FALLS CITY — Falls City approved a $3 increase to the monthly fee it charges residents for its utility reserve fund on Thursday.
Perhaps not a minute too soon. Recent rains revealed Falls City’s aging wastewater plant wasn’t up to handling the extra stress.
“Especially in this rain event, we’ve had some problems and identified some problems within our waste water system,” said Mayor Terry Ungricht at Thursday’s city council meeting. “We’re just putting council on notice that within the budget this year we are going to be spending some of that utility reserve to update our sewer.”
Ungricht said the electrical panel that powers the plan is sorely outdated, installed in the 1980s. A malfunction in the panel is the suspected cause of one of the pumps in the plants recirculation tank going out.
“We believe the pump is good, we hope, because that is $10,000,” Ungricht said.
To prevent further problems, the city’s electrician recommended the electrical relays controlling the pumps be moved out of the tank. That would require drilling holes in the tank to remove them, an expensive venture.
Lastly, plumbing within the recirculation tank is leaking and will require draining and cleaning the tank before a welder can make the repairs, which will be necessary even with a planned sewer expansion.
“It’s very costly, but it’s something we’ve got to do,” Ungricht said. “Even if we developed the facilities plan, this is still an integral part of that, so it’s not throwing money away.”
Ungricht negotiated a trade to have the drilling and resealing done to remove the electrical relays. Resident Cliff Lauder has the expertise to complete the job in exchange for wood from trees that will be logged on city property.
“I have offered, on your guys’ approval, that he can have the wood out of that if he can drill the three holes and reseal the vault that we have that is leaking,” Ungricht said to the council. “We are going to save $400 and get wood cleaned up at the same time.”
The council agreed to the trade. Ungricht said the sewer plant work will cost about $20,000.
In other business, the council:
• Approved the utility reserve fee increase on a 5-to-1 vote, with Councilor Jenn Drill voting “no.”