City still grappling over who will oversee operation of sewer plant

By Charlie Warner
Argus Editor

Things are still up in the air concerning who will be overseeing the city of Caledonia’s wastewater treatment plant.

The city council and city staff have reviewed a number of scenarios ever since long-time Tony Klug, who had a Class A operator’s license resigned this spring.

City employee Ryan Skillings is in the process of obtaining his Class C license, but due to the fact that the city’s plant is a Class A facility, the city is required to have a Class A operator on site at lease six hours per week and those six hours must be spread out over at least two days.

It appeared as if the city was going to enter into a contract with PeopleService, which operates wastewater treatment plants for the cities of Spring Valley, Stewartville and Lewiston. The council was ready to sign a contract until they learned that Skillings would not be part of the day-to-day operations of the plant.

The council hoped to have Skillings assist a PeopleService operator, as the “number two man,” and within five years work enough hours and obtain enough training to earn his Class A license.

But due to liability issues, PeopleService indicated that wouldn’t be a workable situation.

So it’s back to the drawing board for the city council.

In the mean time, the city will attempt to find someone with a Class A license to work six hours a week, overseeing the operations of the local plant.

The council will meet again with PeopleService reps in an attempt to hammer out a contract that would be workable for both parties.

In other council action:

Three-day suspension

The council unanimously approved a motion by Mayor Bob Burns and seconded by Councilman Bob Lemke to suspend city electric department employee Tim Evans for three days. The motion also included that a employee performance improvement plan be implemented.

Klug’s CJC issues

City Coordinator Mike Gerardy reported on findings he conducted concerning a number of issues that Bob and Jan Klug brought before the council several months ago regarding the County Justice Center.

The Klugs, who live next door to the new facility, complained about noise and light issues, persons cutting across they backyard when walking to and from the CJC and also questioned whether the county was in compliance as far as the city’s green space ordinance.

Gerardy said he met with county staff and they are working on some of the lighting issues. The bright lights in the parking lot and along the sidewalks will be adjusted and if some type of shading is needed, that will be done.

As far as the noise issue, once the heating system was shut down for the year, that became a non-issue. Bob Klug said that noise was like a low moaning sound and figured it was the heating system.

Concerning the green space, Gerardy explained that the green space ordinance had to deal more with how a property can handle water runoff. The county’s project included a large underground water storage area that was designed to handle all of the rain runoff from the parking lot.

“The system seems to be handling the runoff from heavy rains,” Gerardy said.

The other issue the Klugs and city have been discussing is a more complete screening system between the parking lot and their back yard. A number of evergreen-type shrubs were planted along the east end of the parking lot, but headlights from vehicles pulling in and out of the parking lot at night still shine into the Klug’s backyard and into their house.

The council agreed to have someone from the county attend the next council meeting, which will be May 29 to address these issues and field any questions from the councilmembers or the Klugs.

Brush dump fee increased

The council approved a motion to increase the fee for large trucks that use the city’s brush dump from $5 a truck to $20 a truck. Any truck one-ton or larger will be charged the higher rate.

Mental Health Month

Elizabeth Meyer of the Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center (HVMH) made a presentation and asked the council to proclaim May as Mental Health Month.

Meyer reported that more than 400 persons utilize the Caledonia HVMH facility for chemical dependency and mental health issues. They also have offices in Wabasha and Winona counties and in La Crosse. HVMH also serves 10 different school districts in the area.

Liquor store clerks

The council approved the hiring of Clay Schuldt and Brittany Grossheim as part-time clerks for the city’s municipal liquor store.

Swimming pool personnel

The council approved the hiring of David Jergenson as the swimming pool manager and Matt Jergenson and Megan Schmitz as co-asistant pool managers. David Jergenson will be paid an hourly wage of $10.50, while Matt Jergenson and Schmitz will receive an hourly wage of $9.50.

The council also hired Miranda Knutson and Taylor Augedahl as lifeguards at $7.75, both contingent on receiving their certification.

Resignation accepted

The council accepted the resignation of April Bayer as an EMT with the Caledonia Area Ambulance Service.

  Park & Rec purchases

The council approved the purchase of equipment the Park and Rec Department needs this summer. The request was made by Park & Rec Director Craig Loeffler. While Loeffler requested purchases totalling $2,692, the council set the ceiling at $1,800.

You can contact Charlie Warner at [email protected]