City to move forward with purchase of larger fire department pumper

By Charlie Warner
Argus News Editor

The Caledonia City Council went along with a recommendation from the Rural Fire District to advertise for bids for a new pumper for the Caledonia Fire Department. The Rural Fire District, (comprised of all or parts of 10 surrounding townships) and the city of Caledonia have been purchasing equipment together for many decades.

The council reviewed the issue during the Feb. 27 meeting.

Fire Chief Chuck Gavin explained that he would like to decrease the department’s fleet from three pumpers to two pumpers, which would result in a savings of between $7,000 and $10,000 per year.

The recommendation was to purchase a larger pumper with an eight-man cab. The cost of the larger unit was estimated between $330,000 and $350,000. The new pumper would replace the 1975 and 1995 pumpers. While there wouldn’t be much trade-in value for the 1975 pumper, Gavin figured they could get $50,000 in trade-in value for the 1995 Freightliner.

A motion was made by Mayor Bob Burns and seconded by Councilman Paul Fisch to advertise for bids for a new pumper. Once the bids are received, the city will have 60 days to review them and make a decision. The motion was unanimously approved.

In other council action:

Fairgrounds utility issues

In June of 2011, it was discovered the city was underbilling the Houston County Fairgrounds for electric meter charges totaling $3,131.66. Since that time the Houston County Fair Grounds has paid $417.52 of the aforementioned amount, leaving a balance of $2,714.14.

Earlier this year it was discovered the city had overcharged the Ag Society for water use at the Houston County Fairgrounds. The overcharges were on a 3/4 by 5/8-inch meter that were billed as a one-inch meter and also on a second meter billed as a 1.5-inch meter.

The total overages are $2,173.99.

The city’s Enterprise Committee met with Mike Meyers and Emily Johnson, representing the Houston County Fairgrounds to work out a deal. An agreement was reached where the city will waive the unpaid electric meter charges in the amount of $2,173.99 in exchange for the water meter overcharges. The remaining unpaid electric charges ($540.15) will be paid by the Houston County Fair Grounds.

Automatic water meters

The council agreed to move forward with the possible purchase of automatically-read water meters.

According to a 2011 DNR report, the city’s accuracy rate on the current water meters is about 82 percent. Replacing the old meters would increase the accuracy rate to about 95 percent, which would be a big increase in city revenues.

The automatically-read water meters would also save considerable employee time, which will also be a cost savings to the city.

City staff is looking at including the purchase of the new meters with the sewer rehabilitation project. The city would be looking at replacing 1,282 residential, commercial and industrial water meters.

Purchase of the new meters would be included in the application for Minnesota Public Facilities Authority (PFA) low interest financing program.

A motion by Burns and seconded by councilman Bob Lemke to include the new meters in the sewer rehab project was unanimously approved.

Police conference

Caledonia Police Chief Kurt Zehnder and Sergeant Jim Stemper made a request to the Executive Training Institute (ETI) which will be held April 23-26 in St. Cloud.

The council approved paying for the registration fees, which is $325 per person, plus lodging for three nights.

Unpaid special assessment

The council approved a motion to remove an unpaid special assessment in the amount of $1,560 from the city’s special assessment roll.

During the Feb. 13 meeting, the council discussed  the unpaid special assessment charge that was deferred in 1984 until 1995.

After reviewing the matter, City Attorney Tim Murphy discovered the Houston County Auditor’s Office had no record of the city advising them to make the deferred special assessment active and to certify it against the property.

He recommended the assessment be removed from the city’s special assessment roll.

Liquor license for county fair

The Houston County Ag Society presented a request for a temporary on-sale intoxicating liquor license to sell strong beer on the fairgrounds during the Houston County Fair in August.

Because state law mandates that a temporary on-sale intoxicating liquor license can only be granted for four consecutive days, and the fair runs each summer for five days, the Ag Society had to apply for a temporary on-sale intoxicating liquor license for the first four days and a temporary on-sale 3.2 license for the fifth day.

A motion made by Councilwoman Randi Vick and seconded by Lemke to approve the request passed by a 4-1 margin with Burns voting against it.

You can contact Charlie Warner at [email protected]