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Humboldt considers water plant operations proposal

Management would go to a private business

February 3, 2009
By ROBERT WOLF, Messenger correspondent

HUMBOLDT - The city of Humboldt is considering turning over operations and maintenance of the municipal water plant to a private company.

The council met Monday with representatives of PeopleService Inc., of Omaha, Neb. PeopleService has managed the city's wastewater operation for at least 10 years, said Chris Gutschow, PeopleService's director of business development.

"We are looking at roughly four staff members," Gutschow said. "We always look at the existing staff that is currently there. We always encourage them to apply if we are awarded a contract."

Gutschow said one of the biggest strengths would be the cross-training of employees. He said PeopleService provides similar service for Clarinda, Grimes, Maryville, Mo., and other cities.

PeopleService Regional Manager Dennis White said the firm would work with the existing facilities and would not require a new water plant unless it failed to operate properly.

City Administrator Lorie Bennett said the firm has done a good job managing the city's waste water, and the city is considering letting them manage the water plant as well. The city has not sought proposals from other firms, she said.

In a related matter, a team of Humboldt representatives, along with other area representatives, is traveling to Washington Feb. 10 to apply for federal economic stimulus funds.

Councilman Jim Vermeer suggested applying for funds for a water plant or other infrastructure needs. He said some funding may cover up to 80 percent of infrastructure projects.

"Good quality water for a community might be at the top of somebody else's list." Vermeer said. He said the federal government is looking to fund projects that are ready to go.

Councilman LeRoy Jorgensen agreed. He suggested city staff come up with a plan to present when the team visits Washington.

The council also set a Feb. 17 meeting date to consider the authorization of a loan agreement and the issuance of an amount not to exceed $3.9 million in general obligation capital loan notes for several sanitary sewer projects in town. The projects are expected to cost around $3 million, but Vermeer cautioned the work will not mean Humboldt will never have flooding problems again.

"We cannot guarantee it will never happen again but I think we are on the right path," he said.

Contact Robert Wolf at (515) 573-2141 or



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