Amanda Weisbrod

At its regular meeting Tuesday night, Elgin’s city council moved to purchase a closed circuit television video inspection van from the City of La Grande’s public works department to aid Elgin’s current sewer renovation project.

Because the City of La Grande is looking to buy a new CCTV van for around $300,000, it offered to sell its old van at a discounted price of $10,000 to Elgin’s public works department, which had been renting the van from La Grande regularly beforehand.

Elgin Mayor Allan Duffy said this purchase could potentially save the city tens of thousands of dollars as its public works department begins renovating the wastewater system in-house, especially because renting the truck from La Grande costs Elgin about $2,300 each instance.

“We’ve spent well over $10,000 on renting the van already,” Duffy said during the meeting. “I don’t think we should pass this up.”

A CCTV inspection van is typically used to assess and evaluate problem areas within sewer systems that are experiencing issues such as inflow and infiltration of groundwater, which can overwhelm the sanitation process and even lead to overflow. Because the wastewater system beneath Elgin hasn’t been fully updated since 1964, the city’s sewers experience inflow and infiltration often, according to Dan Larman, the city’s public works supervisor.

“Having significant inflow and infiltration issues means we need to be able to pinpoint problem areas on our own instead of renting equipment from other municipalities,” he said.

The offer from La Grande came with impeccable timing, as the City of Elgin recently received $476,400 in grant money from Business Oregon to kickstart this wastewater system renovation project — something that has been on Larman’s mind since he began working with the public works department nine years ago.

“It’s a good thing to get started, and I have total faith in Elgin’s City Council and our public works crew,” he said. “I don’t think the project will get dropped. We’ll keep progressing year after year.”

Larman noted the sewer’s makeover will cost about $6 million over a 20-year period when it’s all said and done, but with the grant money and the CCTV van at its disposal, the city can get to work immediately.

Also mentioned at Tuesday night’s council meeting was a progress update from Judge Laura Eckstein on reestablishing the city’s court.

“We have now entered our third phase of court,” she said during the meeting. “We had the set-up phase, we had the getting-up-to-speed phase, and now we are in the phase where we have our first misdemeanor criminal case, which is a huge step for us.”

In August 2017, Elgin held its first municipal court case in six years with Eckstein as its newly appointed judge. Since then, she’s been handling ordinance cases, such as traffic and animal license violations, with a goal of building up to criminal cases.

“We had to start from scratch,” she said. “We always intended to take criminal cases, but we had to phase the process in.”

Eckstein will see her first misdemeanor criminal case in Elgin on March 27, followed by two juvenile cases in the near future.

Dawson Larman, newly appointed student councilor and Dan Larman’s son, gave his first detailed report to the city council. He told the councilors of his meeting with Elgin School District Superintendent Dianne Greif on the district’s budget plans.

Dawson reported Elgin High School’s gymnasium roof will likely be replaced this summer after it endured severe wind damage, and the school’s track coach hopes to host its first track meet in years at home, although the district will need to reallocate funds to buy new equipment for the meet.

The student councilor also pointed out the lack of mental health counselors at Elgin High School and Elgin Middle School, and said the superintendent aims to hire full-time counselors depending on the budget.

See complete story in Wednesday's Observer