Council elects Langrell as mayor

Written by Terri Harber January 09, 2013 08:47 am

By Terri Harber

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The four new Baker City councilors were sworn in Tuesday evening at City Hall.

Kim Mosier, Richard Langrell, Barbara Johnson and Mike Downing, who were elected Nov. 6, introduced themselves to the audience.

Their first decision was choosing their leader for the next two years. Nominations were made for Langrell and Clair Button. 

Langrell received five votes and Button received two.

Johnson and Downing voted for Button. Button voted for Langrell, as did Councilors Dennis Dorrah, Roger Coles, Kim Mosier and Langrell himself.

Button was named vice mayor.

In Baker City’s council-manager form of government, the mayor sets meeting agendas and presides over meetings but does not have veto power.

UV water treatment bid OK’d

Once the mayor and vice mayor were elected, the new Council took up an old bit of business: Deciding how to upgrade the city’s water treatment plant.

A presentation by representatives of HDR Inc. explained why ultraviolet equipment is being planned for the city’s unfiltered water system. They explained the criteria and methodology used that resulted in the choice of a UV system being constructed at the Baker City Water Treatment Plant. 

Chlorination by itself is ineffective. Treatment by filtration or ultraviolet lights would be considered the best additions for Baker City, which is using only chlorine, according to previous reports.

The councilors approved installing a UV system in December 2009 after an advisory group favored the method. 

After the presentation and discussion Tuesday, the councilors accepted a bid for the equipment.

 Three companies sought to provide the city with UV equipment. The lowest bidder — and the provider recommended by city staff and HDR — is Wedeco, which quoted $448,000. That figure includes supplying the equipment and the cost for replacement parts over the estimated 20 to 25 years of life for the system.

The councilors approved the Wedeco bid by a vote of 6-1. Coles opposed the project.

The initial equipment cost is estimated to be $290,000. Both figures are required as part of the bidding and help the purchaser make an informed decision.

Wedeco, of Charlotte, N.C., is a subsidiary of Xylem Water Solutions in Herford, Germany.

This past fall, some of the councilors were apprehensive about proceeding with the UV system plan. 

One major concern cited was that the Environmental Protection Agency could change its rules about disinfecting water and require filtration, for example.

“I’m opposed to it,” Coles said. “You don’t know what the state and feds are going to do.”

City and HDR officials said the EPA tends to revise findings every six years.  

The EPA announced its policy change regarding treatment against cryptosporidium in 2006. 

No change was announced in 2012. The next possible change could come from the EPA in 2018 but it would take several years to become a requirement.

By that point the UV system likely would be saving money not spent on a filtration system, Michelle Owen, the city’s public works director, said after the meeting.

Another worry was contamination caused by a wildfire in the city’s forested watershed. The resulting turbidity or soil runoff could only be dealt with by filtration.

Mosier asked whether the UV system would simply “be cheaper” or truly ensure that “we’re going to have safe drinking water.”

Anna Zaklikowski and Bryan Black of HDR explained that the UV system would do both. 

This decision is based on the amount of water consumed each day by residents and businesses, how much the area’s population is expected to grow over the next 20 years, and a long list of other needs and factors, they said.

Cost for a UV system would be between $2.4 and $3.8 million while a filtration system price tag could be $15 million.

Operation costs for a UV system also would be much lower than for filtration: $12,000 per year compared with $330,000, according to public works.

A huge wildfire, however, could result in a large amount of pathogen ending up in the water supply. That occurrence might result in the city losing its filtration exemption. 

This separate waiver was awarded because of the good overall quality of the city’s water supply over many years, Black said.

The chances of a catastrophic wildfire occurring are considered minimal. The city is seeking grant money to pay for forest thinning, much of which has already been done, to reduce the fire risk.

City officials emphasize there were no reports of illness related to cryptosporidium found in three of 24 water samples taken during a 12-month period in 2010-2011.

Two 10-liter samples, one taken in April 2010 and one in October 2010, each contained a single crypto oocyst. One sample taken in January 2011 contained two oocysts. An oocyst is the shell that makes this parasite resistant to chlorine.

The next round of required testing for cryptosporidium would begin in 2016. That’s the same year during which the treatment for cryptosporidium must begin, specifically in October 2016, after a period of test operations.

Court Street Plaza

Kate Dimon, Historic Baker City Inc.’s director, said that grant proposals to be written for the creation of Court Street Plaza need to include up-to-date project information.

Such additions as the city’s Christmas Tree and planned Salt Lick bronze need to be added to the plaza plan, Dimon explained. 

The councilors voted in December to close Court Avenue between Main and Resort streets. 

Their decision was based on progress of Resort Street’s reconstruction and improvement and takes into account the plan approved in 2009 by the councilors for that section of Court to be a pedestrian courtyard.

Court Street Plaza also is part of a 2011 plan by the State Historic Preservation Office and Oregon Main Street officials.

A stakeholder committee is formed and will meet late this month. The public will be welcome to provide input about the plaza plan.   

Dimon and Jason Yencopal, the county’s community development director, are working on a grant proposal for the plaza to be constructed.

In other business, the councilors:

• Accepted the audit report by Guyer and Associates. The city received a “clean” audit finding. Bob Seymour suggested the city consider paying off its debt of approximately $60,000. Councilors seemed amenable to the idea and intend to consider it.

• Approved the liquor license application submitted by Mulan Garden, 1841 Main St. The business owner seeks a “full on-premises sales” license from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. This would allow sales of all types of alcohol — malt, wine, cider and distilled varieties.

• Named representatives to some advisory groups. Mosier will sit on the Parks and Recreation Board and Johnson will be on the Public Works Advisory Committee. Dorrah will remain a member of the Airport Commission.