The Aberdeen City Council voted unanimously to approve several measures concerning public works Wednesday evening, green-lighting a timber sale, energy efficient equipment and the purchase of a new asphalt paving machine.
Only one measure, a clarification of a $25 water shut-off fee, garnered a negative vote, by council member Alice Phelps.
The council voted 11-1 to clarify language in a resolution concerning a $25 fee for delinquent accounts that will be levied automatically. The fee has been on the books but rarely enforced. Now the fee will be charged regardless of whether water service is turned back on.
The language passed earlier this spring was ambiguous and needed to be clarified, Public Works Director Malcolm Bowie said. Bowie and several council members said the measure is needed because some ratepayers “game the system.” They wait until the last minute to pay, right before the water is due to be shut off after 60 days, Finance Director Kathryn Skolrood added.
Council member Jim Cook said he had been told some ratepayers delay because they cannot qualify for help from a public assistance program until shut off is imminent.
Phelps voted no on the clarification because she thinks the total cost of the delinquent charge of $25 plus a separate fee of $20 to turn water back on is too much to ask of someone who is struggling. She would like to lower the fees.
Precise figures on how many people are often in arrears were not immediately available.
The council voted unanimously to approve Quinault Logging Company’s bid to log $631,295 worth of city timber. The money will go straight into reserves for the water fund, said Bowie. The bid was close to $84,000 higher than the bid by Sierra Pacific.
All 12 council members also approved putting up less than half of the estimated total cost of an upgrade for the Sewer Department. The total cost is $461,500, the city’s share is $210,000 after he department won a grant from the Department of Commerce. City officials anticipate an incentive from the Grays Harbor PUD to make up the rest of the cost, Wastewater Manager Kyle Scott in an email earlier Wednesday.
“The aeration upgrade is the replacement of some existing equipment with similar equipment that is more energy efficient,” Scott said in an email earlier Wednesday.
The city estimates it will take just more than six years of energy savings to pay back its share of $210,000, Bowie said.
The council also approved the purchase of a used asphalt paving machine. The department’s “street staff diligently search and found a good used paver,” city documents said.
“It was described as ‘cherry,’ ” said Bowie.
The used machine costs slightly more than $29,000, while a new one costs approximately $150,000, city documents said. The paver was primarily used for smaller projects and as backup. The asphalt machine can pave strips from 8 to 14 feet wide. It was manufactured in 2005 and purchased new by another city in 2007. It has spent 1,222 hours on the job so far.
One public works measure on the schedule was tabled Tuesday in committee, Public Works Chairwoman Margo Shortt said.
The measure would have asked council to approve selling approximately 3,900 of used 5/8 inch water meters to Paymore Recycling of Aberdeen, the second lowest of four bids. The measure was tabled due to mistakes, said Bowie, who did not elaborate what they were.
Higher bids came from companies in Vancouver and Las Vegas, Nev. “Staff believes that ease of transaction and doing business within the community warrants awarding (the contract) to the local business,” city documents said.
By going with the local bid, the city would have foregone making an extra $2,000 to $3,000. The city just replaced water meters with new smart meters. Asked if the city will still recommend the bid still go to Paymore, Bowie said the whole sale would be reevaluated.
Erin Hart, 360-537-3932, firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @DW_Erin.