Sewer talks top Watertown agenda

Jared Felkins • Mar 21, 2018 at 7:35 PM

The Watertown City Council discussed a handful of items pertaining to the sewer department Tuesday evening during its meeting. 

A contract between Dale Smith and his company, MS Environmental Services, and the city to manage sewer services and maintenance was up for renewal and drew some attention from the council and Mayor Mike Jennings. 

The council first brought up the contract renewal in December, but since deferred a decision on it until Tuesday. Jennings brought up a source of contention with compensation for Smith whose current contract with the city ends June 30. 

In the contract, Smith asked the city to increase his pay from $52,602 per year to $70,000 per year with a 4-percent increase each year of the four-year deal, which would bring his annual pay to about $78,740 by 2022. Smith has a similar agreement with Alexandria. 

“What you’re getting, and what Alexandria is getting, is dirt cheap,” Smith said. 

Jennings, however, disagreed and said he had issue with the 4-percent annual increase. 

“I’m ready to go on the contract, but I’m not ready to go on the 4 percent,” Jennings said. 

Smith conceded to drop the annual pay increase to 3 percent, and the council approved the contract on a 4-2 vote with aldermen Brandon Howard and Tom Nix in disagreement. 

“We’ve got all of this bearing down on us from the state on all sides,” Jennings said, referring to a list of compliance issues the city will have to deal with beginning next year. “I’m confident Dale has done a good job and will continue to do a good job.”

Prior to discussion on his contract, Smith notified the council about residents flushing baby wipes, and how the wipes continuously clogged pipes at the wastewater plant and at pump stations. He urged residents not to flush the baby wipes, because they don’t break down like toilet paper and other materials designed to be flushed. 

Bill Maasen approached the council and asked if he could get approval to build two homes and connect them to sewer on Richland Avenue to replace homes that previously burned. 

Jennings informed Maasen of a moratorium on additional sewer connections in that area of the city due to previous compliance issues with the state regarding wastewater overflow. Jennings said he would submit a letter to the state to ask permission for Maasen to replace the homes since the moratorium concerns additional and not replacement sewer flow. Jennings said he currently has requests in to the state regarding other similar building projects in that area of the city. 

The council also unanimously passed an ordinance to transfer funds from the water and sewer budget to the general fund and parks and recreation budget. Jennings said the city apparently transferred nearly $84,000 to the general fund and more than $225,000 to the parks and recreation budget in violation of state law. The ordinance corrected the transfers and outlined procedures to prevent future improper transfers. 

“I don’t want to give you this like it is now, but I don’t have a choice,” said Jennings, who said he planned to send the ordinance to the state comptroller’s office next week. “I feel like I’ve been beaten from all parts of the state, and I’m tired of it.”

In other business, Watertown police Chief Bill Laney asked the council to approve the purchase of three 2006-model police cars from Bell Meade for $17,000. He said the cars are fully equipped and feature cameras and radar speed detection devices. Each has about 100,000 miles on it.  

“We’re not investing a lot of money,” Jennings said. “That’s not a lot of money for what we’re getting.” 

The council approved the sale unanimously. 

The Watertown community Easter egg hunt will be March 31 from 1-3 p.m. at Three Forks Community Park.

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