Councilmembers Meet In-Person to Discuss Water Reclamation Facility, Water Main Program

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The Yelm City Council opened the year with a Jan. 4 study session, marking Mayor Joe DePinto’s first public meeting in the role.

Items the council studied include initiatives regarding the city’s plans for the Water Reclamation Facility (WRF) and its water main program.

Cody Colt, Yelm’s public services director, updated the city council on an amendment to the WRF plans it will consider at the Jan. 11 council meeting.

The proposed amendment will include up to 16 items Colt said are essential to the construction of the WRF.

“There were a lot of things as we were getting the WRF planned and construction done that we knew we could tack on and do it all at once, instead of tic-tac and do it slowly over time,” Colt said, adding an amendment for a couple hundred thousand dollars is more cost effective than several individual items for $15,000 over an extended time period.

The money needed for the items addressed by the amendment are already budgeted, Colt said, and several of them can be paid for with the low-interest loan the city secured last year for the project.

One of the items that will appear on the amendment is a study on how to install Reiner pumps on the WRF’s infrastructure.

Another item included in the amendment is a study on the WRF’s outflow. Colt said the outflow that goes into the river has been there for 20-plus years and hasn’t been inspected.

“We know that the flow, as it is now, is less than it should be,” he said.

Colt noted the construction contract for the WRF will go out to bid in late March, with an estimated construction start date in April.

Possible improvements to the city’s water main infrastructure were also presented at the meeting, which are already detailed in Yelm’s water facilities plan.

The improvements include additional connections to the city’s water mains, the connection of previously disjointed water mains and the extension of the water system through parts of south Yelm.

Also at the meeting, DePinto performed a swearing-in ceremony for councilmembers Terry Kaminski and Holly Smith, and the applicants for the vacant council seats were also announced.

Kayla Russell, Joseph Richardson, Line Roy, Steffen Burney, and Scott May have thrown in their hats for the council’s consideration.

Interim City Administrator Todd Stancil announced the city is currently studying the feasibility of opening certain city buildings as warming centers during times of extreme cold.

Stancil said there were remarkably few warming sites open in the county during the cold front that hit Yelm over the holiday and into the start of the year.

Councilmember James Blair said he was concerned about the idea.

“I don’t mean this to sound (bad) to anyone, (but) I almost feel like it should be limited to people we know in the area,” Blair said. “Obviously we are aware of who the homeless people are in Yelm, but I don’t want to see (us) attracting people from outside the area to increase the issue.”

Blair said he supports helping people stay warm and noted he’s done his part to help the homeless population, but said he doesn’t want Yelm to have “a situation like Seattle, Olympia, Tacoma and wherever else happening here.”

Stancil said Yelm did open a similar warming site a few years ago, which only ended up seeing about one user at a time.

The council also discussed their ideas on how to run council business under DePinto’s tenure.

Study session format, city transparency, fiscal matters and public participation were some of the topics discussed.

Several councilmembers remained maskless throughout the meeting, which was attended in-person by all current members of the city council, a distinct departure from the JW Foster administration’s COVID-19 policies.

“That’s a touchy subject right now,” DePinto told the Nisqually Valley News. “I personally met with our city attorney and we discussed a few matters, including getting us back to in-person meetings. I’m a strong proponent of that. It’s awesome having us back in person. That’s something we haven’t had for almost two years now.”

DePinto said the city is following the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries guidance for employee workplace matters regarding mask wearing.

“I’ve encouraged employees to wear masks or get vaccinated, but I am not and will not require staff to display medical records to me,” he said.

He added there was no one from the public in attendance during the meeting, but that future meetings will likely see more councilmembers wearing masks, especially if members of the public are in attendance.

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