MMU board votes to expand fiber optic lines into wells

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Members of the Marshall Municipal Utilities Board of Public Works voted to expand and upgrade the Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition system into wells at their meeting Thursday, Nov. 12.

The SCADA system allows for real-time exchange of information about activity in computers connected to the system, as well as remote control over those computers.

Currently, MMU leases a frequency for radios from the Federal Communications Commission, and that lease will expire in October 2010, said Environmental Services Director Ginny Ismay.

If MMU were not to renew the lease, workers would have to communicate using lower-powered radios, said General Manager Kyle Gibbs.

However, he added, directly connecting fiber-optic cable to computers in the wells will allow for "a lot more communication capability."

Administrative Services Director Ken Gieringer said that MMU workers currently turn motors on and off in the wells via microwave, but because microwaves must be able to travel directly from the transmitter to the receiver without any obstructions, there are sometimes troubles in this. Sometimes, he added, wind interferes with this communication.

"What we want to do in the future is monitor voltage and amperage to see if a motor is overheating and catch the problem before it does damage to the units in those wells," said Gieringer.

Ismay said there have been a number of changes in the FCC's fee structure, though the licensing fee itself has only been raised slightly from the $45 MMU paid in 1999, which is "really nothing in the overall cost of this." However, she said, the real cost is in the application process, which, going through an outside company in 1999, took a great deal of time. She estimated going through that same process again would "probably run (us) four figures."

The cost for this project is budgeted at $265,000.

The board approved a motion to request bids for a new truck for the Wastewater Department to replace Truck No. 206, which is 14 years old and has been driven more than 100,000 miles. The budget for this purchase is $22,000.

The board also approved a request from Underground Facilities Director Monty Chase for a new 1/2-ton pickup truck for his department to replace Truck No. 201, a 12-year-old pickup with more than 100,000 miles on its engine. The budget for this purchase is $25,000.

Board members voted to approve Electric Distribution Manager Jeff Bergstrom's request for 200 feet of additional drill stem for MMU's boring machine at a budget of $6,500.

MMU voted to solicit bids for a Capstan winch to install on one of the Electric Distribution department's trucks. This winch will "be used to install short sections of underground pipe that cannot be pulled in by hand," Bergstrom said.

Currently, department personnel attach a rope to the back of a pickup or flatbed truck for this purpose, but, said Bergstrom, this is unsafe and he fears that continuing to do so will result in the loss of an employee's fingers.

"In addition to pulling in wire," said Bergstrom, "the winch could be used to lift equipment and roll up wire."

The budget for this purchase is $10,000.

The board voted to sell the 44 used and junk transformers in storage to Solomon Corp. from Solomon, Kan., for $8,821.25.

The surcharges for extra biochemical oxygen demand and total suspended solids in wastewater were changed from 28 cents per pound to .25 cents per pound for BOD and from 16 cents per pound to 17 cents per pound for TSS.

The board voted to remove the requirement for an annual review of MMU's purchasing policy at the recommendation of Gieringer.

The existing procedure has been in place for nearly 15 years, said Gieringer, and any changes made tend to be to the grammar or punctuation of the procedure rather than the procedure itself.

"If a procedural change would be needed, it should be addressed at the time it is identified," rather than waiting for an annual review, said Gieringer.

The board voted to request bids for a large-format copy/scan/print media center at a budget of $15,000. A purchase of a new media center would replace a 15-year-old copying unit and a 10-year-old printer.

The board's next meeting is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 1, at 75 E. Morgan St.

Contact Geoff Rands at

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