Michael S Kauffmann -- City of Villa Rica

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Basic information

  • Employed from April 1988 to present
    • Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator (1 year)
    • Plant Manager (17 years)
    • Water/Wastewater Director (2½ years)
    • Special Projects Manager (1 year)
  • Facilities
    • North WPCP (0.52 MGD) (orginally 0.20 MGD)
    • West WPCP (0.78 MGD) (orginally 0.26 MGD)

Wastewater Plant Operator

As wastewater plant operator, I operated and maintained two wastewater treatment plants and three lift stations. At this time, my supervisor was the Public Works Director. However, he had no wastewater experience and provided almost no direct supervision. Because of this, I took over all administrative responsibilities and was eventually named Plant Manager about a year later.

The current North WPCP was built during this period. The old North Plant was abandoned but eventually reinstated as a industrial pretreatment facility.

My most significant contribution during this period was the restarting of the plant lab after years of non-use. My prior experience doing lab tests made for a smooth transition from using an outside contractor. Lab test costs were essentially cut in half. In addition, I developed the SOPs used for the lab tests.

Although I didn't officially start working for the city until April 4, 1988, I was invited to attend a meeting between the city manager, the city's engineer, and the city's wastewater treatment consultant on March 31. This meeting was to discuss the designs of the city's wastewater treatment plant upgrades. Since I arrived first, I had the opportunity to discuss the designs with the city manager prior to the arrival of the engineer and the consultant. I expressed misgivings about both plant designs. When the others arrived, I found out that my concerns matched those of the wastewater consultant but the engineer felt both designs were more than adequate.

At the recommendation of the consultant, I performed a comprehensive plant evaluation on the existing and proposed wastewater treatment plant designs. The consultant provided a book by the U.S.E.P.A. which formed the basis for this evaluation. There were numerous design problems with both the existing and future plant designs. In fact, the analysis predicted that the upgraded West Plant would have problems immediately upon startup even though it would be at one-third it's rated capacity. The North Plant was a more promising design but it would eventually have problems because of inadequate solids handling. Time has shown the accuracy of the predictions in these evaluations.

Wastewater Plant Manager

As wastewater plant manager, I administered two wastewater plants and coordinated the activities of the staff members between the plants and two dozen lift stations for all operations, maintenance, laboratory, and industrial pretreatment needs.

One of my first decisions as manager was to institute seven day staffing. The plants were poor designs anyway and to walk away from them for days at a time made no sense.

Another goal I had early on was to get a computer to help with record keeping and plant analysis. In support of my efforts, the City Manager actually let me borrow his own personal computer for plant use. I used that computer for several years developing spreadsheets in Lotus 1-2-3. Eventually I moved up to Quattro Pro and Excel and today the wastewater department uses Operator 10 to track and analyze plant performance. We also use a related product for maintenance management. Here are a couple of example spreadsheets from early on and from later years.

Following the completion of the North Plant, EPD mandated that the wastewater plants have a seperate budget. I created the first budget for the plants and they were formally seperated from Public Works into the new Wastewater Department. The public works director continued to be my supervisor on paper but by this time I was reporting to and taking direction from the city manager. Eventually this arrangement was made official.

Additional activities included the creation of a safety program, an industrial pretreatment program, and a public relations program. I also developed new sewer use and industrial pretreatment ordinances as well as lift station design requirements and a construction inspection program.

Water/Wastewater Director

As director, I instituted a cross-training program between the water and wastewater plants to help increase the pool of available resources at both departments without increasing the size of the staff. One unexpected benefit of this program was that a long time wastewater operator who had failed the basic wastewater exam several times passed the basic water exam. The program allowed us to keep a good employee who we might have otherwise been forced to let go.

In my position as director, I was already in charge of two of the four departments who needed to work on Metro North Georgie Water Planning District (MNGWPD) requirements and likely to be in charge of the fifth department (watershed protection) which was being created to handle the remaining requirements. Because of this, I was asked to coordinate with those five departments and an outside contractor to ensure compliance. At the request of EPD, we held a preliminary question and answer session to see how prepared we were then scheduled the actual audit a few weeks later. We passed our audit the first time.

During this time I worked with our engineers to develop plans to meet the future water/wastewater demands caused by Villa Rica's extreme population growth. This included partial development of a water master plan and designing our new 2.15 MGD water reclamation facility. Also during this time I developed the city's drought preparedness plan.

Special Projects Manager

The position of director was eliminated when the position of Deputy City Manager of Utilities was created. The five departments mentioned above were placed under the control of this new position which was given to the former Community Development Director. The position of special projects manager was created to take advantage of my knowledge of what went into the design of the new 2.15 MGD water reclamation plant and my primary responsibility is overseeing plant construction.

As with most new positions, several other tasks were added. These include a pump station/water line installation project connecting to our primary outside water provider (which nears completion as I write this), a GEFA loan/ARRA grant for a new water loop (which looks like it will get funded next month), and design for a new digester for the north plant. During this time I continued to coordinate compliance with MNGWPD requirements.

Water related activities

My original application to the City of Villa Rica was for a water operator position, not wastewater. The City Manager decided I would serve the city better at the wastewater plant so he put me there instead. However, since I am licensed in both fields, I've helped out at the water plant often during my tenure with the city.

At first, this consisted of mostly just working the occassional shift when a regular water plant operator was out sick or on vacation. However, the city hasn't had much luck keeping water plant managers and I've taken full responsibility for plant management several times but generally for no more than six months at a time. During these periods, my oversight was limited at best since I still had my own department to run.

However, the last time I took over things were quite different. The young man who was running the water plant was not doing well and city hall sent me out to help him on several occasions. When the plant operators started quitting left and right, it became apparent that something needed to be done. By this point, because of the city's growth, two plant expansions, and dozens of new lift stations, the wastewater department had a full fledged staff that could work independently of my direct oversight so I suggested creating the new position Water/Wastewater Director so that I could provide direction to the water plant instead of simply assistance.

While the city was considering my proposal, the water plant manager quit with no notice and I was immediately asked to take over. It was several more months before the city decided to implement the water/wastewater director idea and over a year before they replaced the water plant manager. Since the new manager's only supervisory experience was as a lead operator, I continued to work with and train him for some time after he excepted the position. Because of this, I spent my last six months as wastewater plant manager and most of my time as water/wastewater director working at the water plant.

Further information on various topics

Over the years, I've done many different things to get the job done. I can't remember it all and even if I could you probably wouldn't want to hear it all. Even so, there are many things I've accomplished for Villa Rica that do a good job of illustrating the skills and abilities I offer to a prospective employer so I'm providing more information here.

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