By Clay Schuldt
The Caledonia City Council approved a $10,000 increase to the Crescendo Design Agreement for the swimming pool project at their Jan. 28 meeting. The original cost of the agreement was $110,000 and included a discount. The increase brings the total cost back to the originally estimated price. Crescendo said the reason for the increase is to assist in gathering further funds and finding local talent to cut costs to the overall project.
Mayor Robert Burns felt it was important to agree to the $10,000 increase to keep the project going. He said, “In the grand scheme of things it’s not that much. Let’s get it going and get it done.”
The council briefly discussed the overall plans for the pool. The pool house interior will be completely redone; the pool lining will be redone and extended to the north to create a zero depth entrance. An extension to the west will be added to include a slide.
Upgrade to lift station
The city council entertained a proposal to install a wireless network to city lift stations. The network would allow city staff access to the lift station from home and could potentially prevent a backup, which can result in flooding.
“Basically it is just another way to put another kind of alert in the system so a lift station doesn’t go down without us knowing about,” said City Administrator Ted Schoonover.
If a problem were to occur with a particular lift station a warning would automatically be sent out to various staff members over email through a computer or cell phone. Schoonover believed that while this system did not necessarily need to be installed this year, it should be installed over the next few years to avoid city liability if a neighborhood were to flood due to a backup. “I think it would save the city in the long run if we could prevent one back up.”
Councilmember Dewayne Schroeder was in favor of the upgrade, saying, with an early warning, “[we] might save up to $10,000 on one pump.” Schroeder sighted a recent problem with the Sunnyside Lift Station a few days earlier, commenting that all lift stations should be upgraded in the long run.
The council chose not to act on this item at this time and decided to wait until later in the year when statistical information on the money saved from the water meter change-out project will be available. In addition, Caledonia can look into loans or grants to cover the cost of the upgrades, which upon initial estimate, totaled $49,646.
The council discussed a one-time bonus to current EMTs taking the refresher training class. All EMTs are required to take this refresher course every two years. In the past Caledonia has not paid EMTs to take this class, but EMT Director Mike Tornstrom made a request that EMTs receive pay for the additional dedication of time. Tornstrom said he felt this additional pay was deserved as EMTs are currently understaffed and are busy with various training courses.
Tornstrom proposed paying the normal hourly wage of $14. The course is a 24 hours long, so each EMT would receive an additional $336 in pay. Tornstrom pointed out that the state does reimburse Caledonia $225 per EMT that takes the class. In previous years this reimbursement went back into the general fund.
Burns said he was concerned that this might set a precedence.
Tornstrom commented that he intended it to be a one-time increase and make new hires aware that this pay might not be given for the next training course.
Councilmember Tom Murphy questioned why the request was not on the budget and was reluctant to approve non-budget requests.
Tornstrom responded that he did not include this request on the budget since he did not anticipate a shortage in EMTs back in November and further explained these are extenuating circumstances. “Every other department in the city, except for the Fire Department, pays for their continued education at a much higher wage, and most of those departments don’t have a surplus.”
The council agreed and passed a motion to do a one-time reimbursement from the state to cover the additional pay for EMT training for up to $336.
Later in the meeting the council voted to drop the 18 paid hour limitation for EMTs in order to help fill the schedule. In addition, it was announced Caledonia is planning a First Responder class in the spring as a recruitment tool.
The council tabled a motion to approve a certificate authorizing JP Morgan firm to handle Caledonia CDs. Murphy wanted to approve the certificate with an amendment to remove all mention of stock purchases, as Caledonia does not partake in the buy and selling of stocks.
The rest of the council was in agreement, but Administrator Schoonover informed the council that if the contract was altered this would potentially void the agreement. The council chose to table approving the agreement pending legal advice.
• Councilmember Schroeder commented on the police department’s a habit of keeping police vehicles running idle for hours at a time. Schroeder said that since joining the council he has received several complaints from individuals who have observed squad cars left running for extended periods of time.
Murphy said this issue has been discussed with police department before, but no action was taken. Mayor Burns explained a committee meeting was schedule to discuss this issue.
• The council approved the purchase of a new printer at the waste water treatment plant at a cost of $316.33. In addition, a laptop was approved for the electric department at a cost of $967.21.
• The council approved a motion to enter into a vehicle maintenance agreement with Tri-State Ambulance, Inc. Tornstrom informed the council that Tri-State will be used for the bulk of the ambulance departments maintenance needs, but some maintenance needs could be taken care of locally. Rates are $49 an hour with the cost of parts at 20 percent markup. Total expenditures for the service are not to exceed $250,000.
• The council scheduled a public hearing for the continuation of Mike Rogich’s Interim Use Permit for the old elementary school building. The hearing will be Feb. 11 during the next regular Caledonia City Council meeting.