The Newton City Council will discuss the possibility of tweaking some of the provisions of its mandatory Inflow/Infiltration Program after finding that practice in person doesn't necessarily follow practice on paper.
In a memo provided to the council in advance of Monday's discussion, Public Works Director Keith Laube notes that all properties in the first established district in the Callison Park area that requires home inspections to determine if there are unlawful connections from properties to the city's sanitary system have now been visually inspected.
However, he notes, 13 properties in the district have not yet been dye-tested to look for illicit connections due to the dry conditions stemming from the drought.
The problem, Laube notes, is that the current ordinance requires that any corrective actions need to be completed in the district by Feb. 1 or a noncompliance fee will be charged to the property owner.
"Because these 13 properties are unable to be dye tested until wetter ground conditions exist, we do not know what corrective action plans, if any, wil be required for these properties," Laube states.
Of the 306 properties in the initial district, corrective action plans were mailed to 67 property owners, 21 percent of the total and well below the percentage of illicit connections estimated when the program was established. Only 15 properties have completed the corrections - at an average cost of $1,650 per property. The City will pay up to $3,000 of the corrective action cost.
The other 52 properties identified as needing corrective action are at various stages of completion, Laube said, which has identified another problem in practice.
The ordinance requires the property owner to obtain at least three quotes from qualified contractors to qualify for possible financial reimbursement. Many property owners are finding it difficult to obtain the necessary three quotes which places the property owner in a "difficult situation."
"It is our opinion that noncompetitive contractors are no longer spending time to visit properties to provide a quote for work that they believe they will not be awarded," Laube states. "This places the property owners in a difficult situation. If the property owner proceeds with the work without three quotes, they will not be reimbursed. If they fail to get three quotes before the deadline, they will be charged a monthly noncompliance fee."
Laube outlined several possible solutions for council consideration.
The first would be to waive the three-bid requirement if the property owner provides a quote within the range of unit prices the city has approved for previous work. Currently, the city has found that sump pump solutions to identified problems have been running between $550 and $800 with drain tile running $37 to $41 per foot.
Laube also said the council could also reduce the number of required bids from three to two, a solution the city is recommending be done in the program's first district.
Un the city's second established district in northeast Newton, the city is recommending an another alternative for the second established district in northeast Newton.
To date, Laube said, city staff has visually inspected 399 of the 409 properties in the district with about half found to be in compliance and 10 still needing to be visually inspected. Again, due to the dry weather approximately 100 properties need to be dye tested when wetter conditions prevail. Seventeen properties to date have been identified as needing corrective action with another seven already undertaking the action on their own in advance of the establishment of the program.
For this district, city staff is recommending that each district be treated as a project. The city would identify the scope of the corrective work to be done and put it out for bid to be awarded to one contractor. The city would let property owners know who the designated contractor is and the unit prices. If the property owner chooses to use another contractor at a higher cost than that obtained in the city bid, the property owner would be required to pay the difference.
Laube also notes that some situations have arisen that require property owners to be allotted more time to comply, namely unexpected changes in ownership due to death or foreclosure.
Possible solutions to these unexpected events include allowing heirs or those with power of attorney a three month extension, allow those acquiring a property after the conclusion of a foreclosure additional time to comply or requiring that projects be completed by the latter of either the 18 months after the district is established or within six months of the date of the approved corrective plan.
The Newton Council will take no action on changes to the ordinance on Monday.