Stuff happens. If Monday’s Laurens Commission of Public Works meeting was a story, that would have been its name.
An orange section of the foam that surrounds and protects a natural-gas line sat on a table, a makeshift symbol of nagging frustration. It was an example of what a Department of Transportation contractor yanked up from the earth while widening Torrington Road out near the Laurens CountyAirport.
CPW employees sprang into action on that emergency, and then there was the concrete that had been dumped out on I-385 near the industrial sites. That took some unanticipated time, too.
Then there was water: cool, clear water, suddenly grown “earthy” in taste and odor. The problem, naturally occurring and not harmful, came from an inordinately high level of Geosmin, a new word for many residents.
General Manager John Young thinks the crisis is mostly past, but it’s taken quite the bureaucratic process – samples shipped off the Texas, review of options, approval of the S.C. Department of Environmental Control, something called EarthTec treatment – to make progress.
“This is something that happens when a combination of really hot days and strong downpours of rain stirs the water up,” Young said. “DHEC had to approve any change in our process. There was a certain amount of trial and error. It’s not something we can fix overnight.”
The commission moved toward streamlining the employee policies regarding vacation and sick leave. Allowable vacation days were adjusted incrementally. Previously employees received five vacation days after 90 days of employment, 10 after a year, 15 after 10 years and 20 after 20 years. The checkpoints will increase under the new plan, set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2020. For example, employees would receive 13 vacation days after five years, 15 after 10, 18 after 15 and 20 (as now) after 20.
Changes in vacation, sick days, calculation of overtime, accrued vacation times and “personal days” were adjusted in a manner designed not to require a budget increase.
Pesky issues and emergency responses were not all that came up. A lot of the news was good.
CPW received notification that it will receive a $306,600 economic-development grant from Santee Cooper to make improvements to the electrical distribution system at Hunter Industrial Park. The Santee Cooper Municipal Site Readiness Fund was established to assist communities either served directly or through Piedmont Municipal Power Agency. The money will be spent in preparation for future expansion and make the industrial park more resilient against outages.
After an evaluation of a diesel generator being sold by the city of Kings Mountain, N.C., CPW officials processed a payment of $100,000 for the generator and are making arrangements to have it transported to the wastewater plant.
A sewer extension for the new Muffin Mam industrial bakery is about half finished. The lights are on at the building soon to house TrueCore, also at Hunter Industrial Park.
Operations Director Keith Woods has examined market conditions and received approval to take advantage of currently low rates to purchase a partial natural gas baseload capacity for the winter of 2019-20. Woods made a presentation comparing rates over time and nothing that, at present, pricing is low and production is increasing.
The monthly financial statement, presented by Administrative Director Blake Davis, revealed no notable surprises with only natural gas out of four divisions – the others being electric, water and sewer – reflecting a shortfall that is normal for the summertime months. Overall, CPW is $1,114,087, or about 8 percent, under budget.