City has plan to cut engineering fees

    Faced with an unfunded mandate to spend anywhere from between $1 million and $2 million to remove additional storm water from its sanitary sewers, Decatur officials have come up with a plan to comply while reducing its total outlay: Do a great deal of the work "in house."
    The plan, unveiled at Tuesday night's city council meeting, gained the unanimous approval of council. What it will do is significantly reduce the cost the city would have to put forth to hire an engineering firm. Eventually, such a hiring will be necessary, but local officials figure they will save a good-sized chunk of money before that becomes a fact.
    At council's meeting two weeks earlier, Ben Adams, an engineer with Commonwealth Engineers of Fort Wayne, made public the mandate bad news. After two major — and expensive — sewer projects to separate storm water and sanitary water in recent years, the city was left with three combined sewer overflows (CSOs). During unusually heavy rains, some of the rain water overflows through them into the St. Marys River.
    IDEM wants that considerably reduced.    
    Adams said at that time that Commonwealth could conduct extensive testing of the city's sewer and perhaps find ways to, as Adams said, "knock out a bunch of external water." Maybe the city could meet IDEM's mandate in that manner.
    The cost of the study would be anywhere from $100,000 to $150,000 and any changes that could be made may still not be enough to satisfy IDEM.
    Since that meeting, however, Mayor John Schultz said last night that Street/Sanitation Superintendent Jeremy Gilbert and storm/waste water department employee Verlin Butcher got together and devised the plan to have city employees make several changes and corrections which could get the city near or even to the IDEM goal.
    "Why should we hire an engineering firm to tell us things we already know," the mayor said.
    Gilbert and Butcher have a seven-point plan which will cost the city right at $61,340 — likely half the cost to hire Commonwealth or another engineering firm for essentially the same work. The money will come from riverboat gambling funds and the storm water fund.
    Schultz said the seven-point plan isn't likely to make the two-million gallon reduction IDEM wants, "but we can get it down." And, he added, some more water-reduction ideas will undoubtedly be added to the list as the city gets deeper into the work.
    "Actually, these are repairs we've needed to do for some time," said sanitation department Superintendent Anne Butcher.
    The mayor, City Attorney Tim Baker, Gilbert and Butcher, plus a few others, will soon hold a conference call with IDEM officials to go over the plan.
    Here is the seven-point city plan unveiled Tuesday night which will help Decatur reduce the infrequent storm water which flows through CSOs into the St. Marys River.
    1. Motor/epoxy existing manholes, 11 each; cost: $16,00    2. Change castings on manholes and level existing roadway around manholes; $16,000.
    3. Purchase Bobcat attachment (manhole saw); $20,000.
    4. Extend storm water sewer behind the Grainery; $1,200.
    5. Work on storm water sewer at Adams and 10th streets; $2,000.
    6. Replace castings only on existing manholes; 16 at $215 each, total $3,440.
    7. M    anhole machine rental; $2,700.
    Total cost, $61,340.