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Pequot Lakes: City gives notice on sanitary district contract

Possible subcontract raises eyebrows among contract holders.

prasda-sign-entrance-newman.jpg
Echo Journal file photo.

After attending a meeting where there was “chaos the entire time and not much accomplished,” Pequot Lakes City Administrator Rich Spiczka asked the city council for permission to issue a 180-day notice to discontinue a contract for city wastewater management and services.

The council granted that request at its regular meeting Tuesday, Nov. 2.

The city contracts with the Pine River Area Sanitary District, or PRASD, for $89,724 per year to take care of city water and wastewater. Annual contract increases follow the consumer price index.

The cities of Lake Shore and Backus also contract with PRASD for similar services.

The Backus City Council made a similar decision at its Monday, Nov. 1, meeting. Council members agreed to submit a notice that they would delay signing the contract until their attorney could review it after Mayor Kurt Sawyer, council member Karl Flier and city clerk Ann Swanson attended the Oct. 27 PRASD meeting.

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“Our service has been great,” Spiczka told the Pequot Lakes council, but actions of the PRASD board and entity are beginning to deteriorate that service, he said.

“The guys are stressed,” Spiczka said of PRASD workers. “I’m concerned that being stuck in the contract could have dire consequences for us.”

In a memo, Spiczka explained that over the past few months, PRASD has been in talks to hire PeopleService Inc. to handle PRASD’s contract obligations.

“In researching multiple entities who currently use PeopleService and what their contract costs are, I don’t believe there is any way our contract stays near the rate it is, nor will our service remain what it is,” Spiczka wrote. “I believe costs would go up and service would drastically decrease.”

Further, he wrote, the PRASD board’s action to seek a contracted service provider could be construed as a violation of the city’s contract terms with PRASD, especially since no notification was given to the city.

It was mistakenly reported in a story in the Wednesday, Nov. 3, Echo Journal that the PRASD contract with Backus did not require prior notice before seeking subcontractors and that that was only true of the new, proposed contract. Swanson said the current contract between PRASD and Backus requires notice to the contract holder, though the city only learned of the contract discussions by speaking to the maintenance crew.

Spiczka wrote that after attending PRASD’s board meeting Wednesday, Oct. 27, “where general community members in attendance were encouraging them to seek ‘professional help’ in sorting out the animosity and discord that exists within the board, between board and staff, and between PRASD and some of its contract entities,” he thought it made sense for Pequot Lakes to discontinue its contract.

“This notice would not require we leave; it very well could open up the door for negotiations or finding common ground in changes. Or it could lead to a change in how we handle our water/wastewater service,” Spiczka said.

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Nancy Vogt may be reached at 218-855-5877 or nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.

Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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