Bloomfield's wastewater treatment plant nearly had a catastrophic failure this week

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BLOOMFIELD — Bloomfield Fire Chief John Mohler told the City Council on July 12 that he proposed contracting with San Juan County for fire services because he understands Bloomfield is in a tight spot budget-wise.

Mayor Cynthia Atencio said Bloomfield has requested that San Juan County draw up a contract that the City Council can consider for fire suppression.

The City Council had a special workshop to discuss a Fiscal Year 2020 budget that must be finalized by the end of the month. Councilor Ken Hare said the city still has a lot of details to work out before the deadline.

Mohler said he wished Bloomfield residents had attended the meeting on July 12 because it provided a picture of the struggles the city is facing.

More: Residents, firefighters talk future of Bloomfield Fire Department

Emergency repairs needed this week at wastewater treatment plant 

Among the challenges the City Council discussed was an incident at the wastewater treatment plant this week. Public Works Director Jason Thomas said the north clarifier at the plant was taken out of service this week and the city will spend $30,000 fixing it. That failure impacted the plant's budget.

“It’s old,” Thomas said. “The plant’s wearing out. We all know that.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered Bloomfield to replace the wastewater treatment plant by 2024.

Thomas said a bearing was wearing through in a tube going into the clarifier. He said the plant manager saw that something did not look right in the clarifier and drained it, discovering the problem before it led to a much worse incident.

“Had it failed, it would have been a catastrophic plant failure,” Thomas said. “Sewage everywhere. People running around crazy. So fortunately he caught it just in time.”

Fire chief says contracting could save money, help other parts of the city

Mohler said saving money by contracting with the San Juan County Fire Department could help the city pay for some of its other needs.

“We just want to help the city be a better place to live,” he said.

Mohler said if the city does contract with San Juan County, Bloomfield could end the contract when its financial conditions improve.

Bloomfield has rebuilt its reserves

Bloomfield finished Fiscal Year 2019 with more revenues than expenses, according to City Finance Director Brad Ellsworth.

He said Bloomfield received nearly $13.7 million of revenue in Fiscal Year 2019 and spent about $12.56 million.

This allowed Bloomfield to rebuild its reserves after an economic downturn. Ellsworth said the city currently has $1 million more than the state-required reserve.

“We’re looking good right now,” Ellsworth said.

However, that doesn’t mean Bloomfield has completely recovered from the economic downturn that led to extensive layoffs a couple years ago.

The preliminary budget for Fiscal Year 2020 relies on reserves to balance the budget.

Ellsworth said the budget anticipates nearly $15 million of expenses and projects about $14.3 million of revenue.

“We’re going to have to be lean and mean,” Hare said.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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