UTILITIES COMMISSION MEETING
JANUARY 6, 2020
Immediately prior to the Utilities Commission Meeting Mayor Cerino swore in Thomas Herz as Second Ward Councilmember and Meghan Efland as Fourth Ward Councilmember.
Mayor Cerino called the meeting to order at 7:34 p.m. In attendance were Council members David Foster, Thomas Herz, Ellsworth Tolliver and Meghan Efland, Bob Sipes (Utilities Manager), Jennifer Mulligan (Town Clerk) and guests.
Mayor Cerino asked if there were any additions or corrections to the Utilities Commission meeting minutes of December 2, 2019. Rev. Tolliver moved to approve the minutes of December 2, 2019 as submitted, was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that the operating funds on hand were $2,051,743.47 with designated capital funds set aside for capital projects at $1,007,600.00.
Mayor Cerino asked for a motion to pay the bills. Mr. Foster moved to pay bills as submitted, was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.
Mr. Sipes stated that on Saturday, December 6th there was an incident where a fiber contractor hit a water line on Cedar Street, even after being told not to work on weekends. He said that some of the valves on Cedar Street were still leaking as a result. There were some valves repaired but the valves at Cedar Street and Valley Road and at Cedar Street and Greenwood Road will be fixed as soon as possible. He said that he did not want the residents to be alarmed if they saw running water above ground in the area.
Mr. Sipes stated that the contractors installing the fiber have hit nine (9) water lines in Town to date. He said that the most recent break meant that he had to call in his men, plus a plumber and his crew at overtime pay. He said that the plumber refused to bill the contractor directly for fear he would not be paid, so his costs are rolled into the claim for over $28,000.00. Mr. Sipes stated he and two (2) of his employees and worked for 12 hours the day of the leak and they were able to slow it down. He said that on Sunday he needed his entire crew for the repairs, which took 15 hours.
Rev. Tolliver asked what responsibility Talkie has for the problems that they were creating as their contractor worked through Town. Mr. Sipes stated that Talkie is responsible for not damaging existing utilities in the process of their installation. He said that anytime there is damage by a contractor that contractor is responsible for the repairs. Mr. Sipes stated that Talkie had the leverage to facilitate the exchange of money to make Chestertown whole again.
Mr. Sipes stated that he shut down the project after the contractor hit the line at 115 Elm Street until the issues were resolved. He said that installation is specified at a 5’ depth and he was finding lines installed at only 2’ to 3’ deep and there has not been payment to the Town for damages.
Rev. Tolliver asked about a homeowner in Coventry Farms who was having problems with his property since the install. Mr. Sipes stated that he spoke with the homeowner and did not think that he had been given accurate information from the contractor or Talkie. Mr. Sipes stated that the homeowner was told that Mr. Sipes was going to be onsite when the contractor made the repair on his property. Mr. Sipes stated that only a licensed plumber can fix water and sewer lines, not the fiber contractor. Mr. Sipes stated that the contractor was fully aware of this, yet while they were drilling and hit the sewer line they decided to dig it up and make the repair before anyone noticed. Mr. Sipes stated that the last conversation with the homeowner in Coventry Farms was that someone had come on his property without permission and had dug up the work to photograph it. Mr. Sipes stated that he now understands that the photos were for insurance purposes and that the insurance company was hiring a licensed plumber to repair the leak.
Mr. Herz asked if he could be copied on any other communications as he had been contacted by the homeowner in Coventry Farms. Mr. Sipes agreed.
Mr. Herz asked if there was a way to mandate that installations and drilling in high density areas have an inspector on site. Mr. Sipes stated that it was necessary, and he told the contractor as much in an email.
Mr. Sipes stated that fines to a contractor could be issued up to $500.00 per day, but he thought they were considered insignificant. Mayor Cerino stated that adhering to the 5’ depth was critical. He said that the contractor is blaming the Town for holding up the progress on the installation, but the Town had to ensure that the work was done properly. Mr. Sipes stated that fiber optic was expensive and if a line is hit in the future because it was not installed at the proper depth, the costs of repair could put a small contractor out of business. He said that the fiber was being installed at a depth where it would run above all water and sewer lines in Town.
Mr. Sipes stated that he felt as though Talkie just wanted to have the project finished and were unhappy that he was going to make sure that the contractor adhered to the agreements in place. Mr. Sipes stated that many of the mains in Town were concrete materials and were being broken. He said that Talkie signed the agreements, but their contractor was not following the rules and that every problem the Town has as a result, is simply because the contractor is not abiding by the agreements and plans as specified.
Mr. Foster asked if Mr. Sipes was certain that the contractor would not continue to work on weekends. Mr. Sipes stated that he thought it was spelled out in the contract, but the Town was now pulling the water meters on the weekends so that they do not have access to the water necessary for drilling operations.
Mr. Sipes advised the Council that he had hired a new apprentice for the water plant.
Mr. Sipes stated that there was a low level detect of oil in the monitoring well at Brown Street and Roberts Street. He said that the flow path of this detect is not toward the main well field, but he was interested to see if the detect showed again in the next report.
There being no further questions or comments, Rev. Tolliver moved to adjourn the meeting at 7:50 p.m., was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by: Jennifer Mulligan Chris Cerino
Town Clerk Mayor