DOWNRIVER UTILITY WASTEWATER AUTHORITY
FEBRUARY 11, 2021 MEETING MINUTES
VIRTUAL MEETING (due to COVID19)
1. Roll Call and Introductions
DUWA Chair Gail McLeod (Allen Park) called the virtual meeting to order at 9:00 AM and asked for roll call to be taken. At the time of roll call, voting representatives were in attendance from 11 communities: Allen Park, Belleville, Brownstown Township, Dearborn Heights, Lincoln Park, Riverview, Romulus, Southgate, Taylor, Van Buren Township, and Wyandotte. A quorum (at least 7 members) was present.
2. Approval of Agenda
Copies of the Agenda were made available prior to the meeting (Attachment 1). Motion by Jim Taylor (Van Buren Township) and supported by Roberto Scappaticci (Romulus) to approve the Agenda.
Doug Drysdale (Riverview) asked whether items 4b and 4c on the agenda are action items to vote on or for discussion only. Attorney Jim Fausone, of Fausone Bohn, responded that item 4b would be discussed and a motion could be made if desired, and item 4c would require action by the Board.
Due to the meeting being held virtually, a roll call vote was completed for Board actions. A roll call vote was taken to approve the agenda. The motion passed unanimously by all attending members.
3. Approval of Minutes from January 14, 2021 Board Meeting
Copies of the meeting minutes from the January 14, 2021 Board Meeting were distributed by email prior to the meeting (Attachment 2). Motion by Doug Drysdale (Riverview) and supported by James Krizan (Lincoln Park) to approve the minutes. A roll call vote was taken and the motion passed unanimously by all attending members.
4. Legal Update
Attorney Fausone provided the Legal Update.
a. General Counsel Monthly Report
Attorney Fausone stated that a written summary of the monthly legal update was provided in the pre-meeting Board packet (Attachment 3), and he had no further comments to add. He noted that the Fausone Bohn team is continuing to support DUWA on the WIFIA loan, and worked with the Legal Committee on the loan agreement.
b. Over/Underpayment and Deduct Policy
The most recent draft of the Overpayment, Underpayment, and Deduction Policies is dated February 9, 2021, and was provided ahead of the meeting (Attachment 4). The Technical and Legal Committees have reviewed and provided comment to the policy. The Committees are trying to ensure that the policy treats all member communities equally. A recent revision includes the shortened time gap between overreporting and underreporting. It was requested to have a shorter overreporting time frame that more aligns with the underreporting time frame.
The Board and meeting attendees then discussed the deduct policy. Some communities allow grant deductions, but there is no auditing process. The deduction policy is likely the most controversial policy of the three in the draft policy. The DUWA professionals have done their best to ensure the policy includes and addresses all items that have been brought forth by the Board, but ultimately this is a Board and Community decision on what is best.
Chairperson McLeod (Allen Park) asked why the overreporting and underreporting time frames are different. Attorney Fausone responded that the different time frames are intended to incentivize communities to identify reporting errors as soon as possible to ensure they are not overpaying. The time frames could be made the same, however, the different time frames allow for different motivations for communities to accurately report.
Keith Boc (Taylor) asked whether DUWA should specify what deductions are allowed, and if the deductions should remain consistent with what the communities currently allow. Currently, communities do not allow deductions for irrigation, but deductions are allowed for communities who are serviced by another sewerage system. Attorney Fausone responded that the policy does not include an exhaustive list of what is and is not allowed, but does allow deductions for communities who are partially serviced by another sewerage system. The policy also notes that deductions for irrigation are not allowed.
Doug Drysdale (Riverview) asked whether previous exemptions granted to industrial users by Wayne County are still valid. Currently, this is a local community decision as the community is ultimately responsible for paying for the total flows. Attorney Fausone responded that the policy is written to reflect this noting that exemptions can be granted at the community level, but are not to be deducted at the DUWA level so the community will have to incur the exemption costs in their rates. Roberto Scappaticci (Romulus) added that it is not desired to give out exemptions due to the possibility of legal implications for granting an exemption to one industry but not another. Keith Boc (Taylor) noted that the City of Taylor received a letter from Wayne County stating that Wayne County would not allow exemptions except for service by another sewerage system. However, this was not monitored by Wayne County and exemptions could still be granted at the community level with no consequences. Now, the community will have to pay for all exemptions granted.
Doug Drysdale (Riverview) asked whether DUWA should have an application process to review and approve requested exemptions by industrial users. There was a chemical industry that received an exemption from Wayne County after submitting an application. There must have been a procedure to verify that the flows were not going into the sewer system. Other companies had applied for exemptions, but were denied. Greg Mayhew (Wyandotte) stated that he objects to the deduction policy noting that the City of Wyandotte has major industrial users with exemptions that have separate discharges, and the Wyandotte Power Plant loses flow due to evaporation. Doug Drysdale (Riverview) responded by asking whether existing exemptions should be grandfathered in. Keith Boc (Taylor) stated that DUWA should have the authority to give a special exemption if the industrial user can prove that its flows do not discharge into the sewer.
Roberto Scappaticci (Romulus) stated that the main focus of this deduction policy is the flow discharged to the sewer because the rate is used for operation and maintenance of the sewer. If exemptions are grated, there may be a shift in financing where the community collects more money on the water rate side than the sewer rate side, but discharge from industrial users contributes the most to sewer corrosion and buildup of fats, oils, and grease. Revenues should not be shortchanged to address sewer operation and maintenance, so exemptions should not be allowed. Greg Mayhew (Wyandotte) suggested that there be an exemption review and renewal process to determine which exemptions will be allowed, noting that there would be a significant cost increase to the major industrial users in Wyandotte if they are not granted exemptions.
Keith Boc (Taylor) asked if DUWA can adopt an exemption review policy and procedure that would also require industrial users with previous exemptions to reapply. Doug Drysdale (Riverview) added that annual certification by an engineering firm could be required for each industrial user requesting an exemption. System Manager Lambrina Tercala, of OHM Advisors, stated that an exemption application could be created that requires the industrial user to prepare a flow balance diagram presenting water purchase/consumption, evaporation, flow-through use, and discharge. A fee would be associated with each application, and the application would need to be prepared by a professional engineer.
If current exemptions are grandfathered in, DUWA could be perpetuating exemptions that may no longer be accurate or qualify. System Manager Kaunelis added that Wayne County would grant exemptions after verifying operations and flows, but the program was not well administered due to reduced staffing, and there is low confidence in the exemptions that were granted.
Roberto Scappaticci (Romulus) stated that it is up to the community on how they want to blend the costs for exemptions into their rates, but raises concern for a possible class action lawsuit if one exemption is granted but not another. Attorney Fausone stated that the Legal Committee reviewed the policy on a legal basis, but not on a policy basis, noting that the policy is not written to tell DUWA what to do. The policy ensures that all member communities are treated fairly.
Steve Hitchcock (Romulus Attorney) added that it will be difficult to navigate allowing one exemption over another. Rates will not change, but costs will be reallocated. If sewer bills are based on water consumption, then DUWA should expect to receive many exemption requests. Kerry Morgan (Riverview Attorney) added that this was done with Wayne County, and attorneys have not raised any issues, and if they did, it would be an equal protection claim, not a class action lawsuit. Keith Boc (Taylor) disagrees noting that there are ongoing lawsuits regarding the rates in the City of Taylor, and if there is an opportunity for a class action lawsuit, there will be one. Kerry Morgan (Riverview Attorney) responded that if all exemptions are taken away, those industrial users previously holding exemptions could file a class action lawsuit. Attorney Fausone added that the Wayne County exemptions are no longer valid and have not been enforced in ten years. Industrial users may have changed operations and yet still receive exemptions. Kerry Morgan responded that this could be fraudulent behavior, so the policy should include an exemption application process to make it equitable for all industrial users.
Steve Hitchcock (Romulus Attorney) suggested that the exemption decision be included in the rate methodology decision that Raftelis is working on instead. Keith Boc (Taylor) noted that the exemption policy is similar to the school or rubbish tax in that people without kids are still required to pay for schools. Chairperson McLeod (Allen Park) asked whether the overreporting and underreporting policies should be separate from the deduct policy. Doug Drysdale (Riverview) agrees to put the exemptions policy in the rate methodology policy instead. Dustin Lent (Southgate) agrees to separate the policies, but notes that exemptions may come up in discussions regarding payback due to overreporting or underreporting. Dustin Lent (Southgate) also agrees to remove and reevaluate the existing exemptions. Doug Drysdale (Riverview) suggests that DUWA state that all current exemptions are pending approval by an engineering firm, and exemptions would not be voided unless the industrial users do not respond within 90 days. Dustin Lent (Southgate) agrees with this process and suggests that a new exemption application be created that includes an associated fee. Bill Turner (Brownstown) added that the industrial users will not pay a fee unless they receive an invoice. Kerry Morgan suggested avoiding grandfathering in the previous exemptions, and also suggested to better define an industrial user. System Manager
Attorney Fausone stated he will consider the feedback and update the policy. The revised deduct policy will be presented to the Technical Committee again for review and approval.
c. Reassignment of Roofing Contract from PSI to ATI
DUWA entered into a contract with PSI in 2020 for roofing design services. PSI is owned by Intertek, who also owns ATI. Intertek requested to reassign the contract from PSI to ATI, such that the funds would flow through ATI instead of PSI. The reassignment of the contract will not change the cost, and PSI personnel will continue to perform the work. PSI remains responsible for the work, and ATI is added as a responsible party. The Legal Committee reviewed and approved the draft Limited Assignment of Contract, and recommended it to the Board for approval (Attachment 5).
Roberto Scappaticci (Romulus) asked how the warranties for workmanship will be handled with the reassignment. Attorney Jim Fausone (Fausone Bohn) responded that both PSI and ATI will be responsible for their design warranties.
Motion by Dustin Lent (Southgate) and supported by Greg Mayhew (Wyandotte) to authorize the Chair or Vice Chair to execute the assignment of the roofing contract to ATI. A roll call vote was taken, and the motion passed with 91.2% of the vote. Motion passed unanimously with all attending members.
5. System Manager Update
System Manager Vyto Kaunelis, of OHM Advisors, provided a verbal summary of activities since the last meeting. A written summary was in the pre-meeting Board packet for the System Manager Report (Attachment 6).
a. System Manager Monthly Report
System Manager Kaunelis noted the following highlights from the System Manager Report:
• The Alkali sewer has been cleaned in preparation for lining. Lining is expected to take place later this month.
• In regard to the SCADA split project, Eramosa shipped the equipment to the plant, and it is ready for the formal split of the system. Eramosa is still experiencing border crossing issues, so the installation work may be subcontracted out to a local SCADA firm.
• Two bids were received for the roof repair design. Both bids were higher than what was budgeted for this work. While there was a lot of interest in this project, other similar projects were also being bid at the same time, likely resulting in a low number of bidders for this project. Because of this, this project may be re-bid.
• Veolia has been performing inventories at the plant and is looking to auction items that are no longer needed. Veolia is considering using BidNet to auction the items, but DUWA struggles getting access to the system as a government entity since they do not have staff. The System Manager is working with the Board Secretary (Romulus) to assess opportunities to gain DUWA access to BidNet.
• The WIFIA loan application was a long and arduous process, but it has now been completed and the loan is in place. This loan is the first to be received in the state of Michigan and is the first that involved a private contract operator, which caused some bureaucratic issues. The team that worked on the WIFIA loan did great work.
• In regard to the rate methodology, the one-on-one meetings with Raftelis and the individual communities have been completed. There will be a Town Hall on February 26th at which Raftelis will present a preliminary report detailing the items discussed to date.
• Due to the closing of US Steel in Ecorse, Ecorse is formulating a request to use a different methodology to calculate its fees instead of using the average flows over the last 5 years, which are not representative of its current water use.
b. Flooding Mitigation Evaluation
Following the May 1, 2019 rain event that caused numerous basement backups throughout the DUWA member communities, a flooding mitigation evaluation was desired to be completed to determine ways to prevent flooding issues resulting from large rain events in the future. Initially, the scope of this analysis was expected to cost several hundred thousand dollars. Instead, a flooding prevention group was created that was comprised of staff from the DUWA member communities. It was decided that a smaller study would be completed with this group utilizing their overall system knowledge, and implementation of any recommendations would be easier since the recommendations would come from within the group. Following the analysis, a flooding mitigation report and action item summary were created, and these documents are provided in the Board package (Attachment 7).
Action items resulting from this flooding mitigation analysis included exploring the use of bypass pumping in Allen Park, Ecorse, and Lincoln Park, noting that while EGLE is not in favor of pumping to the environment, EGLE will allow bypass pumping in certain cases to avoid basement backups during large rain events. Bypass pumping is a common method used to reduce peak flows within sewer systems. Another action item involved changing the wet weather emergency operational procedures to include preventing River Rouge from discharging into the Riverdrive Interceptor during large rain events. This would allow for increased sewer capacity for the communities downstream. River Rouge has a retention basin that can be utilized to store peak sewer flows during large rain events. Another action item included supporting the Army Corps of Engineers’ (ACOE) detention basin project that will help mitigate flooding in the area for smaller magnitude storms. Lastly, each individual community should implement best practices to ensure their sewer systems are operating as designed.
No action is required by the Board at this time to implement these recommendations; however periodic tracking and reporting on these action items will occur to ensure steps are being taken to help prevent flooding in the future. As these recommendations are being implemented, the Board may be requested to approve a change to the wet weather emergency action plan that includes preventing River Rouge from discharging into the Riverdrive Interceptor during wet weather events.
Attorney Kerry Morgan asked whether DUWA has any obligation to improve the sewer system in the area of the proposed ACOE detention basin project. System Manager Kaunelis responded that DUWA has not had any previous involvement with this project, and does not anticipate any future interaction mandating DUWA to implement sewer system improvements. The project could potentially have a small impact on the DUWA system, but the project is independent of DUWA.
Chairperson McLeod (Allen Park) noted that the ACOE has studied Ecorse Creek extensively, and remarked that at last year’s town hall, many residents were upset that nothing would be done in Allen Park besides periodically clearing out the natural damming that occurs along Ecorse Creek. The detention basin is proposed to be constructed in Dearborn Heights to alleviate flooding issues upstream and downstream. John Selmi (Dearborn Heights) asked Patrick McCauley to provide comment on the ACOE detention basin project. Patrick McCauley stated that the ACOE detention basin project is moving along slowly, noting that the ACOE is waiting to receive federal monies to move the project into the next stage. Construction is not anticipated to begin for a long while, and the project may not be complete until 2025 or 2026.
c. Riverview Request for New Tunnel Connection
The City of Riverview currently does not have a direct connection to the tunnel. Riverview is requesting that a direct connection to the tunnel be installed to alleviate flooding in a small portion of their system during wet weather events. The concept was brought to the Technical Committee for review, and the Technical Committee approved the concept. ASI and Riverview’s consultants performed modeling analyses to determine whether there would be an impact on the system upstream of the proposed connection. The analyses showed that no significant impact on the system is expected as a result of this tunnel connection (Attachment 8).
The amount of flow proposed to be discharged to the tunnel is small, but will be enough to help relieve the bottleneck in the Riverview system. There is no additional flow proposed to be discharged from Riverview, but a second discharge connection farther upstream than its current connection would provide a benefit to the City during wet weather events. Since there are no apparent technical issues with the connection, Riverview will proceed with their design.
Keith Boc (Taylor) asked whether Riverview will be assessed a fee for adding a connection to the tunnel noting that the initial cost assessment of the tunnel construction applied to those communities with connections to the tunnel. System Manager Kaunelis responded that Riverview was part of that initial cost assessment and has already contributed to the cost of the tunnel even though they did not initially have a direct connection. Chairperson McLeod (Allen Park) asked who will bear the cost of construction. System Manager Kaunelis responded that he expects Riverview will pay for the construction of the connection. Attorney Jim Fausone (DUWA Attorney) noted that there will be a Riverview tunnel agreement brought forward to the Board for approval once the documents are compiled. This agreement will outline costs and terms of usage.
d. Year 2 Report
The Year 1 in Review report was found to be very insightful, so a Year 2 in Review report was created (Attachment 9). It is impressive to see everything that has been accomplished in two years, and the Board has a lot to be proud of. This report can be shared with local community customers to show them what has been done since DUWA took ownership.
Jim Taylor (Van Buren Township) stated that Van Buren Township will be rolling out a new website soon to further engage and educate customers, and he plans to share the Year 2 report on the website. He encouraged the other member communities to share this report with their customers as well. The report is written such that it is easy to understand.
e. Biosolids Dryer Facility Project
The biosolids dryer facility monthly progress report is provided in the pre-meeting Board package (Attachment 10). The DBE team has completed 100% design for submittal to EGLE as a part of the permit request. The demolition work is almost complete. Equipment has been ordered, and the team is awaiting delivery. The thermal oil room building will be constructed next.
6. Other Requests for Authorizations and Approvals
System Manager Tercala provided the following requests to the Board.
a. HRC As-Needed Assistance for Fordline Interceptor Infiltration Areas
Upon review of the CCTV videos along the Fordline Interceptor, localized infiltration runners were identified that require rehabilitation. The area of interest is near Goddard Road and the I-75 overpass, which is a critical crossing under a major highway. The Fordline Interceptor is approximately 32 feet deep in this area. OHM worked with Veolia and HRC to review the videos and determine next steps. It was determined that in-situ repair could be performed to address the infiltration. HRC was solicited for proposal to assist with the recommendation of repair. HRC’s as-needed contract with DUWA will be the contracting mechanism used for this effort. While this work was not planned, it is proposed to use DUWA’s small capital budget to fund HRC’s proposal for a not-to-exceed fee of $12,384 (Attachment 11). The proposal includes assistance with the preparation of a Request for Qualifications, bid review, and limited construction administration. The Technical Committee reviewed the scope and recommended HRC’s proposal for Board approval.
Motion by Roberto Scappaticci (Romulus) and supported by Rick Rutherford (Belleville) to authorize HRC for engineering assistance associated with a limited Fordline Interceptor rehabilitation project. Services will be performed per HRC’s January 18, 2021 proposal for a NTE cost of $12,384. The work would be completed as a distinct task under HRC’s as-needed professional service contract with DUWA. A roll call vote was taken, and the motion passed with 91.2% of the vote. Motion passed unanimously with all attending members.
7. Contract Operator Update
Jason Tapp, of Veolia Water, provided the Contract Operator update.
a. December 2020 MOR
The December 2020 Monthly Operating Report (MOR) was provided in the Board’s pre-meeting packet (Attachment 12). Highlights from the summary and other updates included the following:
• The plant processed about 1.3 billion gallons of flow in December.
• Plant operations were in compliance for the month of December, and no bypasses occurred. The total number of bypasses that occurred during CY2020 was 4, which is less than the annual goal of 6-8.
• The maximum flow received in December was about 63 MGD. There were relatively low flows in December.
• Influent Raw Sewage Pump #1 was returned following planned rehabilitation, and is now back in service.
• Many maintenance activities were performed including a major overhaul on the aerated grit belt and installation of two new steam heaters on the IPS fine screen area. A closed loop cooling system was installed on Centrifuge #2 reducing City water consumption.
• The plant received about 230 MissDig tickets, 40 of which were emergencies.
• Most of the demolition is complete for the biosolids dryer facility project. Veolia continues to work with onsite contractors to support the project. Everyone is encouraged to schedule a visit to the plant to see the progress to date.
8. Treasurer’s Report
a. Quarterly Financial Statement – CY2020 Q4
Accountant Doug Drysdale (Riverview) presented the Quarterly Financial Statement for CY2020 Quarter 4 (Attachment 13). The balance sheet has preliminary numbers as of December 31, 2020, but the numbers may change by the time the final audit is available in a couple months. DUWA currently has about $37.7M in cash, which is down from the beginning of the year due to the biosolids project. Accounts receivable totals about $3.6M, which is higher than last year due to delays on collecting payments as a result of COVID. The totals from fixed assets and accumulated depreciation will change during the final audit. There is no prepaid insurance since insurance begins on January 1, 2021. Debt payments will be included in the year-end audit numbers. As of December 31, 2020, revenues totaled $4.9M, which included SRF billings to communities and the SEMCOG Grant received in Q4. Operating revenues totaled $23.1M. Interest earnings were low due to COVID. These is an overall deficit of $3M in accounting for revenues and expenditures.
During discussion of the Quarterly Financial Statement, a disruption occurred and the meeting login was ended. All participants had to log back in to finish the meeting.
b. Pending Invoices
Accountant Drysdale presented the invoice register for a request for payment. The invoice register was provided in the pre-meeting packet (Attachment 14). The invoice register included 52 invoices due for a total of $5,262,191.94. Largest invoices included those to Inland Water for the Alkali Sewer project, Veolia for O&M services, Kruger and Walsh for the biosolids dryer facility project, and Wyandotte for utility services.
Motion by James Krizan (Lincoln Park) and supported by Greg Mayhew (Wyandotte) to pay the invoice register. A roll call vote was taken, and the motion passed with 79% of the vote. Belleville, Brownstown, and Dearborn Heights did not re-join the call after the previous meeting distruption and were not present for the motion. Motion passed unanimously with all attending members.
9. Public Comment
Keith Boc (Taylor) noted that he is retiring and will not be present at future Board meetings as a voting member. The Board and meeting attendees wished him well into his retirement.
10. Other Business
There were no items brought forth for consideration as “Other Business” items.
11. Next Board Meeting Date: Thursday, March 11, 2021 (Virtual via Zoom)
Chairperson McLeod (Allen Park) reminded the Board that the next meeting would take place on Thursday, March 11, 2021 at 9:00 AM virtually via Zoom.
The meeting was adjourned without motion or roll call at 10:52 AM.
Meeting Minutes Prepared by:
Mackenzie Johnson, OHM Advisors, Engineer
Meeting Minutes Reviewed by:
Lambrina Tercala, OHM Advisors, DUWA System Manager
1. Meeting Agenda
2. January 14, 2021 DUWA Board Meeting Minutes
3. Monthly Legal Update (by Fausone Bohn)
4. Overpayment, Underpayment, and Deduction Policies (by Fausone Bohn)
5. Limited Assignment of Contract (by Fausone Bohn)
6. System Manager Report for February 2021 Board Meeting (by OHM Advisors)
7. Flooding Mitigation Evaluation (by OHM Advisors)
8. Riverview Request for New Tunnel Connection
9. DUWA’s Year 2 in Review Report (by OHM Advisors)
10. Biosolids Dryer Facility Project January 2021 Monthly Progress Summary (by Veolia)
11. Request to Authorize HRC for As-Needed Assistance to Address Fordline Interceptor Infiltration Areas
12. Monthly Operating Report for December 2020 (by Veolia)
13. Quarterly Financial Statement, CY2020 Q4 (by Doug Drysdale)
14. Invoice Register, dated February 5, 2021 (by Doug Drysdale)