muc meeting minutes
October 23rd, 2008
Municipal Utilities Commission
October 23rd, 2008
The Municipal Utilities Commission met on Thursday, October 23rd, 2008 at the Council Chambers, 305 Gay St., Cambridge, Md. Mayor Jackson-Stanley convened the meeting at 6:30pm.
Mayor Jackson-Stanley asked each member to introduce themselves.
Present: Mayor Jackson-Stanley
Charles Prahl- MUC Commissioner
Glen Ford-MUC Commissioner
Andy Pasden -MUC Commissioner
Rex Marshall-MUC Commissioner
Norma Alschbach- MUC Commissioner
Gary Newcomb, Mgr-MUC
Carrie Hall, Asst Mgr.-MUC
Sylvester Molock, Supterintendent-MUC
Kevin Johnson-Asst. Superintendent-MUC
Greg LeBlanc-Asst. Engineer-DPW
Mr. Newcomb said without going into a lot of detail as the previous meeting, unless someone has a question, he would just like to highlight a couple of invoices.
Invoice# 19239 to the City of Cambridge for $12,723.60 is a makeup for employee health insurance cost in which the rates were changed as of July and we had not increased the contribution for the months of July, August and September.
Invoice# 19248 to the City of Cambridge for $16,447.08 is the Employee health insurance monthly premium.
The total expenses $106,727.74 plus two payrolls for the month, the total expenditures are $145,316.72. There are no expenditures that have exceeded the budgeted amount.
Motion to approve expenses for the month of September 2008 was made by Mr. Marshall, seconded by Mr. Prahl. Unanimous.
Minutes for the meeting of August 28, 2008 meeting were resubmitted for approval which was tabled at the September 2008 meeting.
Motion to approve August 2008 minutes was made by Mr. Prahl, seconded by Mr. Marshall. Approved.
Minutes for the meeting of September 25th, 2008 was submitted for approval.
Motion to approve was made by Mr. Prahl, seconded by Mr. Pasden and unanimously approved.
Post Card Billing
Mr. Newcomb informed the Commission he had heard back from the Baltimore Post office in reference to our post card billing. They have agreed to give us time to use up the bills we presently have. We will continue to utilize the bills we have, which is about a years supply. As we get close to ordering our new postcards, we will bring back to the board a sample of the cards that were previously agreed to, at our last meeting and we can make changes at that time.
Mayor Jackson-Stanley informed the board for the members, who were not present, we can use a two sided postcard and roll right into our current billing system.
Master Plan Update
Mr. Newcomb said everyone should have received a copy of the Master Plan. It is a little detailed as you are looking at the maps. He said he would really like to have a meeting some time after the first of next year to discuss things for the Master Plan Update.
While we are talking about that, he passed out a letter he received from Chief Hurley of the Rescue Fire Company. It goes along with the importance of having this Master Plan and the model of the water system done. On the Master Plan map, one sheet says The System Fire Flow Folder as the system is. This model shows that the area of fire from the other evening would be in an area that needs improving. The model shows that about 1,000 gallons a minute would be what they would get to Clifton Woods, as it goes further out to Longboat, it would continue to drop. To the development which further down, Canterbury Development-Ladd Johnson, it would drop down to 500 gallons a minute.
Minimum standard flow for residential areas, as you can see from the Master Plan would be 1,000 gallons per minute. For a commercial area it is 1500 gallons per minute. However, if Chief Hurley were here, he would say that 1,000 or 1500 gallons per minute is not adequate enough to fight a structure fire. When you have two trucks, we are not talking 1,000 gallons per truck. You can see his concern for anything below 1,000 gallons a minute. This model shows exactly the type of flows he was getting the other night. The other night at the Glasgow Street Station, which we talked about last meeting, it was Tuesday morning that we got water in the tank. However, the station was not on for the fire, it would have helped but it would not have changed the numbers drastically because the biggest reason for flow is the fact that it is basically a one eight inch feed for a long distance at a dead end. Once a truck up stream connects to a hydrant, any hydrants further down stream are going to have little or no water. This was the situation the other night. When we get into the master plan, we will find a number of the improvements recommended will increase the fire flows to this area. Some are quite expensive and a lot are involved to improve this area. Part of the reason we still have the low flows to this area is the fact that the other developments off Washington St. going back to Jenkins Creek Rd. have not been fully built out. Once they are built out and mains are extended, and eventually they will loop thru to Jenkins Creek Rd. and this will greatly help the fire flows in the area.
One of the things Mr. Newcomb said he would like to look into and have available at the next meeting is the information with the build out of the bypass road, the water line presently is from Washington St to the end of the paved area of the bypass road. There is quite a distance from there to Jenkins Creek Rd. I want to get the water model done showing that line connecting. We can then see what the flows would be to that area. That bypass road is something that is greatly needed for the future. The Master Plan will show the bypass to be connected all the way back to Chesapeake St. and go on across. It is in the recommendations of the Master Plan. The good thing about the water model, we can put the information in and we will know what the flows will be. Chief Hurley agrees that part of the problem, anything such as a new development, we can put in the model and we will be able to see the impact it will have on our system. We are a little late on getting the model, but it is a very valuable tool that we now have. He feels not just the MUC but the Fire Company will want everything run thru this water model.
Mayor Jackson-Stanley said it only makes sense with so many developments still coming up in that area. Conifer village is coming up like a mushroom. She asked if we would have sufficient water for Conifer?
Mr. Newcomb said Conifer is just another phase and when phases are looped back together, this may be one of the things we can look at now and say in order to complete phase 1, you may have to complete phase 3 of utilities. You may not necessarily need the streets & curbs but the water lines for adequate fire flows. If we look at the numbers and we see the improvements, then we may want to pursue it. Currently we don't know how far down the road the Waterford Development would be picked up by someone for completion.
Mayor Jackson-Stanley asked Mr. Newcomb how he would like to commission to proceed with this?
Mr. Newcomb responded that he would like the Commission to continue reviewing the Master Plan and ask any questions when we have our special meeting. Also, he would like to get some information on cost of extending that main on the bypass road and what effects it would have on the system in that area.
Mayor Jackson-Stanley asked if that would be in conjunction with RFC & DPW?
Mr. Newcomb said no, we would run it thru Davis, Bowens & Friedel because they could put the line in and we would see what the increase would be. It may not do what we hoped it would do. They may say we need to connect further down to get the adequate flows we need. The bypass road comes in at the beginning of Longboat, so it may very well not effect the flows further down to Waterford Development. The water model would be able to tell us.
Mr. Newcomb said what he is talking about should not be any additional cost to us.
Mr. Prahl asked if the property in question is the one off Rt 343 past Leonard Lane.
Mr. Newcomb said yes. The paved road goes back but is not connected to Jenkins Creek Rd. This is the area we would want the main to be connected.
Ms. Alschbach asked where the Longboat Development is located.
Mr. Newcomb said on Jenkins Creek Rd.
Ms. Alschbach said she lives across from the bypass road and they are bulding like crazy.
Mayor Jackson-Stanley said those are developments that were approved by previous councils. They have a lot of vacancies too.
Mayor Jackson-Stanley said we don't have to do anything now but we will look into a date in 2009 to discuss just the Master Plan.
Water Service Regulations
Mr. Newcomb said with the new members, he wanted to give them a chance to review the regulations and make necessary changes. He had one item in particular which needs to be addressed. Meter cost on page 8.
In our standard specs, and what we have been doing for the past 7 to 9 years , we require any new customer, commercial or residential to pay for the cost of the meter. Prior to that we supplied the meter. We are providing these meters at cost. Seven years ago that was an improvement to even get the cost of the meter. At cost might be a little too reasonable.
Mayor Jackson-Stanley asked if he was asking for an increase?
Mr. Newcomb replied he thought maybe we should get a little something on the meter.
We are getting these meters at cost and then we get the invoice with the cost of freight, which was not included in the meter cost. The next time we order meters, the next invoice may be a different price because quantity may make a difference. So he thought the "at cost" maybe something we should consider to change. Contractors call us to supply the meter because if they call the supplier, they would be paying more for it.
Recently, we were paid for 46 meters, and this is out to Conifer. We invoiced the meters.
$11,500.00. When we order the meters, freight is not included, as you can see the cost is not fully recovered. Later on in the year we plan on ordering more meters ourselves for meter repairs and replacements. Up to a few years ago that was not an issue because we never had a call for that many new customers. Our specs says the MUC supplies the meter at cost.
Ms. Alschbach stated costs does not even include freight.
Mr. Pasden stated to him, that would be included in the cost. His question was do we have to have a set amount?
Mr. Newcomb stated even if we add 10% or 20% to the cost of the meter, we would still be cheaper than retail.
Mr. Pasden asked where does this rule reside and what would we have to do to address this?
Mayor Jackson -Stanley said she thought everyone understood, but how to we go about changing it without breaking our own rules?
Mr. Newcomb stated it is in our specs, all we would need to do is change it.
Mayor Jackson-Stanley asked what would Mr. Newcomb recommend.
Mr. Newcomb stated he thought we need to change it to be total cost plus at least 10%.
Once the meter is installed, it is ours. Even if a new customer takes over a property, the meter would be our responsibility for repair or replacement if needed. There is no additional charge to a customer after the initial installation is completed, even the commercial meters.
Mr. Marshall asked if we charged 20% would the contractor still save money by getting the meter thru us?
Mr. Newcomb said it would probably be the same.
Most contractors want to buy the meter from us to insure they get the correct meter.
The meters we use, there are only a few suppliers. He thought 10% would not be unreasonable.
Mr. Pasden asked which meters are used for what type of facility on page 8 of the regulations?
Mr. Newcomb said 95% of all meters in the city are 5/8" X ¾".
Mr. Pasden said he answered his question, because basically with a 10% increase of the cost, we are not looking at a large amount when you are building a $100,000 home when you look at the percentage.
Mayor Jackson-Stanley asked if Mr. Newcomb would like direction on this now?
Mr. Newcomb said he would like to have approval to make the necessary changes in the regulations.
Ms. Alchbach made a motion to change the specs to include freight to cost of meter plus 10% effective immediately. Seconded by Mr. Ford. Unanimous.
Also page 10, the $15.00 turn on or turn off charge for the customer convenience has really never been charged. We do this as a customer service. If this were to be abused, then we would have to charge.
For delinquent accounts, we turn it off, plus the involvement of the office, paper work, etc., then again the service tech goes out to turn back on, $15.00 is not a lot of money.
I would just like to bring it to your attention to see if you want to make any changes.
This would never be a charge the Landlord would have to pick up. If we increase this fee it would affect the tenants and a few homeowners in hardship.
$15.00, we are not making any money.
Mr. Prahl asked if it is City ordinance that the tenant has to pay the water bill?
Mr. Newcomb said no, the City ordinance says we have to keep it in the owners name.
Mr. Pasden asked if we send the bill to the owner and not the renter?
Mr. Newcomb said at the Owner's request, we send the bill to the tenant. The bill will go out in the owners name c/o the tenant to the property address.
Mr. Pasden asked why do we do that?
Mr. Newcomb said because the owner requested it.
Mr. Pasden said we allow that why?
Mr. Newcomb said it is something we have done over the years. There is nothing in the City code that says we have to do that.
Mr. Marshall asked what percentage of landlords request the bills be sent to the tenant?
Mr. Newcomb said most of the individual metered property goes to the tenant, however these landlords want disconnects to go to them. If the owner got the bill he would not wait three months to complain about the bill, he would know if the bill was high, etc. the very first month.
Mr. Marshall said that would give your office a little relief as well.
Mr. Newcomb said a hugh relief.
Mr. Pasden said what we are doing is, owner of the facility' job of collection, collecting his own cost.
Mayor Jackson-Stanley said, then the Landlords will come screaming at our door.
Mr. Marshall said yes they would because we are doing them a favor and they will be upset. I can see us doing what Easton does.
Mr. Newcomb said a landlord with 3 apts on one meter and the bill goes to him, these are the ones that never get shut off. Crusader Arms, Case Edws. Etc., they never get shut off but I'm sure it is included in their rent. If the bill goes up, the Landlord calls to find out why. The ones that get shut off are the one which the tenant receives the bill. By the time it is shut off, two monthly bills and a disconnect have been mailed, then the Landlord will be the first to complain about why we let the bill get so high.
Ms. Alschbach stated she sees only one way to do this and that is to have all bills go to the owner. They may not like it.
Mr. Newcomb agreed. Mr. Newcomb said they are ultimately responsible for the bill anyway.
Ms. Alschbach asked how do we fix this?
Mr. Newcomb said he knew of no City Code other than the bill must be in the name of the owner. It also has in the City Code, the MUC has the authority and deligated to the MUC by the city, the responsibility of operating the water system and to come up with the rules and regulations. He said he would consider this to fall under that catergory.
So if the MUC were to say that all the bills will be sent to the Landlord, that would be within their authority.
Mayor Jackson-Stanley said then if the Landlords decided to send the bill to Tenant A, B Or C, they would not have that choice.
Mr. Pasden said he feels that this is a service and we should be able to just discontinue a service that is not required by any statue by our own decision. Unless we are commanded to do something by a certain statue. He said he would want to be certain we would not be in any violation of a statue or regulation.
Mr. Newcomb said he could have Mr. Collison look into this.
Mayor Jackson-Stanley said that would be good and also find out if the Landlords would have any appeal rights once we act on this decision.
Mayor Jackson-Stanley said we won't do anything on this until we hear back from Mr. Collison on his opinion.
Mr. Pasden asked if there are any other charges that flucuate like the meter costs that we are not recouping our cost that we need to look at?
Mr. Newcomb said the only other would be the installation of larger services -page 7.
We have a flat rate for residendial but commercial is the cost plus 30% & street repair cost.
Mr. Newcomb also wanted the commission to look at our leak adjustment policy which he thought was more than fair.
Ms. Alschbach said she wanted to commend the office, the second summer she was here she received a call about excess usage. It was because of watering a tree but it made her feel very good that someone was watching her water bill.
Mr. Newcomb asked if everyone was comfortable with the adjustment policy?
The all agreed.
Mr. Newcomb wanted to make the commission aware of our multiple unit billing. Several years ago, Harborhaven was brought to our attention that these were individually owned units and were billed on one mastermeter. They were billed on commercial meter size. When you would break the cost down, at that time, they were paying about $9.00 per month per unit. This was so much cheaper than someone in a house paying the full minimum bill. This is what triggered the per unit billing. This applies to Crusader Arms, Bradford House, any Condos, etc.
Once we did that, it did help with our revenue. He just wanted to make everyone aware of our policy.
Adjustment Total FY-08
The commission looked over the list of the customers which the City supplies water to for no charge.
Mr. Newcomb noted the State Hwy has an irrigation meter at Woods Road and Route 50. That is why the median strip looks very good.
Mr. Newcomb reviewed the street openings, new services and pumpage report, noting there was nothing significant.
Unaccountable was down.
Lead & Copper Testing
The testing results showed only a couple that had any signs of lead. One in particular was Bellevue Ave. This particular house had no water usage for a period of 4 to 5 months. This exceeded the action limits at .0229. The woman who lived here is deceased and her daughter met us there to get the sample. This site was picked because previously we knew it had a lead goose neck fitting in the service. This was the optimum condition to get a sample. The water sample should be the first draw after sitting for a least 6 hours.
Mr. Newcomb reviewed the pictures of the Glasgow Street Station after the work was complete. The total cost was under $3,000. He was pleased with the turn out. Water was back in by Tuesday morning.
Tank Washout Inspection Reports
Mr. Newcomb reviewed the maintenance agreement of the tank. He said it is a good plan for the maintenance on the tanks. We will be paying the bill by the end of the month. We will have spent a little over $100,000 for our tank maintenance in the current Fy.
He reviewed the most recent inspection indicating oil in the Nathan's Ave tank. This is the first time we have ever had oil in a tank. Nathan's Ave is an Oiled Lubed Pump. It is with a vegetable oil and not petroleum in a sealed shaft.
In the thirty three years he has been with the City, the pump has never been pulled. If we pull it, it will have to be replaced with a water lubed pump like the rest of the wells have. The Well Drillers will tell you these oil pumps will last forever or a very long time. We will be monitoring this. One of the concerns is we have been running it pretty heavily and the well may be getting down and drawing down enough so that some of the oil in the shaft is getting in the water.
Mayor Jackson-Stanley asked if there is any risk to people?
Mr. Newcomb responded no. The amount we are talking about seems to be coming more from the sediment than anything else.
Mr. Pasden said oil floats on top so as long as you don't empty the tank it would always be on top.
Mr. Newcomb said yes and the same thing with the well. He said he just wanted to point this out.
The Fletcher Ave tank , exterior to be renovated in 2009. There will be no additional cost to us. We just need to make sure we continue to keep these tanks in a maintenance agreement.
Monthly Consumption & Billing Total
Mr. Newcomb explained the breakdown of the billing totals, money and consumption for the benefit of the new commissioners.
With no further business , the meeting was adjourned at 7:53pm.
I hereby certify that the foregoing is a true and exact accounting of the business of the MUC during the regular meeting held on October 23, 2008. In so far as I am personally aware.
Jane W. Dorman