muc meeting minutes
August 26th, 2010
Municipal Utilities Commission
August 26, 2010
The Municipal Utilities Commission met on Thursday, August 27, 2010 at the Council Chambers, 305 Gay St., Cambridge, Md. Commissioner Rex Marshall convened the meeting at approximately 6:30pm in the Mayor's absence.
Present: Rex Marshall- MUC Commissioner
Andy Pasden-MUC Commissioner
Steve Williams-MUC Commissioner
Norma Alschbach-MUC Commissioner
Gary Newcomb-MUC Manager
Carrie Hall-MUC Asst. Manager
Kevin Johnson-Asst. Superintendent
Commissioner Marshall asked for approval for expenses for the month of May 2010.
Mr. Newcomb mentioned check#20691 to Norris Taylor. He is one of the contractors we use for concrete for street repairs. Ck#20699 to George Brem, who we use quite often for sidewalk repair.
Commissioner Alschbach asked if her sidewalk in Cattail Crossing starts to break up, is it her responsibility to repair it?
Mr. Newcomb said in most cases the sidewalk belongs to the property owner.
Mr. Newcomb pointed out ck#20709 to Water Testing labs. We see this every month. This is the lab that does our bacterial sampling. Ck#20710 to Will Brown's Truck Repair in the amount of $4,056.19 is for a number of repairs, air compressor, dump truck, backhoe and two pick-ups.
Mr. Marshall asked if DPW gets many complaints because they don't use concrete on their street repairs?
Mr. Newcomb said they don't like to use it because it is more difficult if the streets have to be milled down and it is more expensive. We leave the concrete low enough so that if the street is milled down it would not interfere. If you have to go back into the street, it is more difficult also. The concrete we use is 3000 lbs so a jack hammer would break it fairly easy. He reminded the Commission of the leak on Race & Cedar Sts which would be an extreme case where rebarb was used with concrete and held the road and we were unaware of the leak. Mr. Newcomb stated, he can't believe they don't get complaints.
Motion to approve the Expenses for May 2010 in the amount of $76,223.60 was made by Commissioner Alschbach, seconded by Commissioner Pasden, passed.
Mr. Newcomb stated that the expenses of May 2010 will be as low as you will ever see.
Mr. Newcomb submitted the expenses for the month of June 2010 for approval. He mentioned ck#20750 to Gemini Group LLc is for the consumer confidence report that was required by State law. They look very professional.
Commissioner Pasden asked, because it is a requirement of the State, is there money from the State available to pay for the report?
Mr. Newcomb responded, no.
Mr. Newcomb told Commissioner Williams that a lot of these expenses, he will see every month, Comptroller of the Treasury, Md. Child Support, City of Cambridge and Valic.
With no further discussion of expenses, motion to approve expenses for the Month of June in the amount of $123,823.82 was made by Commissioner Pasden, seconded by Commissioner Williams, passed.
Expenses for the month of July 2010 were submitted for approval. Mr. Newcomb said he wanted to point out a few. Ck # 20809 to Postmaster is for mailing the bills. We send out bills on the 10th, 20th & 30th of each month. Ck# 20829 Comptroller of Md. for $50,238.59 is money we collect on behalf of the State for the Bay Restoration fee. We bill monthly and turn over the money quarterly to the State. We do get reimbursed a percentage from the State. Ck#20847 to Utility Service Co for $15,815.11 is the maintenance contract for the Stone Boundary storage tank. This is the fourth year. This is the basic fee. The first three years we were paying a littler over $54,000 which included a completely renovated tank inside and out. The cost was spread over three years. Now we go to a base amount for three years. If the tank needs repair, it will be taken care of under the contract. We do have all of our tanks with the exception of half a million gal at Washington St and 20,000 gal at Glasgow St under contract with Utility Service. Mr. Newcomb asked for approval of expenses for the Month of July 2010 in the amount of $197,472.85 which includes an extra payroll which happens twice a year.
Motion to approve was made by Commissioner Alschbach, seconded by Commissioner Pasden, approved.
The minutes of the meeting of May 27, 2010 was submitted for approval.
Motion to approve as made by Commissioner Pasden, seconded by Commissioner Alschbach, passed.
Mr. Newcomb stated we are aware we have signed the contract to drill the Magothy Well over to Nathans Ave. We are expecting equipment to be delivered this week. We will be underway very shortly. Mr. Newcomb said at Nathans Ave we presently have three wells.
Two Piney Point wells in the same aquifer and can only run one at a time. We also have one Raritan well. This will be a second well from the Magothy Acquifer. We currently only have one other Magothy well located at our Stone Boundary Station. We are doing this for the furture. We have collected some impact fees in the past years and we are reinvesting the money into the future.
Pinks Pond Estates
Mr. Newcomb stated a while back we were requested to provide water to Pink's Pond Development. The city code is very clear delegating the authority to the MUC board overseeing the operation and so on. It is also clear that any extension of the water system outside the city limits has to have the approval of City Council. That is the way we left it. It was referred to City Council and they would allow the extension of the water system with annexation of the property to City Limits. The letter from Mr. Hubbard from Lane Engineering is requesting approval for Sanitary District to supply water to the development and they own the line. It is his opinion that it is still an extension of the water system even through Sanitary District. Mr. Newcomb said he did discuss this with the Mayor and Mr. Hubbard and Mr. Evans. He felt that City Council had made a decision relevant to that property and any changes would still be handled by the Council.
He said he was not sure the Council would hear it again because they have made a decision. If we were to run the main, it would come from School St into a cul-de-sac and run thru to Hambrooks. Their argument is that the City allowed Glasgow Estate to extend the system without annexation. The Council agreed that they will not make the same mistake twice.
Mr. Williams asked if we supplied water to the Sanitary District?
Mr. Newcomb briefly explained the Lodgecliffe history, which was private at one time and then turned over to Mr. & Mrs. Hales who later claimed bankruptcy, in which case the State made the County take it over with improvements through grant money. Now the Sanitary District supplies water to 101 houses which are not in city limits.
Mr. Williams asked if the Sanitary could grant Pinks Pond Dev.water?
Mr. Newcomb stated the Health Dept has already denied them access. Any new development is required to be annexed before city services are extended.
FY-10 Credits & Adjustments
Mr. Newcomb said he wanted to make the Board aware of the year end adjustments. FY 2010 Credit Memos are bills that we actually credit off at the end of the year. Sailwinds, everyone understands that but the YMCA was granted free water a number of years ago. They do have a source of revenue and the $1,836.39 is just water. The sewer amount would be 250% of that. The other City accts, he has no problem with. The Cambridge Little League Park we also provide water at no cost. Acct#8165 State Hwy is the irrigation for the vegetation that runs in the median strip from Woods Rd to Airport Rd. It looks very nice.
He brought this up to make the newer members of the board aware.
The bottom of the same page is the total amount for the leak adjustments for the year. He explained the MUC policy for once a year leak adjustment. The highest month of April 2010 was due to Interstate Corpack. This was in the meter vault. Most leaks however are toilets leaking.
FY-10 Credit Card Amounts
Mr. Newcomb informed Mr. Williams that we recently started taking credit card payments in the office the 2nd week in December 2009. He said he felt this is something we needed to do because this is the way people currently operate. It is also good on days we do shut offs and absentee landlords and so forth. The City has always been reluctant to accept them due to cost associated with credit cards. He explained how we break down the fees for the amounts collected with 25% from water, 12 ½% Bay Restoration and the balance from Sewer. He said it is working very well. In the last few months it has been consistant on the numbers.
FY-10 GL Totals
Mr. Newcomb said he wanted to skip to June 2010 which is totals for the Fiscal Year.
Mr. Newcomb briefly went over the accounts to benefit Mr. Williams our newest Commissioner. As of 6/30/10 we have $880,505.30 in reserves. After the Magothy well is complete, we will have $560 -$570,000 left in reserves which is an adequate amount in the event of an emergency. Acct#1400 is the amount we must maintain for outstanding bond coupons 67' & 76' which no one has turned in for payment. Someday, someone will come up and we would be responsible to redeem the face value of the coupon. The balance of the accounts after the audit, adjustments would be put to it. Page 4 is how we ended up for the year. The Audit has been completed. It went very smoothly with no real issues. Page 4 shows the individual accounts of water sales. We were under the projected amount by $121,751.00. Acct#4110 is impact fees. We do not budget for this item. We collected $137,900 in impact fees which represents 197 new residential units in the City. The majority coming from Cambridge Commons and Conifer Village. Hydrants, meter activation and sales & service, we were under by $34,841.23.
For the past 15 years we have been getting a percentage of office expenses from Sewer Service Fund, last year after budget started City Council decided they were no longer going to reimburse us the money which we budgeted for $98,000. This greatly affected out income. If you look at the numbers we were under $151,474.69 under projection. If you add the impact fees into it, we would be only $13,575.00 under. If you throw in the Sewer Service Fund, then we are under $88,000 projected. If you take impact fees out which technically we should, we are $226,000 under our projected income which is substantial.
The other side is, when revenue is down we have to keep our expenses down. Last year we ran very close to expenses verses income. We have to come to you as the board anytime we go into reserves and we never had to go into reserves.
From Acct 5000 down, these would be our expenses. Salaries, we were under budget in all items due mainly to furloughs. Transportation, maint of vehicles, physical plant, maint of mains and installation of by-pass road , we were under budget by $138,700.
On page 2, every category we stayed under budget. Acct #6110, retirement, we were slightly over due to make up amounts. The largest amount of overage is in insurance which this board was told when the insurance increased. The total we were under budget was $130,459.00 for this page. The total of expenses for both pages which was under budget was $269,100. If you look at our income excluding the impact fees, we were $226,000 under projection. We were able to keep the expenses $269,000 under budget.
If last years figures had worked out, we had budgeted to have a surplus of $26,000.
Even though our revenue was down, we were able to keep our expenses down.
The bottom line is we made out pretty well in a difficult year.
Commissioner Pasden said the employees are to be congratulated for making that happen. It could not have been easy.
Mr. Newcomb said he wanted to stress that the MUC neglected nothing. This was strictly a maintenance budget. We saved a lot of money doing the by-pass road ourselves.
We never saw any cash build up of money until the end of May or June. The Auditors said we were fortunate to be able to do this without going into reserves.
Mr. Pasden said we approved a budget going in with a deficit.
Mr. Newcomb said he hoped he was not harsh with the Mayor when he reminded her she was Chairman of the MUC and that taking away the sewer service fund was greatly affecting the MUC.
Mr. Williams said he read the previous minutes and did not think they were harsh but truthful. He said the City was taking funding from you to fill the City's budget and causing MUC to start in a deficit.
Mr. Pasden said that is why we approved it like we did, to prove a point.
Mr. Williams said he was proud of the way we handled it.
Mr. Newcomb said the only way is for us to raise the rates next year.
Mr. Marshall stated that Mr. Newcomb always does an excellent job.
Mr. Newcomb said the Summer months are usually pretty good with just being a month in the fiscal year.
We have been fortunate not to have too many leaks.
One on Riverside Drive a yard hydrant was leaking and we found it to be an unmetered line which we cut off.
The new services are over on Shipyard Dr.
Mr. Newcomb went over the pumpage reports for May & June & July.
The unaccountable for May was 20%. June was 5% and July was 6%
Mr. Newcomb also ran thru the totals for billing of Water, Sewer and Disposal.
He noted that the city increase the Disposal fee from $6.50 to $11.25 per residential unit.
The Minimum water bill went from $36.65 to $41.40. The first bill with the increase went out on the 10th of the month.
Mr. Marshall asked for any comments?
Mrs. Alschbach said she is just glad Mr. Newcomb is on top of it and the staff.
Mr. Newcomb said he has to commend his staff at a time when things are tight.
Mr. Newcomb said he wanted to give the Commission some bad news. Two weeks ago we were operating the Glasgow St Pump station, the same night we had a pretty bad storm. When the operator checked the Station the next morning he noticed the well pump still running but it sounded funny. They noticed the tank was empty, the service pump had cut off and basically the pump was not pumping water. Checked it and turned it off and said the motor was spinning extremely free. There was no doubt that the shaft was broken. Today we contacted AC Schultes and they started their inspection. Mr. Newcomb showed them pictures that were taken showing the shaft broken in at least four places. The other pictures showed the shaft broken 100 ft down. The bearing holders centers the shaft. As of today he did not know how much damage has occurred or what caused the damage. The well itself is 500 to 525 feet deep. The pump that drops into the well is 220 feet down. We don't know if something happened in the pump to seize it up.
We won't know until they get all of the pump out of the well. The men out there said they have seen it ring shafts off in two places. If the shaft starts whipping, it rings off the second time. Never has he seen one do this much damage to the shaft. Tomorrow they should have it all out and inspect the pump assembly and see if something is wrong with that and we will have a feel for what we are looking at. Mr. Newcomb said he felt the numbers will be between 15,000 and 30,000 dollars. Right now the well is not usable, the station is unusable because we only have the one well. If it doesn't exceed 15,000 to 30,000, it may be something we can absorb in the current years budget without going into reserve funds. For the past 20 years he has required all of the pumps to be rebuilt or repaired with stainless steel shafts. The shaft is excellent. We haven't had any issues since we started using the stainless steel shafts.
Mr. Marshall asked if this well had a lot of age to it?
Mr. Newcomb responded in 1996, the casing and shaft was replaced four years ago. We were not expecting any problem. It could be that something seized up in the bowls at the pump and caused this to happen. Another possibility is if the electric blinked off when the pump cut off, the column is full of water, the water falls down, this will actually make the pump spin backwards. You will hear the motor wind down spinning backwards and if the power came back on within twenty seconds, it would make that sequence timer activate and flipped it back. We really won't know until we check the bowls. Some of our wells have ratchet assemblies on top of them. When they shut off, it won't allow them to spin backwards. It depends on which engineer you talk to about what is the best.
Mr. Williams said since he has worked with government budgets for over thirty year he asked if we use $25,000 from the current operating budget and later in the year we run low on our operating budget, would it be a problem to take money out of the reserve funds?
Mr. Newcomb said no, as long as this Board gives approval. We are just into this budget year and we may very well come to that later on, but right now he felt we could take care of this out of our current budget. Mr. Newcomb said he hates to go into the reserve funds unless he has to.
Ms. Alschbach asked after this is corrected, will we be able to put in a fail-safe?
Mr. Newcomb said it would be according to what it is. He said a couple of the spider bearings the pieces are gone which means they are probably on top of the pump. You have got to get them out. The pump has got to come out. He was hoping it would be just the shaft. If you took your hand and turned the shaft, it would move freely. I was hoping it was broken high, which was probably the last break. If it is the bolt assembly, pump assembly, it would probably cost about $10,000. We are looking at about $4000 a day for the rig to pull it out. Two day to pull it out and another day to put it back plus what ever repairs are required. Hopefully that will be all of it.
Mr. Marshall asked if he needed any special approval tonight?
Mr. Newcomb said he may need approval later in the year to use reserves but hope we won't need to go that route.
Mr. Newcomb said he was hoping the board would tell him tonight to get it fixed.
Mr. Pasden asked what kind of pressure does this put on the rest of the system?
Mr. Newcomb said out of the four stations we have, we normally operate two at a time.
We are okay. His biggest concern is if we had a problem at another station. That is why he doesn't want to delay getting this repaired. He wants adequate backup. He said one time when the Stone Boundary Station was being painted and down, Nathans pump station had a problem which left the City down to two out of four stations down. This is why we need to keep everything ready to go. You never know.
Mr. Pasden said he sees no reason in the world why we would delay getting this fixed.
Mr. Newcomb said the day after this happened they were working on emergencies but they came today which he thought was still pretty quick. He was told if it was a real emergency, they would make it sooner.
Mr. Marshall said if we don't need a motion, just go ahead and take care of it.
Mr. Newcomb said if it is going to be more than the $30,000 he will be back in touch.
Mr. Pasden asked if that would delay up and running if he had to come back to the board?
Mr. Newcomb said no because Glasgow St usually runs for about 5 months. We were actually getting ready to shut it off and run Nathans Avenue. Four weeks doesn't concern him too much. Hopefully we will have some real answers tomorrow.
Mr. Newcomb said he had nothing else, he mentioned that the audit has been completed.
He got an excellent letter from the auditors commenting on how helpful Carrie and Jane were to supply all the information they needed to work with and make sure they were complimented. Mr. Newcomb said it is always good to have the same group of auditors back.
Mr. Pasden said he wanted it to go back to the office to the staff to let them know how much they appreciate the excellent job they have done in the past year coming through really hard times and making it all work.
With no other business, motion to adjourn was made by Ms. Alschbach, seconded by Mr. Williams. Meeting adjourned at approximately 7:50 pm.