By Clay Schuldt
Special to the Caledonia Argus
Discussion on November’s giant water bill continued at the Aug. 27 Caledonia City Council meeting.
The bills submitted on Nov. 1 will include all three months of water and sewage usage due to a new billing system.
At the previous council meeting members discussed ways to minimize the impact of this bill. One idea was to grant waivers on late fees for people unable to pay. The council agreed accordingly.
In addition, it was pointed out by council member Randi Vick that residents could pay off part of the November bill early by paying more up front. Caledonia does allow residents to keep water credits to lower future payments.
In a related matter, the council approved a maintenance service agreement with Dakota Supply Group in the amount of $201,475.10 for the new water meters.
During a special Aug. 20 meeting of the Caledonia City Council the council passed a unanimous motion to approve Ted Schoonover as Caledonia’s new city clerk/administrator.
Schoonover will be expected to live in the City of Caledonia after securing permanent housing. Schoonover is scheduled to take over the position on Oct. 1, 2012. Until then Interim City Administrator Paul Sparks will remain in the position.
Interim City Administrator Paul Sparks elaborated on an engineering project that fell through involving sewer/water hookup for a business near Hwy. 44.
An individual informed the City of Caledonia of a plan to make improvements to the property, and the city agreed to hire an engineering firm to develop a plan for providing sewer/water hookups.
After the plan was finished the individual backed out of the arrangement due to cost.
Since there was no written contract the city does not have a legal route for collecting the $18,000 already spent.
“Our biggest mistake was when we agreed to this, that we didn’t put it in writing and get estimates to the engineering and construction costs before we moved forward,” Mayor Robert Burns said.
Council member Paul Fisch advised the council to keep this issue in mind for the future.
Kathy Richards addressed the council on the behalf of owners of trailer that was seized on July 5 for alleged methamphetamine production.
Richards was concerned about the fate of the trailer itself because Houston County Public Health Director Deb Rock had told her the trailer would be destroyed after chemical testing.
Richards wanted the council to reconsider this and not have the trailer destroyed. The current owners of the trailer are unable to pay off the debt put on the trailer at this time. However, Richards assured the council the owners intended to pay off their debt to the community and atone for their mistakes, but did not have finances available at present.
Council member Robert Lemke commented that he was unsure if the City of Caledonia had any say in what happened with the trailer, although he doubted the trailer would be destroyed if the test proved negative for contamination.
“In a situation like this the law prescribes what has to be done,” Murphy said. “The only role the city has in this is it opens its checkbook.”
Murphy suggested Richards make contact with the county attorney’s office in order to make an arrangement.
“I’d like to see this resolved without everything they have being destroyed,” Richards said.
The annual Tax Increment Finance (TIF) District Report of Caledonia was submitted to the council.
TIF is a public financing method for subsidizing blighted areas for redevelopment.
Caledonia had four districts open in 2011. The Loretto Heritage Haven project was closed out at the end of 2011 after reaching its mandatory decertification on Dec. 31, 2011.
The continued operation of the TIF district is yielding very little net to the city and is depriving the county and school district of tax revenue.
Three other districts remain open, including The Williams Hotel, The Townhomes on West Main Street and Edwards Housing.
“We always set these deals up so that the city would not end up on the short end of the stick. There is a certain percentage we collect no matter what and then the rest went into the TIF so that the city’s costs were covered,” Mayor Burns said, “but the way this reads, we’re short.”
“TIF all went sour because the state changed the assessment ratios on properties,” explained Sparks.
However, he suggested keeping the remaining three districts open as it would pay Caledonia more over time than decertification. Left open, the city will receive $3,000 from the districts over the next seven years even though the county and school district could gain more money through taxes.
A motion was made to eliminate the separate account for the pool fund and add it to the general fund. Money given to the pool will be restricted, but will be grouped into the general fund in order to keep the city accounts simple.
Sparks explained that as a business practice it made better sense to keep it under the general fund as it has normal checks and balance processing procedures in place for approving checks on the accounts.
Mayor Burns was hesitant to make the change. The separate account made it easier to show residents the pool funds had not been allocated elsewhere.
However, by law, funds donated to the pool cannot be used for other purposes. Special numbers will be attached to the account allowing the funds to be easily tracked.
• The council wished to thank the following businesses for donations to Music in the Park 2012: Arlin Falack Foundation, Robin Bartell Designs, American Legion Post 191, Bank of the West, Caledonia Chamber, Quillin’s IGA, City of Caledonia, Vicks Refrigeration, Elsie’s Bar & Grill, Caledonia Argus, Caledonia Haulers and all free will donations.
• The next regularly scheduled city council meeting is set for Monday, Sept. 10. A special meeting will be held tonight, Wednesday, Sept. 5, to discuss the 2013 tax levy.