The Town Council and members of the Fountain Hills Sanitary District Board of Directors met in a joint session on Oct. 12, to discuss items of mutual interest, as well as update ongoing projects. The meeting was a work session, and no action was taken by either the council or board.

The two entities coordinate mutual operations through an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) which has been in effect with occasional updates for a number of years.

The IGA addresses the Town use of reclaimed wastewater, which is used for irrigation in town parks.

Town Manager Grady Miller noted there is significant value in the IGA for the Town.

Sanitary District Manager Dana Trompke noted the substantial financial value to the Town in receiving the treated wastewater for irrigation at no cost. The district also does not charge town facilities fees for access to the system, a savings of about $10,000 per year. Also, the 110 million gallons of water used for irrigation each year has a discounted value of $125,000, according to Trompke. The town pays nothing. If the town paid EPCOR Water for potable water for irrigation the value would be three times the $125,000, according to Miller.

Mayor Ginny Dickey said it is important to recognize that the Town and the Sanitary District serve the same residents and taxpayers.

“This is savings to taxpayers across the board,” Dickey said.

Miller said the IGA has served both entities of the years and there is no need for changes to the agreement, which is currently in effect until 2023 with an automatic five-year renewal.

In 2019, the Sanitary District renovated its equipment for two of its recharge wells in Fountain Park. The objective was to get equipment out of underground vaults to provide safer working conditions for district employees. That was accomplished by building two equipment buildings at surface level (some pumping equipment remains underground). The district worked with the Town of Fountain Hills and incorporated two new public restrooms for the park to house the equipment.

There remains one more recharge well in Fountain Park where the district would like to have a similar above ground control building. However, the location of the well is in an open area adjacent to the “great lawn” area of the park as well as the flood water channel. The site is not conducive to a structure in close proximity to the well site.

With the challenges presented by the site the Sanitary District is working with Town parks and public works staff to come up with an acceptable location for a control building. To date there has been no proposal for a location.

“We are very appreciative of (Trompke) working with us,” Miller said. “We have concerns about this prominent location and (Town) staff is willing to work together to come up with a solution.”

The meeting also included a discussion related to the Fountain Lake improvements and future timing related to this. There has been no significant progress toward this end, however, it remains a priority topic for both entities. An engineering study completed last year proposes some options and some minor work on recommendations has been done. A good report on the condition of the lake liner provides some relief with regard to timing.

One possible project that should be completed prior to replacement of the liner could be installation of a water storage system to be used for holding treated wastewater for irrigation. That would provide uninterrupted supply for irrigation water during the liner replacement process. The irrigation system for Fountain Park would also be replaced. There is no timeframe for this work.

The isolated irrigation storage could also help improve water quality with reduced sodium (see separate story).

The council and board also discussed concerns regarding storm water runoff in town washes. The Sanitary District has some of its collection system within the washes and the severity of storms over the past few years highlight a concern over erosion and potential damage to sewer lines.

Councilman Gerry Friedel mentioned a situation in his neighborhood in North Heights after this past summer monsoon.

“With those storm events the washes are migrating to put neighborhoods at risk,” Friedel said. “Can we mitigate the erosion issue.”

Miller said short-term steps have been taken to shore up wash banks.

“I don’t believe we have had events with the intensity we have had recently,” Miller said. “We are looking at options to address concerns. We will need to do something to mitigate this.”