CAMANCHE — The Camanche City Council approved a resolution to join Clinton in a joint, regional wastewater treatment plant during the regular council meeting held Tuesday night at the Camanche Fire Department.

The decision is one the city has discussed for more than a year. Special council and committee-of-the-whole meetings were held in July and August of last year in order to solicit public comment on the issue. Camanche’s treatment plant has not been renovated in the last 17 years and needs upgrades to be compliant with new national pollution discharge elimination system standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The city had to decide between three options, including upgrading the current treatment plant, joining Clinton in its proposed new plant or a combination of the two options in which the city would continue to collect and treat residential wastewater, but would pump industrial wastewater to the new Clinton treatment facility.

In previous discussions, City Engineer Dan Solchenberger said the current sewer rate citizens are charged is $2.60 per 1,000 gallons. If improvements are made to the existing plant, the sewer rate would increase to $4.20. Solchenberger said the rate would be $4.70 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.

Solchenberger noted that “no matter what” the current rate would increase.

The council scheduled a special Committee of the Whole session for Sept. 4 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.

The council allowed several audience members to speak at the meeting Tuesday evening. Camanche resident Jeff Thompson urged the council to retain the city’s independence and said he believed Camanche could and should “stand on its own.” Paul Varner advised the council that joining Clinton in the new WWTP facility could be the first step down a “slick slope.”

Steven Ames, president and CEO of the Clinton Regional Development Corp., said Camanche could maintain its own, unique identity, but joining Clinton in a regional plant would “level the playing field” between Clinton and Camanche when it comes to marketing the area to prospective industry.

Two residents noted that the current Camanche WWTP is “not junk” and could be renovated.

“I think it still has a lot of value in it,” John Thomas said.

Solchenberger said the plant would not be completely dismantled and would be used as a primary treatment facility and pump station. He advised the council and audience that joining Clinton in the joint WWTP would have advantages in that an increased load capability would be available to Camanche for potential industrial development and the new plant would include modernized treatment practices. Solchenberger added that as EPA requirements become more strict, costs would have to be increased in order to provide funding needed to upgrade the facility in the future.

Rita Dennis said that the community should have confidence in the council’s leadership and said the real question is whether the city wants to be progressive or stagnant. She said she thinks joining in the Clinton plant would be in the best fiscal interests of Camanche and commented she hopes the city would look at it as a positive development.

Camanche Mayor Jim Robertson remarked that many of the city departments of Clinton and Camanche work well together and noted that the city has residents that work in Clinton, as well as Clinton residents who work in Camanche. He said that the council needs to make a decision based on what is best for the community.

Camanche City Attorney Tom Lonergan was not present at the council meeting on Tuesday. He has been working on a 28E Agreement with Clinton city representatives in order to establish a governing structure for the WWTP board. In a letter to the mayor, Lonergan said that he has been in favor of a regional plant for more than 15 years. He acknowledged the concerns of the community in regards to unsatisfactory results from past agreements negotiated with the city of Clinton, but said that he has worked hard and negotiated cautiously to create a 28E agreement for the joint WWTP that is in the best interests of the city of Camanche. Lonergan stated that it is rare to have a win-win situation and recommended the city approve a resolution to join Clinton in the regional facility. The 28E agreement would set up a political entity with a six-person board, featuring three representatives from Camanche and three representatives from Clinton. The board would set the sewer rates and review them annually.

Following additional comments from the audience in opposition to the joint WWTP and calling for a public vote on the issue, Councilman Trevor Willis pointed out that the citizens of Camanche elected the members of the council to represent them. Willis stated that the discussion has been ongoing for more than one year and it was time for the council to make a final decision. Council woman Linda Kramer agreed, saying she felt it is important the community understand that the council has spent hundreds of hours researching and debating the various options and is not taking the decision lightly.

Roth described the three resolutions Lonergan had prepared, one approving upgrades to the current Camanche facility, the second approving a plan for the city to partner with Clinton and a third deemed “the middle road” in which Camanche would maintain its current plant for residential waste but partner with Clinton for industrial treatment services.

Roth noted that the intent of the resolution was to effectively indicate a formal plan and was not entirely binding until the 28E agreement is finalized and signed by both cities.

After a motion to approve a resolution for the city of Camanche to join in the new Clinton facility, the resolution was read in its entirety and the council approved the motion by a vote of 4 to 1 with Councilman Ken Fahlbeck voting against the measure.

This Week's Circulars