Wednesday, August 26, 2009

TMDL Grant loss clarified at Hamburg City Council meeting

Last night the Hamburg City Council meeting had special guests to help the Council and citizens of Hamburg understand why the loss 20 points occurred to their score in consideration for a TMDL grant. Bill Dunn and Gene Erickson of the MPCA and Becky Saybeck (I apologize to Becky if that is not the correct spelling of her name) of the PFA. Also requested to show were Sen. Ortman and Rep. Kohls - neither one showed. Mr. Dunn started by explaining on why Hamburg lost the 20 points thus making the I/I project ineligible for a TMDL Grant.

The original score of 78 points were award to the I/I project but after a re-calculation was performed in preparation for the 2010 TMDL schedule an error was discovered and 20 points were removed. Hamburg was giving points for the following reasons per the 7077.0117 statute:

  • Subpart 1 - Flow Capacity – 5 points
  • Subpart 2 – Age of facilities - 20 points
  • Subpart 3 – Excessive infiltration or inflow – 15 points
  • Subpart 13 – Receiving water classification – 3 points
  • Subpart 14 – Effluent impact on receiving water – 15 points

The 20 points awarded in error was a misapplication of Subpart 16 – Project helps meet total maximum daily load for receiving water. Prior to the meeting, Bill Dunn, Gene Erickson, and I had a conference call about this subpart. Again at the meeting I brought to question a part of the subpart that I thought applied and that Hamburg ought to be awarded back the 20 points. The portion I questioned was section A of Subpart 16 that states "be designed to reduce the discharge of pollutants as specifically required by an agency-approved TMDL implementation plan." I posed the question that if resident sewer lines were in a state of disrepair and not functioning properly with the possible side effect of seeping sewage into the ground water wouldn't the I/I project thus assist in removing "pollutants" from clean water be covered by part A of subpart 16. The answer was a resounding no since the pollutant in question for our area is phosphorous.

Gene Erickson said that the deteriorating sewer lines from resident's homes are a "public hazard not related to TMDL." Since neither the City Council nor our City Engineer offered additional information on the effects the sewer lines can have on adding "pollutants" to the clean water removal system, I was regulated to concede the point. The loss of the 20 points and the potential TMDL grant now puts the I/I project in a budgetary quandary. Residents in Hamburg pays the highest per household property tax in the county and with the loss of the TMDL grant possibility now puts additional burden onto the residents to pay for a $1.2 M project.

Becky, from the PFA, did say with a score of 58 that Hamburg qualified for a sub-prime 20-year loan, probably 2 or 2.5%, to cover the costs of the project. An enlightening fact surfaced during the discussion, the fact that neither Bill Dunn nor Gene Erickson had seen a TMDL grant request from the City of Hamburg for the I/I project. The absence of a TMDL grant request was meet with some jaw dropping as the Council and myself was under the impression one had been submitted otherwise how Hamburg would obtain a score. At this point the Council and those in attendance were informed that the scoring takes place once the project is submitted to the PFA. Doug Parrot said that he'd verify with Ron Seymour to determine if Hamburg had or had not actually submitted a TMDL grant application.

A good take away from the conversation is that Gene Erickson informed the City Council that any future business opportunities will be considered since Hamburg is making "progress" to combat the I/I issue. The City Council is still researching other methods to fund the I/I project before succumbing to loans, levies, or assessments. So anyone that is looking to open a new business, bring your business to Hamburg.

Other items of note:

  • Contract was signed with To The Home Wireless Internet and permits moving forward.
  • 2010 Preliminary Budget discussion took place
  • Hamburg resident Richard Odoms spoke on various concerns ranging from delays of WiFi implementation to establishing a cablecast via MediaCom of City Council meetings.
  • The Council approved a donation from the Firemen's Relief Association. The money will be used to purchase 2 bracelets for the S.A.F.E.R program.