Two of six filters cracked in Motley’s new wastewater treatment plant

City Council members wonder if it’s a design flaw

By Tina SnellStaff Writer

Two of the six filters in the fairly new (August 2011) wastewater treatment plant in Motley have cracked. The City Council has questions about both the integrity of the parts and the design of the facility.

“Blue Water Technologies in Idaho designed the filter and they want $1,200 to pull one to see why it cracked,” said maintenance employee Bruce Brotherton during the Tuesday night Council meeting. “The one-year warranty on the filters has run out.”

The plant, which cost the city almost $3.8 million, was designed by Widseth Smith Nolting (WSN) Engineers in Baxter. The Council will also be looking into a design flaw.

This design, said Brotherton, is the only one in Minnesota. There is a similar one currently being built in International Falls, also designed by WSN, so the Council will be looking to other states for information on any problems.

One of the fiberglass filters has been patched, but another has begun to crack. For now, the maintenance department will patch the second one.

“We would like to know why it’s cracking and plugging,” said Brotherton. “The issue is only occurring in the winter. In the summer, everything works fine. It’s been a mess keeping things going.”

Brotherton said he has had no help from WSN on the issue and feels the parts should not be cracking after only 20 months.

“This may be a faulty design and we may have recourse,” said Councilman Steve Johnson.

“There have been too many things going wrong with the plant that have not been kosher,” said Clerk/Treasurer Terri Smith.

Unfortunately, the warranty began when the parts were shipped to Minnesota, not installed in the plant.

“We need to look into this (the warranty). It doesn’t sound right to me,” said Councilman Pat O’Regan.

Brotherton said it takes forever to get a response from anyone at WSN. He is not sure if they are working on the issue or ignoring him.

“We may want to get another city engineer if WSN is not returning your e-mails,” said O’Regan. “I wasn’t even a part of this project and I am already frustrated.”

O’Regan suggested the Council talk to the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC).

“This may be a legal issue,” he said.

Johnson said WSN will just go on its merry way if the Council rolls over.

“We need to talk to our lawyer or to the LMC to get answers. We need to proceed,” he said.

The decision was made to first speak with any other cities with the same design, then to the LMC and finally to the city’s attorney.

Mark Hallen of WSN said he was not aware of any major problem such as cracked filters. He said he spoke with maintenance supervisor Wayne Barros April 5, and was not told about any problems with the wastewater treatment plant.

Motley City Council briefs

Other business conducted by the Motley City Council Tuesday night included:

• Voting to change the city’s liquor license ordinance to read “No license shall be granted within 350 feet from any school or church. The distance is to be measured from the closest side of the church or school to the closest side of the structure on the premises within which liquor is to be sold.” The rewording of the ordinance will allow Ashley Badger to have liquor in her establishment when it opens and in the future, if applied for, Mr. Ed’s Restaurant;

• Learning from Clerk Terri Smith that the water meters at both Trident Industries and Morey’s Fish Company have been cleaned of all build-up and should be running properly;

• Voting to have the maintenance department begin the concrete work for the tennis and basketball courts, along with the winter ice skating area;

• Agreeing to pay $125 each for Mayor Nancy Nieken, Councilman Steve Johnson and Smith to attend a full-day training seminar Tuesday, April 30, on actions to take if and when there is an active shooter situation in the building;

• Agreeing to accept donations from Morrison County of $1,293 to help manage the city’s recycling program for 2013, and $375 to help provide a clean-up day for city residents;

• Voting to have the city be added to the Minnesota Public Facilities Authority list for future matching grant money;

• Voting to have the Planning Commission meet the fourth Tuesday of the month beginning at 5:30 p.m.;

• Agreeing to donate $550 to the area Youth Swimming Program; and

• Accepting the resignation of Bryan Hutchison from the Motley Fire Department.

The next City Council meeting will be held at the Randall fire hall Wednesday, April 21, at 7 p.m.