Central Minnesota Ethanol Co-op asks for Council support in moving along with water reuse project

By Terry LehrkeNews Editor

For the past 15 months, the Central Minnesota Ethanol Co-op (CMEC) has been working with the city of Little Falls on a wastewater reuse project.

The CMEC’s proposed facility will recycle 100,000 gallons of the 300,000 gallons of city water it uses each day.

That 100,000 gallons from its pretreatment facility would be filtered and cleaned up and put back into the ethanol production process “instead of the water leaving and going to the city’s pretreatment facility,” said Public Works Director Jerry Lochner.

That means, said Lochner, that a little more than 100,000 gallons of water won’t be coming into the city’s wastewater treatment facility each day — and 100,000 gallons of water won’t be taken out of the city’s aquifers each day for use at the ethanol plant.

“It is a win-win for the city in the long run and will save the ethanol plant some money as well,” said Lochner.

A $500,000 grant was applied for from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) toward the project.

However, Larry Novakoske, the chief operating officer of CMEC said the grant process has stalled. CMEC wants to move forward more quickly with the project, estimated to cost about $1.2 million.

Novakoske said the major concern of the CMEC is that the process required by MPCA to actually get the funding will add significant costs to the project and could delay the completion by many months.

A letter from the CMEC to the city said when the increased project costs are added to the lost opportunity costs in water savings (approximately $1,000 per day), CMEC felt it would be more cost effective to work directly with the city.

“We could probably have the project done in three – four months,” said Novakoske. He said he could take up to nine months for the MPCA grant process to be completed, which could cost the business from $200,000 – $350,000, approximately $1,000 (of savings) for each day the project is not in place, he said.

CMEC is asking that the city commit $500,000 from the pretreatment reserve account that the CMEC has funded over the years. This fund has about $640,000 in it at the present time, taken from the standard water/sewer rates CMEC pays to the city for taking care of the pretreatment facility at the site.

In exchange, the CMEC would take over ownership and assume full responsibility for the city’s current wastewater pretreatment facility near the plant. It would take care of the expenses and operation of the new equipment related to the water reuse project as well.

In fall 2012, the city refurbished the wastewater pretreatment facility at the ethanol plant at a cost of nearly $200,000.

City staff asked the city’s financial adviser, David Drown, to review the request.

In a letter, Drown said the city could consider the $500,000 an investment in its utility system; could consider it a city expense to promote developments aimed at improving the city or a contribution to the project could be contributed through Economic Development Authority (EDA).

The consensus of the Council, with Council Member Frank Gosiak absent, was for staff to continue research on the issue, and bring findings back to the next Council meeting, slated for Monday, Aug. 5.

Little Falls City Council Briefs

In other business Monday during its work session, the Little Falls City Council:

• Learned city staff was installing cement slabs for bike racks using grant money through the Little Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau;

• Requested Vogt find out whether any video surveillance at City Hall is public data before making a decision about whether to install surveillance cameras in the facility;

During the regular meeting, the Council:

• Heard Robin Hensel’s concerns about how the trees in the downtown area were pruned by city staff;

• Approved on a 5-2 vote, to extend the time of the noise ordinance to 10:30 p.m. for softball games played Tuesday night on the west side only until the last game of the regular season, Aug. 6. Council Member Frank Gosiak was not present. Councilmen Jeremy Hanfler and Brian-Paul Crowder both voted no. The Council heard from the new softball league secretary Joe Masog, that next year he will plan the schedules so games end at a time consistent with the city’s noise ordinance;

• Received a written request to turn over all notes taken during City Council meetings by city staff or elected officials from the May 17 and July 9 meetings;

• Approved amending a 1984 agreement with Pike Creek Township to add an additional 3,300 feet of 13th Street Northwest that the city takes care of, taking into consideration that portion that has been annexed into the city;

• Voted 6-1 to ask Sentence to Service crews to clean the area near the south exit to the city to clear the overgrown brush and grasses. Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem voted against the motion, because it is not city property. Gosiak was absent;

• Approved hiring a temporary part-time dispatcher to fill in for an employee on leave at the Little Falls Police Department at a cost of $18 per hour.

The Council next meets Monday, Aug. 5, at 7:30 p.m.