UTILITIES COMMISSION MEETING
DECEMBER 7, 2020
Mayor Cerino called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m. In attendance were Council members David Foster, Thomas Herz, Ellsworth Tolliver and Meghan Efland, Bob Sipes (Utilities Manager), Bill Ingersoll (Town Manager), Kees de Mooy (Zoning Administrator), Jennifer Mulligan (Town Clerk) and guests.
Mayor Cerino asked if there were any additions or corrections to the Utilities Commission meeting minutes of November 2, 2020. Rev. Tolliver moved to approve the minutes of November 2, 2020 as submitted, was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that cash on hands for the Utilities Commission were $2,509,386.94 with $1,156,400.00 set aside for capital projects.
Mayor Cerino asked for a motion to pay the bills. Ms. Efland moved to pay bills as submitted, was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.
Mr. Sipes stated that the Wastewater Treatment Plant had a variable frequency drive go bad on a sludge pump. The original model has been discontinued and a replacement from the same manufacturer will not fit correctly in the panel, but he was able to replace it with another brand called ABB. He said that this would likely be the brand for replacements moving forward. The touchscreen also went bad and cost approximately $5,00000 plus programming. He said that these costs will be in the upcoming bills.
Mr. Sipes stated that the backhoe, which they had for over 30 years, has developed hydraulic leaks that will not stay repaired and the bucket is loose. He said that it was time for a replacement. He said that they were available on the State contract at a cost of $109,576.32. He said that this would be a capital item in the budget. He said that he could also put this out to bid which would cost between $150,000.00 and $200,000.00. Mayor Cerino asked if this backhoe was totally unsalvageable. Mr. Sipes stated that they have had some work done on the backhoe, but the parts were difficult to find because of its age. He said that he has rebuilt the parts so much that he is getting less life out of the repairs each time he does. Mr. Sipes stated that if it went to bid it would take about 2 months to get proposals.
Mr. Sipes stated that the State contract provided a 46% discount. Ms. Efland asked the reason Mr. Sipes would want to go out to bid. Mr. Sipes stated that he thought the process was more for transparency and provide peace of mind should the Council not believe the State price was going to be the best price.
Mr. Sipes stated that piggy-backing on State contracts was competitive since the State had already competitively bid the items that they allowed other state governmental agencies to use. The process also provided businesses with good visibility of their product. He said that equipment can be standardized so this would be the same equipment many other municipalities are seen using and it could be delivered the next day.
Mr. Herz asked if Mr. Sipes researched a used backhoe. Mr. Sipes stated that equipment like this is not valued by age, but by hours. He said that a similar piece of equipment with 3,000 hours of use sells for $50,000.00 to $55,000.00. He said that he believes that this type of equipment is up for sale could be because the owner sees a developing problem. He said that he would love to be able to go to an auction to shop for a backhoe but would not want to spend this type of money not knowing if work was going to needed on a used piece of equipment. He said that he would like to have permission to go with the State contract purchase.
Mr. Sipes stated that the vendor through the State contract also offered trade-in value of $13,500.00 for the old backhoe, which he recommended the Council take. This would bring the total cost of the backhoe to $96,076.32.
Ms. Efland asked if this purchase would affect spending of any other capital items planned. Mr. Sipes stated that he did not have any capital fund money lined up to spend, it was more of a set aside fund for emergencies and not used for budgeting purposes.
Rev. Tolliver moved to approve the purchase of the backhoe through the State contract and accepting the trade-in offer of $13,500.00 for a total of $96,076.32, was seconded by Mr. Foster and carried unanimously.
Rev. Tolliver asked how the treatment system with the UV lights was working at the Wastewater Treatment Plant. Mr. Sipes stated that the system was performing amazingly, and the lab results were some of the best in the country. He said that short of a reverse osmosis system it is doing better than anyone expected.
Mayor Cerino stated that the Mayor and Council had a Zoom meeting with MDE and the Hospital on November 20, 2020. He said that this meeting was partly arranged due to an unauthorized shut-down of the pump and treat system at the Hospital for almost 2-months that neither MDE nor the Town was ever formally notified happened; rather it was discovered in the back of 300 plus page report. He said that a trial shutdown of the system had been approved but after the unauthorized shutdown, MDE imposed a fine to the Hospital and the authorized trial shutdown decision was reversed. As a result, the Hospital hired a new consultant, Ganett Fleming, who gave an analysis of the spill and how they intended to move forward. Mayor Cerino stated that this spill dates to the late 1980s. Since that time at least 85,000 gallons of heating oil has been recovered and the Town lost a very productive shallow water well (No. 8) that has never been replaced or compensated for by the Hospital. Since the time UMMS purchased the Hospital they have been pushing toward closing out the remediation altogether. He said that this was the first meeting where all entities had met at one time since he became Mayor.
Mayor Cerino stated that the question now is how low do levels need to be before the Town is comfortable with the pump and treat system being shut down. He said that he thought MDE was nearing approval of a trial shutdown, with testing to occur during that time, and the pump and treat system being at the ready to go back on if there was a spike shown in testing. Mayor Cerino stated that the most important thing that the Council needed to know was that the drinking water was safe and there was no threat to the Town drinking water wells.
Mr. Foster stated that he thought that the meeting went well and said that he was impressed with the Council’s questions and the answers provided from the new consultant. Mr. Foster stated that he would like to know how much oil was removed because of the Ivey-Sol injections and if there was, in fact, a paleo channel anywhere in the vicinity of the spill. He said that he questioned the silica gel method and whether this was a good substitute for standard practices and was told at the meeting that he would be given answers regarding that question.
Rev. Tolliver stated that the was worried that any byproduct of the spill (such as might be created by degradation or the Ivey Sol process) may not be covered under the agreement in place with MDE and the Hospital if it ultimately did affect the water system. He said he did have a much better understanding of the issue after the meeting. Ms. Efland stated that this was still a concern for the Town, and nobody was comfortable that the pump and treat system may be shut down, but she did think it was a productive meeting. Mr. Herz stated that he was anxious to hear what they had to say about the silica gel testing and was glad Mr. Sipes was present for the meeting as he was well-versed about the issue.
Mr. Sipes stated that he was happy that the Hospital’s consultant admitted that only 50% of product can be recovered while the rest of the product may break down and cause byproducts as it is absorbed by the soils. Mr. Sipes stated that silica gel filters out the results of the TPHDRO test and he did not agree that was how it should be tested and still did not understand why MDE agreed to use it as part of the testing. He said that the EPA has not approved silica gel testing in the way that MDE is using it in this instance; it was for oil companies to know what type oil was in the ground. Silica gel testing was not used to test drinking water. He said that overall, he thought the meeting went well.
Mayor Cerino asked if there would ever be a time where Mr. Sipes felt comfortable that what was in the ground was not going to move closer to the Town wells. Mr. Sipes stated that MDE has gone along with UMMS since they purchased the building and seem agreeable to closing this site down but might also be worried about public backlash by going against what has been done in other instances in the State of Maryland and are setting a precedent by allowing the silica gel testing results to be used.
Mayor Cerino stated that the Town had no direct role in the shutdown and asked what else could be done. Mr. Sipes stated that he did not think there was anything that can be done in the short term other than what they had been doing. He said that he wanted the information to be transparent and not glossed over, adding that he thought that silica gel testing will be the issue if there ever is movement toward the Town wells. He said that there has never been any oil in the drinking water wells and the water it totally safe for consumption. He said that the Council may want to investigate long-term solutions by installing their own “curtains” as another way to protect the wells.
Mr. Foster stated that he would like the pro bono attorneys to become more involved in the matter. He said that the silica gel testing method was going to be an issue as it is not allowed.
Mayor Cerino stated that there was an issue with the meeting running on the live-stream, adding that there was every intention of streaming the meeting in real time. He said that as soon as the recording of the meeting was available, which was approximately 1-hour after the meeting ended, it was uploaded to the website and could still be viewed today if anyone was interested.
There being no further questions or comments, Mr. Herz moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:13 p.m., was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by: Jennifer Mulligan Chris Cerino
Town Clerk Mayor