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Trustees grill engineer about final lagoon report

Brady village board members hammered engineer Reed Miller with question upon question after receiving the final draft last week of the sewer lagoon study conducted by Miller & Associates of Kearney.

Can the existing bentonite element be revitalized? Are engineering firms in cahoots with the state? Can the Department of Environmental Quality regulate a town this size? Is there any fix that would cost less? If the lagoon was built for 1,000 people in the 1970s and the village has 428 now, why does it have to be any bigger?

“These are all valid questions,” the engineer said, after responding to each inquiry during the regular monthly village trustee meeting on Oct. 12. “I know it’s a little overwhelming.”

Miller’s report follows nearly two years of studying the village’s sewer lagoons.

Brady’s lagoon trouble began in 2007 when a check of the seepage showed more liquid leaking out of the lagoon than allowed.

Village officials did not make any changes in the lagoons at that time, Miller said.

In 2009, DEQ tested the lagoon again and seepage levels surpassed the eighth-inch limit by several inches, meaning sewage could be threatening ground-water.

DEQ then mandated repairs and that’s when a Community Development Block Grant helped kick off the process of repairs with Miller’s study.

“We’re getting lots of conflicting stories from former board members,” trustee Todd Roe told Miller. “We really just want to get this cleared up and cleared up right while spending the least amount of money possible.”

The final report from Miller & Associates proposes a variety of options at various costs. The worst-case scenario reaches well over $1 million.

“We’re talking about a large amount of money that we don’t have,” said village chairman Jeff Miller. “What’s our consequence if we can’t afford to do this?”

The engineer told trustees that DEQ has been patient, working to extend deadlines that were impossible to meet during the study. Ultimately, he said, DEQ could levy fines as high as $10,000 per day.

So the village is looking to Karl Elmshaeuser and West Central Nebraska Development District to help find funding, not only for lagoon repairs but also for work on the sewer system.

“The way I see it, you’re cash strapped,” Elmshaeuser said. “You’re in a tough spot.”

But Elmshaueser encouraged trustees to see the lagoon and sewer issue as a priority.

He told trustees of a previous $300,000 grant awarded to the village that would have helped replace water mains, repair a well house and implement the use of residential water meters.

“I realize that was an entirely different board then but that grant was declined,” Elmshaeuser said.

WCNDD will begin work on a new grant to cover a portion of the cost of televising the sewer lines and installing a flow meter on the lift station. Both will help officials know if additional problems are contributing to the lagoon issues.

If awarded, the CDBD grant would cover 75% of the estimated $40,000 cost.

When that’s complete, Elmshaeuser said WCNDD will work with Brady and the Water/Waste Water Advisory Committee on funding for lagoon repairs.

“It’s mind-boggling,” Roe said. “It’s just so much information to try to digest.”

Trustees will make an application for the CDBG grant in the January cycle. A public hearing will be necessary at that time.

In other business, trustees:

authorized payment of a bill for $225 from Jeff Snyder for plumber service prior to finding a collapsed sewer line between Matthewson and Harrison streets. The sewer line has been repaired.

extended the bid date for leasing the landfill ground until 5 p.m. Nov. 1. Identical bids were submitted in October.

voted to spend $20,000 to have Stulich Asphalt of Ogallala fill cracks in the paved streets. Additional funds will be put toward street maintenance next budget year, including filling and repairing larger areas.

discussed part-time maintenance duties and hours with Tom Shoemaker.

hired GSH Quality Service to clean the Community Center for $50 per service.

approved the liquor license renewal for the Hitchin’ Post.

agreed to limit parking on the south side of Popleton Street in front of the school to two hours, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays.

authorized Jeff Snyder to replace his existing mobile home on North Harrison Street with a new mobile home and discussed a possible change in zoning to accommodate a proposed business on the north edge of town.

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