Staff at the city of Stacy staff confirmed city maintenance Supervisor Jon Ehlert is no longer employed by Stacy as of this month, leaving the city without a state licensed water operator on site.
A telephone call to city hall verified that city maintenance worker Tanner Jones had immediately contacted Stantec, the city’s contract engineering firm, for assistance. In turn, Stantec personnel connected the city to Hawkins Chemical Inc. for water operator assistance. Hawkins, headquartered in Minneapolis, has been in the chemical business since 1938 and supplies water treatment products to municipalities in eighteen states.
Stacy Mayor Mark Utecht said Jones’ normal duties included water quality testing, and upon Ehlert’s departure, Jones has worked with Hawkins Chemical engineers to set up the mix rates under their oversight and the oversight of Stantec. In addition, Jones contacted the Minnesota Department of Health to report Ehlert’s departure and that the city, without at least a Class C licensed water operator, is out of compliance. Jones’ next calls were to the cities of North Branch, Forest Lake and Wyoming for assistance from their licensed city staff. The mayor said an agreement “isn’t in place but it will be very soon.” Later, Utecht was able to confirm licensed water operators from the city of Forest Lake have stepped in to handle duties in the interim.
A telephone call to the MDH connected the Post Review to state water engineer Bob Smude. Smude verified water operator information given to the Post Review by Noel Hansen of the MDH.
A check of the database shows that Ehlert was the sole certified licensed water operator in Stacy, with a Class D level license. That license was set to expire May 31, 2015. The license was renewed in May 2012. According to Hansen, a Class D license is one level higher than the state requires for a city the size of Stacy, population approximately 1,400.
Smude didn’t register surprise over being told Ehlert was no longer employed by the city of Stacy. He said MDH does follow up on licensed water operators through a routine sanitary survey, but said that is done annually and it wouldn’t be unusual to find out that the operator information MDH has on file was out of date for several months.
With all concerned state and local authorities informed of the situation, Mayor Utecht said, “We’re making every effort to meet all public safety guidelines in as quick a time as possible.” Utecht said that any citizen with a concern is welcome to contact him directly.