Sewer management position OK'd

September 08, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

Officials in charge of the city's sewer system on Tuesday faced questioning about a proposal to add a new manager to oversee repairs and upgrades, but in the end the council gave the go-ahead to create the position.

The discussion about the staff change was one of two items discussed during a City Council work session to address long-standing problems facing the city's sewer system.

Water and Sewer Department officials said they would like to create a position for someone to coordinate multiple projects aimed at decreasing the amount of rain and groundwater that inadvertently enters the sewer system.


That problem - referred to by city officials as "I-and-I," or infiltration and inflow - has been blamed for several instances in which the city's plant spilled into Antietam Creek wastewater that had not been fully disinfected, leading to health warnings along the creek.

While the project coordinator would not have direct supervision over any employees, that person would oversee project costs, construction deadlines and technical matters, said Christopher Bordlemay, assistant manager of the City Water and Sewer Department.

The project coordinator also would assist the city in meeting upcoming federal and state regulations, Bordlemay said.

The City Council voted last month to increase spending by more than $500,000 to address that problem and others. Part of the plan is to create two new field worker positions and the manager position.

At the time, council members questioned the need for the manager.

On Tuesday, Mayor William M. Breichner and Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh indicated they remained skeptical.

"Let's put some people out there to find where the problems are," Breichner said, saying field workers would be a better way to spend new money. "If you want another project coordinator, I think you have to justify it in some other way."

"We need people in the field," Nigh said.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said, however, that if the position were left unfilled, it is likely the I-and-I problems would persist.

The council said it would revisit the I-and-I problems, but gave the go-ahead to add the supervisory position. Nigh did not oppose the move in a poll after the discussion.

The City Council also approved a plan on Tuesday to allow the addition of more county sewage connections to the city's system.

The council on Tuesday heard a proposal to grant residential and commercial builders outside city limits the right to add more sewage flows to the city's system.

In May, the city reluctantly granted 25,000 gallons in reserve sewer capacity to Washington County officials, who must ask on behalf of private developers.

As of Thursday, the county was down to 1,800 gallons of reserve capacity, meaning fewer than eight new homes could be added to the city's sewer system, according to a letter from City Water and Sewer Department Manager David Shindle to City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman.

This week's proposal would give county customers another 25,000 gallons of reserve capacity. That translates to the amount of sewage that would flow from about 100 new homes, according to earlier estimates.

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