The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

February 27, 2013

Council refuses to commit to new lab

By Katie Dahlstrom
Herald Staff Writer

CLINTON — Despite repeated requests from wastewater treatment staff, the city won't commit to constructing a $3 million laboratory at the Clinton Regional Water Reclamation Facility.

A split vote during the Clinton City Council meeting killed a resolution to approve a concept of construction for the lab and set a date to receive design proposals.

Staff planned for the new lab to be 1,850 square feet, double the space of the lab at the old wastewater treatment plant. The management/combined area would be 2,470 square feet, a 1,200 square feet decrease from the same space at the old facility.  

Ward 4 Council member Paul Gassman questioned what would be done with the old building and why a study wasn't performed to discover what could be done to improve the old building rather than building a new one.

According to Water Quality Superintendent Dan Riney, sewer maintenance would still work out of the old facility, but he did not know what would be done with the old lab and management area.”

"I also haven't put any time or energy into what it would take to fix, to renovate what we have because the biggest issue is the geographical location of it. It's hauling samples, it’s having people work remotely," Riney said. "I haven't kept track, but there's a phenomenal amount of time spent running back and forth between those two facilities."

The new lab would also be a better use of space as well as address ADA issues, Riney said.

At-large Council member John Rowland said he would not support the new lab based on the other needs within the city and the city's current financial situation,  

"It may be troublesome for a year or two. The city's in a tight spot financially. I think in a couple years, we'll be a little bit better off and I think we can wait," Rowland said.

With more than two decades of long term control plan projects to tend to, Riney said he did not believe the financial situation would improve in the coming years.

"I'll stand here every other Council meeting for the next 25 years if we're going to wait until it looks better, because it just won't," Riney said.

The new lab is projected to cost $2.7 million with a $300,000 contingency budgeted. It would be paid for using local option sales tax backed bonds.

At the request of Mayor Mark Vulich, Interim City Administrator Jessica Kinser clarified that the lab would not have an impact on potential sewer rate increases.

"Ultimately, if the lab doesn't happen, that's not going to change the rate increase that was discussed at the budget workshop," Kinser said.

In the end, a 4-3 vote sank the resolution. Council members Rowland, Gassman, Julie Allesee, Ward 2; and Maggie Klaes, Ward 1, cast the 'no' votes.