Two municipalities will be meeting soon in an effort to unplug some pressing water plant issues.
The Village of Morrin and Starland County, whose offices are located in Morrin, cooperatively operate the Village of Morrin water plant, appear to require some clarity as to responsibilities and cost-sharing at the water pant facility.
At the village’s regular council meeting March 25, councillors passed a motion to have CAO Annette Plachner set up a meeting with village councillors and three Starland County counterparts plus staff to discuss the issue.
“We have to sort out once and for all what the cost-sharing is,” said Mayor Howard Helton. “Obviously I’m confused, Annette is confused. Everything is correct, no doubt but we have to establish what our roles and responsibilities are.”
Councillors read a 2019 report, dated March 10, 2020 from their water plant certified operator Glen Riep, who contracts to the village under his own company, Pier Enterprises and who is also an employee of Starland County.
Riep in his letter stated he knew nothing about the electric pump until Collicutt phoned June 13, 2019 to come and install it.
He stated the change in the project, which he claimed in his report, was made by the village council or a village councillor without consulting Riep or the county, for the addition of an electric motor “dramatically altered the project scope.”
However, Mayor Helton, in his response to Riep’s report noted that Mr. Riep had prior information that the village intended to have the existing gasoline-powered engine replaced within the scope of the Generator Project.
Helton went on to note that he and former councillor Dr. Robert Graham met with Mr. Riep in the County office Dec. 17, 2017 and discussed replacing the engine with a motor drive as the motor would be more reliable if required in an emergency.
Helton’s response went on to say, “At that time Mr. Riep did say that he had not been able to find any contractors who would tackle the job of replacing the engine with a motor. Mayor Helton stated that as Mr. Riep had already been working with Collicutt Energy that perhaps that firm could do the conversion and Riep agreed.”
Helton added, subsequently, this was discussed at the Jan. 17, 2019 regular village council meeting and it was stated by the CAO that “Glen Riep was checking into the purchase of generator and fire pumps for water plant”.
It was council’s impression that the emergency pump motor project was begun at this point” and did not find a need to question further as Riep was the project coordinator.
A further meeting had occurred at the water plant on Feb. 20, 2019 with Riep, Steven Collicutt, Mayor Helton and Deputy Mayor Edwards in attendance where the replacement of the pump engine and what controls would be required was again discussed.
Mayor Helton stated in his response to some of Riep’s allegations that “at no time did council intend to alienate the two municipalities but acted in good faith in performing their duty as elected officials to act in the best interest of the municipality and its citizens”.
The electrical portion of installing the motor surprised council when the cost overrun came in at $55,188.
Council has been asking for a copy of the contract they have with Pier Enterprises but so far that copy has not been provided.
Riep noted in his report to council that he has been contracted by the village for the past 23 years.
It was noted in Riep’s report to council that recent government changes included certain standards have been tweaked to exert even more control over lead content in drinking water and all water plants must abide by these regulations.
Riep also identified the need for maintenance or replacement of other items, including piping in the pump station plus mechanical joints and fittings, the exterior envelope and surface of the water cistern, both to prevent frost intrusion and weathering to the main structure.
The water cistern requires cleaning as the last cleaning was more than 10 years previous at a budget of $12,000.
Council asked CAO Plachner to get costs for the other items listed in Riep’s letter for their April 8 budget meeting.
Stu Salkeld, LJI reporter