CAMANCHE — The Camanche City Council held a special Committee of the Whole session Tuesday night at the Camanche Fire Department to re-examine wastewater treatment plant options.

The council scheduled the special session at the council meeting held Aug. 28 after discussing the potential for losing a $550,000 Community Development Block Grant from the Iowa Department of Economic Development. At that meeting, Camanche City Administrator Tom Roth said the grant could be in jeopardy if IDED did not have a definitive answer on the city’s WWTP plan by Sept. 30.

On Tuesday, City Engineer Dan Solchenberger explained the history of the issue and the estimated rates Camanche citizens would be charged under several different options. Solchenberger said the current rate citizens are charged is $2.60 per 1,000 gallons. He said if improvements are made to the existing plant, through the grant funding and approximately $800,000 from the city, the rate would increase to $3.60. He said additional improvements would need to be made and said that with the cost of those upgrades in 2015, the rate would increase to $4.20. Solchenberger said the rate would be $4.90 for Camanche to join the new Clinton WWTP and if the city opted to build a new plant, the rate could be $5.90 per 1,000 gallons.

“The bottom line is, no matter which option we go with... we’re going to have a rate increase,” said Solchenberger.

He explained the numbers are estimates based on figures currently available and said the costs could come down if Clinton receives grant funding for the plant project. Solchenberger added that joining Clinton in the joint WWTP would have its advantages in that an increased load capability would be available to Camanche for potential industrial development and a new plant with better technology could mean less operating staff. He noted the Iowa Department of Natural Resources looks favorably on a regional plant serving multiple communities.

Solchenberger said Clinton would install a flow meter at the new plant to determine the flow amount from Camanche and the city would be billed based on the flow to the system.

Camanche resident Pete Walters told the council that if the city can keep its own plant and pay less money than connecting to the Clinton plant, it should, because then Clinton could dictate how the rates would be increased in the future. Solchenberger noted Camanche City Attorney Tom Lonergan has been working on a 28E Agreement with Clinton city representatives in order to establish a governing structure for the WWTP board.

Lonergan said the agreement sets up a political entity with a six-person board, featuring three representatives from Camanche and three representatives from Clinton. He remarked the board would set the rates and review them annually, but commented that a strict formula details what factors set the rates. He said if a dispute could not be resolved among the board, an arbitrator would be brought in and if no solution resulted, the issue could go to district court. Lonergan also noted Camanche industrial users would be billed separately and pay Clinton directly.

Walters commented on the “poor management” of the city of Clinton and stated that Clinton couldn’t keep its sewer billing system going. He questioned Clinton’s ability to handle additional billings and asked the COW what would keep Clinton from raising the rate each year.

Lonergan explained the city of Clinton had additional costs recently due to the combined sewer separation project. He noted Camanche would not pay toward any of those costs and Camanche still would be responsible for its own collection. Lonergan agreed the delayed sewer billings caused various problems for residents and the city, but said the city of Camanche would be responsible for billing its residents.

Camanche resident Jim McGrogan stated he would be in favor of Camanche retaining its own WWTP, warning that Camanche could be the next South Clinton. He said he had never seen a city run more poorly than Clinton and said if the city of Camanche kept its own plant, at least it would be their own.

Camanche Mayor Jim Robertson explained the city was holding the meeting to discuss the issue and said city officials want to make a “good business decision” for the community. Robertson said residents need to be aware that rates will go up regardless of the decision made by the council and noted that even with making upgrades to the existing Camanche plant, more money would have to be spent later to keep it going. He remarked that while it is a tough, emotional decision the council would have to make for the city, joining with Clinton in a regional plant could save the city of Camanche money in the long run.

Steve Ames, president and CEO of the Clinton Regional Development Corp., said the critical question the city needs to consider is if it desires to remain a bedroom community or have expansion and growth. He said the CRDC is getting leads on potential industry relocating in the area and there are sites to market in Camanche, but if the sewer capability is not there, it takes the city out of the running for those businesses.

Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce President Kent Campbell asked if joining in the venture now would serve as “future-proofing” for Camanche as it could cost more to join the project later. Solchenberger said that currently, the city of Camanche has some negotiation power and later, Clinton could decline the connection from Camanche or charge higher rates. Camanche businessman Tom Determann said he thinks the fact that the board will be equal between the two cities is fantastic and stated the bottom line question is where does the city want to be in 20 years.

Lonergan said the joint venture could be a win-win situation for the two cities and noted there are not many variables the cities could dispute, saying he did not see a lot of risk regarding the agreement with Clinton. He agreed the question the city needs to answer is if growth is wanted or the city wants to remain the same. Lonergan advised that the city will continue to see growth, at least in the form of residential growth, and stated it would not be long before the city outgrew its current capacity. Solchenberger added that future federal and state water treatment mandates could add unanticipated costs.

Roth commented that he considered three facets of the discussion in his research on the topic, stating that Camanche would not have to continue meeting future wastewater mandates and increased capacity would offer opportunities for economic development. Roth also likened the issue to putting money into an old car and after spending more and more money to keep it going, eventually realizing that one may have been better off buying a better car. Robertson remarked that the two communities of Clinton and Camanche share many things, including “jobs and friends” and said “at some point, people have to work together to get the job done.”

The COW also debated who would serve on the board as the three representatives for Camanche. Lonergan said the agreement drafted outlined the public works director, the mayor and the city administrator from each city would serve on the board. Council member Trevor Willis asked if the agreement could be worded to state the three representatives would be decided by the council. Lonergan advised the 28E agreement was not set in stone yet. The discussion continued during the regular council meeting and Lonergan said letting the councils determine the board representatives could cause unforeseen difficulties in the future. Council member Linda Kramer suggested a discussion on the issue regarding board representatives be held with Clinton WWTP officials.

Solchenberger reiterated that IDED wants a resolution from the city detailing a final decision by Sept. 30 in order to retain the grant. The council agreed to place the issue on the council agenda for the Sept. 18 meeting and come to a decision at that time.

This Week's Circulars