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Council focuses on sewage, water pipeline maintenance with summer approaching

TARA ALATORRE~ 5/21/2014

CAVE CREEK – The Cave Creek Town Council approved expenditures over $46,000 for sewage pipeline and water pump maintenance, while updating industrial sewer regulations, and addressing the issue of town clutter caused by business signage.
                  The town council passed the first reading of an ordinance attempting to limit the display time of portable signage for businesses and prohibit signage referencing drugs, including medical marijuana.  The council also approved expenditures relating to the town’s sewage system and water delivery system through the Central Arizona Project canal, while tightening industrial sewer regulations and enforcement pertaining to solid grease particles.
                  Cave Creek paid JCPI Services $20,000 to perform emergency repairs on the sewer pipeline near Linda Drive on April 9, 2014, which was leaking raw sewage into the soil and is a violation of state environmental regulations.  The company replaced the pipe and restored the manhole, estimating that the leakage had been happening for 10 to 15 years based on samples taken from groundwater.
                  “Had regular maintenance been done this would have been discovered years ago,” said Councilman Reg Monachino during the meeting.
                  According to a memo sent to the town council and town manager, the pipeline problem highlights the need for a comprehensive wastewater maintenance and inspection program that is currently being developed by the town’s utilities department.
                  In addition to the recent pipeline replacement the town also had to replace two 30-year old water transmission pumps and motors at the CAP canal turnout site that supplies water to the town of Cave Creek.  With the summer approaching and a pending violation write up from CAP due to the poor state of the equipment, David Prinzhorn, the utilities manager, authorized a $38,000 payment to Foster Electric Company for the installation of two new water pumps.  The newly installed pumps will prevent the town from implementing water restrictions.
                  “We would have had to move into stage two drought operations if one of the pumps broke,” said Mike Baxley a town building official.
                  With the two new pumps that were installed on May 14, water can now be delivered at 2,500 gallons per minute, equating to an additional 826,560 gallons of water a day.  The extra water delivery will hopefully keep the town’s reservoirs full, preventing water usage restrictions for Cave Creek this summer, according to Prinzhorn.
                  Resident David Smith says the recent infrastructure repairs show what a lack of attention to detail leads to when speaking to the council on Monday.
                  “The state of the town is gracefully deteriorating,” Smith said.  “The people of the town know it as well.
                  With maintenance costs on the council’s mind, it put the town’s businesses on notice, unanimously passing an amendment implying more rigid enforcement of solid wastewater regulations especially relating to total suspended solids, which is associated with grease traps.
                  “There is a drastic decrease in the amount of odor because we simply reduced the grease,” said Councilman Charles Spitzer.
                  Businesses found out of compliance will receive letters with a five-day notice to fix the problem, at which point surcharges can be assessed to utility bills if not rectified.  The amendment comes after the town realized that the current outdated fee structure is causing a net loss to the town after analyzing the laboratory and staff costs associated with testing wastewater with the actual surcharges collected, determining a $127 loss in 2013.
                  “We need to rectify and stop the grease residuals: they are problematic; cleaning the pipelines and treatment costs money,” said Baxley during the meeting.
                  The town has the legal right to enter and spot check businesses’ grease traps, ensuring they are not at more than 30 percent capacity, and can pinpoint at least eight repeat offenders in the town, according to Baxley.
                  While some town residents credited the aging sewage and water systems as part of the “graceful deterioration,” other Cave Creek other residents pointed to signage clutter in the town center as the problem. 
                  “I think there is a fine line between cool and eclectic and we are passing over to tacky,” said resident Ellen Kohrs about the signage in town.
                  The original ordinance brought to the council on Monday would have only allowed businesses to display signs no more than 20 days per month, and also included language that could prohibit medical marijuana businesses from displaying signage. The ordinance failed 4-3, with council members wary about the legal implications of infringing on first amendment rights by prohibiting certain businesses from having visible signage, and the ability to enforce the law.
                  “This free speech issue really concerns me, and we don’t need any more trouble.  I am not in favor of this item as it stands right now; I would rather get some changes backed up by our legal counsel,” said Councilman Mike Durkin.
                  However, Vice Mayor Adam Trenk introduced an amendment, changing the ordinance to allow businesses one portable sign that could only be displayed during operating business hours, striking the drug provision until a later time.  The amended version passed first reading in a 5-2 vote with Mayor Vincent Francia and Councilman Thomas McGuire voting no.