly over the years and the revenues could no longer keep up with the expenses. To correct the shortfall, after considering a number of options, the best possible solution for all the customers was chosen.
Brian asked about the boil-water advisories, and Mike explained that we have to issue them by law. He also explained why the development canít be sectioned off into smaller sections to isolate the boil alerts to the areas in which the repairs are made. He said even if the water could be shut off only to a small area, the water will run through the system when itís turned back on again, making the entire development susceptible to possible contamination. Mike also said we were only able to section off a small area one time that he could remember.
In engineering matters, Dave Bright said that he had nothing to report.
In legal matters, Joe Zerbe said he attended to routine matters such as satisfaction and filing of municipal liens. He also looked over and rewrote the new resolution to conduct certain business transactions on behalf of the Authority. Other than that, he said he had nothing to report.
The matter of using recapped tires if possible came up and Jim said a suggestion was made from Kenís Tires to keep the old tires and have them recapped. That way we would always be getting back our own tires when theyíre recapped. Mike said he had no objections to trying them to see how it goes. Matt said he was pretty sure as long as the side walls were good they can be recapped.
The Board discussed the new pump truck specifications prepared by Tom and PCMA employee Mickey Sinitsky, with input from Matt Gruber. There were a few finishing touches to be put in the specs that would make them ready for bidding purposes. Upon motion by Tom Nagle, seconded by Matt Gruber, and carried by all, approval to advertise for bids for a new pump truck was made, and the bid notification will be advertised when the final additions are incorporated into the bid packet. Matt asked Tom to tell Mickey to make sure to we go with the best front axle rating possible for the type of driving that has to be done along with consideration for the terrain in Lake Wynonah.
The preliminary 2013 budget, prepared by Jim Ridderhoff, was distributed to the rest of the Board for review with the final draft to be approved at the January, 2013 meeting.
A new Resolution to appoint officers to conduct business on behalf of the Authority was approved and accepted upon motion by Tom Nagle, seconded by Matt Gruber, and carried by all.
During the last audit, it was suggested that the PCMA think about changing banks, as its current institution is charging fees which were higher than any interest credited. In the course of inquiring about truck loans with a variety of banks, Jim also gathered information as to checking and savings accounts. After discussing different options, it was decided that the PCMA would start transitioning away from Sovereign Bank to Riverview Bank. The motion to change banks was made by Tom Nagle, seconded by Matt Gruber, carried by all.
Jen gave her report on the billing software companies that were contacted, and the software tested, and she suggested trying a company called MuniBilling because they seemed to be the right fit and it would cost well under $5,000 a year. They also require no start-up fees or contracts. The reason for switching to another software package is because Jen is expecting to retire in 2014 and she was the person who wrote and maintained the custom designed software currently in use. There will be nobody on staff to add to it, change it, or maintain it. Upon motion by Jim Ridderhoff, seconded by Matt Gruber, and carried by all, the Board approved the MuniBilling software to replace the software currently in use. Jen added that both systems (old and new) will be maintained and used simultaneously until the Authority is certain of the capabilities of the new software billing programs.
There being no further business, Matt Gruber motioned for adjournment, Tom Nagle seconded the motion, carried by all. The meeting was adjourned by Jim Ridderhoff at 8:15 pm.
Meeting minutes were taken, prepared, and submitted by Jennifer Hoy.