The Block Island Times

November sewer leak repairs cost $67k

Commission weighs computer upgrades
By Stephanie Turaj | Jan 29, 2013
Source: File photo

The Sewer and Water commissions, with a quorum of three members each on Tuesday, January 22, discussed possible computer and repair projects, but ultimately expressed hesitation on spending any additional money — especially since Town Finance Director Amy Land reported that the cost of repairing the November 19 sewer leak would total $67,525.

The final costs are slightly under what Sewer Commission Chair Peter McNerney had originally estimated — he had told the Times in November that costs could be $75,000 or more.

Land told the Times after the meeting that there has been no decision made on how to fund the costs, but likely the commission would address it in the budget planning for its 2014 fiscal year, which starts in July.

At the Tuesday meeting, Land noted that regular sewer expenses are “doing fairly well,” at 33 percent ($514,142) of the fiscal budget. “Year-to-date revenues are just a little bit ahead,” she said. In December, the Sewer Commission earned $14,027 in user fees, and the budgeted amount was $12,411.

As for the water plant, Land said finances are in good shape overall. “Revenues are where they should be and expenses, particularly in the winter, are minimal,” said Land.

Upgrades and repairs

Commissioners considered a quote from Mike’s Computers, which priced out computer equipment to upgrade the sewer plant.

John Breunig, probationary water superintendent, noted that while prices were fair, some of the installation work could be done in-house.

Commissioners had in the past expressed concern that data for the sewer and water plants were not being backed-up properly. Breunig reported that he was working with a less expensive option provided by Google Drive, which backs up data on the Internet.

Land, in response to a question from Water Chair Sandra Finizia, said that there was no money in the current year’s budget for computer upgrades.

Probationary Sewer Superintendent Chris Blane said there was an urgent need for computer upgrades, commenting that his computer is outdated and may eventually crash. He suggested the Sewer Commission revisit the computer discussion during budget talks.

“I’m not opposed to you getting a new computer,” said Finizia, “I’m opposed to spending money we don’t have.”

Later in the meeting, Finizia — who ran the meeting in McNerney’s absence — again expressed hesitation to spend money.

The commission agreed to award a bid to Electrical Installations to upgrade the sewer plant’s SCADA system, a secondary overflow alert system, and perform other upgrades, but the project would be contingent upon commission approval of a grant and a loan to cover the costs.

To pay for the upgrades, the commission would use some grant money with the rest coming from a loan. Finizia expressed hesitation about the loan, noting she was “not prepared to vote on this today.”

“We need to bring this plant up and this seems to be the best way to do it,” said Blane. “To continue going on the way we are is just not acceptable.”

Commissioners agreed to have Town engineer Jim Geremia work on the grant and loan proposal and submit it for commission review at the next sewer meeting.

Blane later explained that a piece of sewer equipment called a jetter, used to clear out the sewage line during the December 30 overflow, had been damaged and is in need of repair.

The commission ultimately agreed to send out the piece for repair, but asked Blane to see if there are lower-cost options to repair the jetter.


Last month, the Sewer Commission brought up the possibility of “smoke-testing” the sewer lines. This exercise entails injecting liquid non-toxic fog down a manhole and pushing the smoke through the sewer system. If smoke came out of certain areas, that could suggest that a pipe is cracked or a resident is improperly hooked up to the sewer system.

Commission attorney Blake Filippi reported on his research about the idea, noting that any potential liabilities resulting from smoke-testing could be mitigated by providing proper notice to home and business owners.

Also discussed was the Island Home, a business owned by David Cheiffo, who filed for bankruptcy last January. The Island Home owes the Sewer District $3,536.95. Land said that the town will send notices to businesses that are behind in payments — one being the Island Home — to shut off service if the businesses do not pay within 11 days.

Blane and Breunig delivered their December operations reports. Blane touched upon various repairs and construction to the sewer plant, including cleaning up after the November sewer leak and late December sewer overflow. Breunig noted that water production was up 16 percent and meter usage was up as well — primarily due to the Salt Pond Settlement now being added to town water service.

It was also reported that cleaning to the sewer collection lines will be performed starting Monday, January 28.

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