Sept. 18, 2021 — The Mapleton Water District (MWD) Board of Directors met on Sept. 14 with a full agenda. Some important topics covered the procedure for dealing with past due bills, the choice of supplier for the new water treatment plant and the introduction, to the public, of new smart meters to be installed at all district residences.
The meeting began with the safety committee discussing a recent visit by OSHA. OSHA had requested that, and the board discussed, making sure fire extinguisher numbers were suitable, road signs were updated and that MWD Board Director Dustin Basurto was certified for flagging, a requirement as board director and important to day to day operations for the MWD. It was determined that all requirements were met.
After that, Board Secretary/Treasurer Jami Sautner discussed the district’s financials. She stated that in Banner Bank, as of Aug. 31, the district had $93,500.25, and in Oregon Pacific Bank the total was $7,598.26. The bills that had been paid since the last meeting totaled $40,000.
Board member Bryan Moore asked, “Before we move on, how much money do we really have?”
“We have $58,000,” replied Sautner.
Later in the meeting, she explained the actual amount the district had to work with was lower because of bills be paid to West Yost Engineering for advisement on the procurement of a new, permanent, treatment plant and WesTech for operation of the temporary treatment plant currently being used.
Board member Sharon Schrenk went on to state that money is tight right now for the district.
“We used to keep a balance of about $190,000, so we are down,” she said.
Schrenk went on to explain much of the funding is being used for attempted leak repairs with assistance of a company called Delta Operations. This company is used for day-to-day operations that require certifications that Basurto is currently working towards.
Schrenk said, “Dustin and I had a phone conference today with Delta and told them that we need to mitigate these expenses. We need to cut down on the money going out.”
She then asked, “What can the board do to support Dustin to get him up to speed to get him more in an operating mode?”
The current thought is that many of the services provided by Delta will eventually be taken care of by Basurto. The board agreed that it was only a matter of time and said Basurto was on course to complete his training and certifications as quickly as possible.
Moore, in hopes on cutting down on labor costs, offered assistance.
“Dustin, you can call me, for anything you need, and I can get a crew together, for sure,” said Moore.
Next topic discussed was an important one, as the board debated what the policy for late bills would be moving forward.
In February, bills were sent out to all residents on the MWD. These bills were much higher than many residents expected. It was determined the bills were estimated since March 2021.
Staffing issues prevented an in-person meter reader. When meters were actually read last March, many customers’ estimated usage was significantly lower than their actual usage.
This caused an outcry by locals who weren’t financially prepared for such high water bills.
On Tuesday, the MWD board decided, by vote, that the following would be the policy going forward:
A 50% credit will be given to the month of February billing amount. This does not include amounts that were past due prior to February 2021.
The customer’s 50% needs to be paid in full by Sept. 30 and the balance of the bill will need to be paid by Oct. 25. Disconnects and late fees will resume on Nov. 1.
Sautner added, “Payment arrangements are possible, but the arrears balance will need to be paid by Dec. 20, with a disconnect date of Jan. 10, 2022.”
Payment arrangements can be made by contacting the office at 541-268-4348.
In addition, those who already paid their February bill will be given a credit on future bills.
Newest MWD board member Millie Rochon mentioned that she was one who was affected by these large February bills, and agreed that though the bills would require payment arrangements for many residents. She said the community, as a whole, was looking for a resolution to the situation.
Schrenk agreed and mentioned that customers paying these bills was the only hope for having water service in Mapleton in the future.
All board members agreed that it was time to move forward.
Next, the board decided that the district could use some help in the office. They talked about letting the public know that they were looking to hire someone for eight hours a week, two four hour shifts, and that interested applicants should contact the office at the number listed above.
The board then discussed the bids that were received for a new water treatment plant. Temporarily, WesTech provides water treatment for Mapleton, but a permanent solution is needed. In the past, the board hired an advisor team of water engineers and the team had reviewed the bids for a new treatment plant.
This advisor team recommended the bid given by Filtertech Inc. This was lowest cost bid and also seemed to be the company that could best provide for the water needs of the Mapleton community.
The board took a vote and the Filtertech bid was accepted unanimously.
This was done with the understanding that Filtertech was still working to get approval by the State of Oregon, this being their first foray into treating water in this state. Filtertech assured those who reviewed the bid that approval was inevitable.
The board thought the new treatment plant could be up and running by Spring 2022. The plant is paid for by a grant from the State of Oregon.
Next, Basurto showed the board the new smart meters that will be installed at all residences. These meters will ensure accurate measurement of water usage and, eventually, will allow usage to be measured remotely.
After this, Rochon updated the board on her and her daughter’s progress with painting the town’s fire hydrants.
Basurto mentioned a plan to adopt a stretch of highway in the name of MWD. He mentioned the state will provide all the necessary tools and safety equipment. After two cleanings, an official sign will be installed.
Moore finished the meeting by mentioning he attended a wedding in Los Angeles recently.
“I drank some of the water down there. It was bad. I’m serious. We have good water here in Mapleton and that's what we’ve got to keep our focus on, especially in these hard times. We're very lucky that a lot of people put this much effort out again and again,” he said.
The MWD Board of Directors meets on the second Tuesday of the month at the Mapleton Lion’s Club Community Center. The next meeting will be Oct. 12.
Residents with questions or concerns can contact the MWD office at 541-268-4348.