Ostrander Council addresses city water issues

Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Stinky water problems were brought to the Ostrander City Council’s attention during its Aug. 8 meeting, held one day later than usual due to the National Night Out celebration on Tuesday, Aug. 7.  

City engineer Brian Malm presented the water testing report in the councilors’ packets, accompanied by an e-mailed explanation of his findings. 

Rick Whitney, of PeopleService, addressed the council about what discoveries were made when flushing water lines. Whitney passed to the councilors a jar of water containing sediments that had been flushed from the hydrants.  He related that Ostrander’s city maintenance operator, Jeff Tart, has been trained how to flush hydrants so he can assist if necessary.

Whitney also stated that water lines on Park and Robert streets dead-end and the water from the alley off Minnesota Street collects as much sediment as Park and Robert streets.  The lines have been flushed twice this year, and both times showed that the hydrants were filled with rust. 

Whitney offered that chlorine levels can be increased but that that will affect the taste of water in the new treatment system. 

Residents Nate and Megan Cole came before the council to register their complaints about foul-smelling water.  They stated that the water is so pungent that they feel that showering leaves them dirty due to the amount of rust coming through the water lines.  Megan asked if bacteria testing could be done and why construction could not be completed this year; apparently, the Coles live on a street that’s under construction as part of a water infrastructure project funded by Rural Development, a division of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

Malm suggested that the Coles try cleaning their water heater, as anodes in the unit can cause a rotten egg smell, and he informed them that the city is awaiting Rural Development’s plan approval for construction on their street.  The project is slated to begin in 2020.  Malm offered to visit the Coles’ home if they so chose to have him help detect the source of their foul water. 

Councilor D.J. Start made a motion to have PeopleService flush lines bi-weekly, and Councilor Dan Hellerud seconded Start’s motion.  The additional flushing will cost Ostrander $500 per month, but the council voted in favor.           

Megan Cole asked to have her June 2019 water bill discounted because of the water issues, and Councilor Stephanie Start made a motion to charge the base rate for water until a solution is reached.  Councilor D.J. Start seconded before the rest of the council agreed. 

City clerk Wendy Brincks questioned how she was to proceed with billing the Coles, as in July, motions were made to offer the residents free water for July while the council investigated.  Councilor D.J. Start gave a motion to charge the base rate for water services until a conclusion is found, and Hellerud concurred, as did the other councilors.  Brincks will present more information when it becomes available.    

Malm also shared floodplain ordinance maps being drawn in cooperation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to meet FEMA’s requirement that each city have a floodplain ordinance that is adopted and regulated to ensure coverage by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).  The maps showed the flood boundaries for Ostrander.  Malm pointed out that if a resident chose to build within the boundaries, compliance with the ordinance would be required – the ordinance is available at the city office. 

The City Council will hold a public hearing on Sept. 3 at 6:30 p.m. to address the ordinance’s adoption.   

A change order for Wapasha Construction’s infrastructure work was approved, after which a $234,325.80 pay estimate for A-1 Excavation was also approved.  A-1 has been part of the infrastructure project as well, and Brincks reported that sod laid after some of the work was done has browned because the sod company quit watering it; the sod is part of a punch list of items that need to be completed before A-1 is paid in entirety, as cleanup around the lift station, construction of a retaining wall by the community center needs doing, the Trinity and Main streets intersection ditch needs finishing, and vents must be installed and a phone line dug into the ground at the lift station.  Brincks added that bollards will be placed around the city’s wellhead for safety purposes.     

City department updates encompassed the wastewater treatment plant, fire department and city maintenance. 

Whitney spoke about the city’s plumbing: the city’s works are in compliance, but PeopleService reported to Ostrander for lift station alarms when jetting the sewer lines was being carried out.  Whitney is working on having a field in the area certified for sludge depositing. 

Fire Chief Dustin Johnson reported that the fire department’s annual pork chop feed was to be held this past Sunday at Ostrander’s city park.  Maintenance supervisor Tart shared that the city truck is repaired at a cost of $2,400, and Brincks added that the truck has a short that causes the lights to malfunction.  The council approved taking the truck to Lyman’s Repair in Spring Valley to address the short.  Tart also brought up that there are dying trees at the city park – due to a bug infestation – and the council agreed to spraying them in the spring to mitigate the problem.       

The council accepted a bid of $10,750 from Patty O’Connell for the former Ostrander police car, which has been taken out of commission due to the police service being discontinued over a year ago.  Hellerud made the first motion to accept the bid, and D.J. Start made the second motion for the council’s acceptance.     

Ostrander will hold its next City Council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 3, at 6:30 p.m. at the community center.