City delays purchase of water plant automation


FORT MADISON – City officials stopped just short Tuesday of approving a quarter-million dollar automation system for the city’s water treatment plant.

At Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Fort Madison City Council, public works director Larry Driscoll told the council the SCADA system, which stands for Supervisor Control and Data Acquisition, is needed to improve efficiency at the water treatment plant.

The current SCADA system online at the plant was installed when the plant was built in 2010.

Driscoll approached the council several months ago with expansion plans including providing water service to Scott’s Miracle Gro.

Plans included three upgrades, the first of which is the SCADA system, which is all the control operations to run the plant. The second was to add a sand filter, and the third would be a sixth well for water production.

“With or without Scotts, the SCADA system needs to be completed and so does the sand filter so those are the two items I want to move forward with,” he said.

The SCADA system carried a cost of $377,000, but Driscoll said that included a camera system that he has since removed from the upgrade, cutting the cost to $266,000.

Councilman Matt Mohrfeld asked if it would be big issue to table the purchase since he received the report about eight hours before the council meeting.

“As I read that report, it’s one that merit’s re-reading. Not that I don’t trust you by any means, everything on the surface looked good, but typically on a $266,000 investment, I wouldn’t mind looking through the details of the report,” Mohrfeld.

Driscoll said the plant wasn’t in an emergency state, but he’d like to move forward with the upgrades as soon as possible.

Mohrfeld moved to table the purchase which was approved 4-1. Councilman Bob Morawitz said he read the report and voted against tabling the move.

Driscoll said the filter will cost the department $500,000 and the new well will cost about $1.5 million. He said, in answer to Councilman Rusty Andrews question, the cost will fit in the budget because Scott’s Miracle Grow has guaranteed to purchase the additional water. But he said with or without Scott’s additional water purchases in the future, the city needs the SCADA and the filter. The additional well will be required to handle Scott’s additional water purchases going forward.

“With Scott’s going online with us we’ll need that well. And with income received from Scott’s we’ll have that paid for in five years. They’re going to be under contract so if they would happen to fold or sell to someone else, we’re guaranteed to get that money over 20 years,” Driscoll said.

Mohrfeld asked if the new system would reduce the need for manpower at the plant, but Driscoll said he wouldn’t recommend cutting anymore staff from the plant.

“This would give us the option, especially on weekends, to operate without it being manned,” Driscoll said. “This also prepares the city for the lack of operators that we don’t get. In order to be at the plant you have to be a grade 2 operator, otherwise you can’t operate out there by yourself.”

The purchase will likely be back in front of the council at it’s next regular meeting Oct. 1

In other action, the council:
• set a public hearing in two weeks to consider a $2.83 million bid to build a platform at the former Amtrak depot, where city officials hope to move the depot in the near future. The $2.83 million bid is $1.4 million over estimates from Klingner & Associates.

• approved filing an application for federal funds to help offset costs of Phase IV of the PORT trail, which is a 10 foot sidewalk from Avenue L, north on 48th Street to River Valley Road.

• appointed Mike Benda to the Civil Service Commission and reappointed Zach Pieper to the Airport Commission.

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