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New software program approved for water, wastewater

Council authorizes $19,000 for start-up and subscription

SOLON– Dave Richards placed a huge three-ring binder stuffed full of pages onto the table.
“That’s 2018 just for the sewer plant,” Richards explained.
Inside the binder were the monthly reports for Solon’s wastewater treatment facility, which Richards oversees.
The stack of reports was on display at an Oct. 4 city council meeting where Solon Public Works Director Scott Kleppe proposed a new cloud-based software program, WaterTrax, to reduce the time his employees spend managing reporting requirements.
Kleppe held up his own stack of reports during the meeting as well, one month’s logs for the water and wastewater facilities, noting the amount of data needed for reports.
“These are things we are manually doing on the daily logs, physically writing down numbers, doing the equations,” Kleppe said. “And then at the end of the month, we are taking these numbers and entering them into an Excel program to report to the state DNR (Department of Natural Resources).”
With the municipal water supply, the city samples the water and keeps the results, but they aren’t always readily available, he noted.
For example, he said, if someone asked for the nitrate level on well number three.
“We would have to go to a filing cabinet, and dig through the sample results or go through our monthly operating reports which we keep in a three-ring binder and try to figure out when was the last time we sampled for nitrates,” Kleppe said. “This software program will do all of this for us.”
Kleppe said he and Richards, who also operates the city’s water system, have been looking at water and wastewater management programs for over a year.
At the Oct. 4 council session, Kleppe sought approval for a subscription to WaterTrax, an online compliance management program, at a total initial cost of $18,960. Of that cost, $12,460 would be a one-time fee, with $6,500 as a recurring annual subscription.
WaterTrax will work in coordination with the laboratories currently used by the city to test samples, Kleppe said, posting the results to the cloud-based program.
By the middle of next year, he said, members of the public works department could sit down, hit a button, and have the monthly reports automatically generated.
“The time savings just for the monthly operating reporting is huge,” he said.
Because the city doesn’t sample for things like water hardness every year or every five years, that data (14 grains of hardness) can be hard to find, yet the city receives calls every month from new residents trying to set up a water softener, he said.
“This program will take all of our old results, incorporate it and we would have that at our fingertips,” Kleppe added.
Paper logs would be eliminated, and Richards would be able to enter information into the online system using a smart phone or tablet, he added.
While all the old test results from the water system would be added to WaterTrax, only a year of results would be added for the wastewater treatment plant, he said.
Mayor Steve Stange questioned whether the new program would be an asset in the event of an investigation by the DNR, and whether the city should consider adding the old data for the sewer plant.
Richards explained the city has to keep its records for 10 years, and noted the physical copies would still be available for the DNR.
“It would depend on the situation,” Richards said. “If you’re Flint, Michigan, they might want to go way back to check your lead. But we’re not that.”
Kleppe noted the water records were singled out because of the different timelines for testing different materials.
WaterTrax would also be helpful in maintaining testing schedules when Richards is on vacation or on sick leave, he added.
“The nice thing about this program, it’s going to tell the user what needs to be sampled on this day per our operating and regulatory requirement,” he explained.
The system will also flag something that’s not within operating guidelines, Kleppe said.
Under questioning from council members, Kleppe said the cost of the new program would be funded by utilizing excess money from the water and sewer funds in last year’s budget, with the remaining coming out of this year’s water and sewer funds.
The annual $6,500 subscription fee would be accounted for in future budget planning, he said.
No additional hardware will be required.
“Everything we have is compatible with this,” Richards noted. “Anything that we upgrade in the future is going to tap right into this.
“This company is constantly upgrading their stuff to stay on top of this,” he added.
Membership includes any upgrades, online support and training.
Kleppe said to expect six months for implementation, but could not answer whether the annual subscription fee could be expected to increase each year.
Council member Steve Duncan said he was in favor of opportunities to make the department more efficient and the processes easier.
“What are you going to do with all your free time?” Duncan asked Richards.
“Rebuild gear boxes,” Richards responded.
Kleppe reported earlier in the meeting Richards and Nathan Svec had rebuilt a gear box on a clarifier at the sewer plant, which had been leaking oil, with assistance from Wendler Engineering.
He estimated the repair saved at least $1,500.
“Kind of a big undertaking for my staff to rebuild a gear box, but they did do it,” Kleppe said, offering his congratulations. “One down, and three more to go.”
Stange thanked them for the efforts.
“That makes a big impact. We’re really fortunate with the group we have,” the mayor said. “We’ve got so many people that have got so many different skills. This town is very lucky to have y’all.”
Council members approved the software purchase unanimously.