Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

By Terri Harber


Baker City Councilors are considering buying an ultraviolet (UV) light device to protect drinking water against cryptosporidium until the permanent treatment plant, which also will use UV light, is constructed next year.

The city staff recommends councilors opt for the temporary UV system.

The discussion during Tuesday's meeting at City Hall was prompted by the crypto outbreak in July and early August, when hundreds of people became ill. The city's drinking water is the presumed source of the microscopic parasite.

Construction of the permanent treatment plant should begin March 1 and it is slated to be operating by the end of 2014.

"None of these options come cheap," Michelle Owen, public works director, told councilors Tuesday. "But for clean water this summer ..."

Peak usage during warm months can reach 6 million gallons a day.

City staff wants to have a temporary UV treatment plant operating by February. That's when officials plan to start diverting water from the mountain watershed into the city's well.

The city has done that for the past several years, a process known as "aquifer storage and recovery" - ASR.

Because the city had to rely on the ASR well this summer during the crypto outbreak, the mountain water in the well's aquifer has been depleted.

Treating the mountain water would require a temporary system capable of handling 4 million gallons a day, Owen said.

Other wells the city might be able to tap or drill would supply 2 million gallons per day at most, she said.

Councilor Clair Button asked how long the crypto spores could live underground if the mountain water wasn't UV treated.

Owen said state health officials told her crypto could live about 200 days in the well.

Councilor Kim Mosier said she was "uncomfortable without a plan in place" and with relying exclusively on groundwater -- an option suggested recently by Councilor Dennis Dorrah.

Temporary treatment is "something we should consider," Mosier said.

Councilor Mike Downing said he is "thinking along the same lines."

So is Councilor Barbara Johnson.

The economic cost to the town and businesses this summer was greater than the $210,000 the temporary UV system would cost, Button said.

"It makes sense as an option," he said.

The city is seeking to increase its water supply by building a well near Quail Ridge Golf Course and either using an existing well, or drilling a new one, near Court Avenue west of 20th Street.

Mayor Richard Langrell asked whether the cattle fence at Elk Creek, one of the streams the city taps for drinking water, has been repaired. Cows were seen near Elk Creek last summer about the same time a water sample from the creek was taken that contained 913 crypto oocysts. No other water sample, from any source, has contained more than 3 oocysts.

Owen said the fence is finished. Other tasks completed around Elk Creek include removing cattle and elk feces to reduce the risk of crypto entering the water from storm runoff.

The city has not used Elk Creek as a water source since early August.

Langrell disagreed with the councilors who want to use the temporary UV system.

He said there's a less costly option: "We just keep the cows out of the watershed."

Dorrah said he'd like to see the temporary UV treatment plan before deciding.

City Manager Mike Kee said that plan would be ready for the Council's next meeting, Dec. 10.

(Councilors will not meet on Nov. 26 because that's Thanksgiving week.)

Councilor Roger Coles asked about the construction management/general contractor committee that will choose the final bidders for the permanent UV treatment plant.

Kee, Owen and City Engineer Doug Schwin will represent the staff. A councilor is still needed to complete the advisory panel that would choose the finalists.

EID advances

Councilors opened and closed the first of two public hearings about continuing the downtown Economic Improvement District, EID.

This resolution, No. 3714, forms the district, calls the public hearing and allows consideration of the proposed property assessments and business licenses within the district.

Two more readings are required before the resolution is approved.

The next step is for the city is to notify those within the EID to inform them of the proposed assessment and business license rates, and announce the date and time of the second public hearing.

Several people spoke to the councilors about the EID and the city's manager of the funds, Historic Baker City, Inc.

Carolyn Kulog, co-owner of Betty's Books who has twice served on HBC's board, said she wants the EID continue and to see HBC still manage it.

Downtown's transformation "would never have been accomplished without HBC," Kulog said. "Eighty buildings restored, $20 million spent in that effort."

And the organization has been the "force of every downtown effort."

"As with any organization or family there are good years and bad years," she also said.

Artist Robert Anders said he doesn't consider himself "the voice of dissent." He's in favor of the EID but said he questions turning over the contract, and the money, to HBC.

Anders has concerns about "the current leadership of HBC to carry this forward," he said. "I look for accountability."

Ginger Savage said she also wanted to see the EID go on. She's the executive director of Crossroads Carnegie Art Center, but was speaking as a resident.

It has "become pretty easy to let someone else do it," she said. More people "need to step up to the plate."

HBC could meet the challenge, even if they "need a whole new election of board members."

"The board and myself take seriously our fiduciary responsibilities," said Eugene Stackle, president of the HBC.

He also addressed Savage's concern about the current board, and said "we take care of business."

Kate Dimon was dismissed from her position as HBC's executive director due to a funding shortfall. The organization will start looking for a new executive director once the EID is approved, Stackle also said.

Properties within the National Register Historic District would be charged $1.75 per $1,000 assessed value and other property owners in the EID would pay $1.50 per $1,000 assessed value.

The minimum assessment is $100. The maximum is $800 for people who own multiple properties, and $500 for each property.

Business licenses would cost $150 National Register Historic District and $125 for businesses in other parts of the EID.

Councilors approved Ordinance No. 3324 on Sept. 24, which allows the EID to go on for another five years -- but only if there is enough downtown community support. It would take objections by property owners representing 33 percent of the total assessment area to end the EID.

Individuals or groups interested in serving as the EID manager can submit requests for proposal to serve as program manager until 5 p.m. on Nov. 22. See bakercity.com for details.

In other business, the councilors:

andbull; Decided to ask the city attorney whether they could reject the bids already received to sell the city a used excavator. Waiting for the opinion until they meet again exceeds the deadline for purchase at the prices quoted.

Another potential seller contacted some councilors after bidding closed. He was said to have offered to sell an excavator for less than the five who followed the bid process. Some of the councilors wanted to ignore the bids; others thought it would be wrong. The next council meeting is scheduled on Dec. 10.

andbull; Opted to revisit some recent issues not completed after the Council had a 3-3 vote when one councilors was absent.

The ordinance that would ban smoking in public parks, and a resolution banning councilors from participating in meetings via Skype or other electronic means, will return to the Council's agenda during the Dec. 10 meeting.