By Clay Schuldt
At the Feb. 11 Caledonia City Council meeting the mayor and council were informed that as of now, all townships in the Caledonia Ambulance District have paid the ambulance subsidy with exception of Caledonia Township, which is refusing to pay on the grounds that the rate is too high. The annual fee to each township is $4 per capita. The Caledonia Township’s is around $4,000 annually.
The council has begun looking for a method to capture uncollected revenue from the township. If Caledonia is unable to collect the annual fee, the council is considering adding an extra $75 to each ambulance call to Caledonia Township until the missing revenue is collected. The council was not enthusiastic about this alternative as it hurts individuals, many of whom are unaware their township is withholding the annual payment.
The council is willing to reimburse townships for extra revenue left over. The $4 per capita charge goes to paying ambulance overhead and the fund for buying new equipment. Any funds left over will be sent back to the townships. Mayor Robert Burns explained that if a township resident pays the $4 to the ambulance, the resident could receive $2 back at the year’s end. However, the reimbursement is only possible if the township pays the bill up front.
The council will meet and discuss the issue with the townships at a special meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 6 p.m. at city hall.
In a related issue, Administrator Ted Schoonover had Caledonia attorney Tim Murphy review the vehicle maintenance agreement between Tri-State Ambulance and Caledonia. Murphy pointed out a few minor changes to the contract language, and suggested the removal of a section referencing a previous template with Gundersen that applies to the current contract. With these changes Murphy approved of the document.
However, Councilman Robert Lemke was not sure why the city needed to sign an agreement with Tri-State. Lemke was against signing an exclusive contract with Tri-State, saying there are other capable people around who could handle the maintenance.
The council did not vote to approve the contract at this time, choosing to wait and see if Tri-State will allow amendments to the contract to offer more flexible service.
Auditorium use and abuse
During the Jan. 11 council meeting, Administrative Coordinator Mike Gerardy informed the council of problems with groups using the city auditorium to play various games. Gerardy was concerned over possible damage to lights, scoreboards and other equipment if this continues. Gerardy specifically cited softball practice in the auditorium as the major concern. “I think we have to put limited use on it because it has just been a free-for-all,” Gerardy said. Councilmember Randi Vick commented that there needs to be a policy change to protect the building. Schoonover agreed to review and update the policy on usage to prevent further damage.
At the most recent council meeting, Joel Lindstrom spoke to the council to convince them to continue to allow him and his son to practice baseball pitching in the auditorium. Lindstrom did not believe a simple game of catch could harm the auditorium.
“It’s an auditorium with a design for basketball and it’s allowed to have volleyball; it was never designed for baseball/softball,” Burns said. The council did agree that pitching practice was not the big concern, but was actually batting practice. Lemke commented there was a significant distinction between pitching and batting practice. However, the council did not want to set a precedent that would lead to several unsupervised groups playing catch in the auditorium.
Lindstrom said he believed this was a question of behavior rather than the activity itself, saying a basketball could cause damage as easily as a baseball. Lindstrom suggested the real issue was how the auditorium was monitored.
Lindstrom wanted to maintain access to the auditorium, as there are few facilities and opportunities to continue practicing pitching with his son.
Burns’ only issue with allowing Lindstrom to practice pitching with his son was it set a precedent for allowing other groups that might not be as well behaved.
Schoonover commented that the biggest problem is there is no city policy for use of the auditorium facility. He and the council agreed to develop an auditorium policy guideline to officially establish which types of activities would be allowed in the auditorium. The guidelines will most likely ban batting practice and establish standards for monitoring the facility.
County Hwy. 5 project
Schoonover informed the council that the county is still determining if it would be better to begin the County Hwy. 5 project in 2013 or in 2014. The dilemma comes down to when the overall costs would be greater.
County Engineer Brian Pogodzinski contacted the city explaining there was funding for the project this year that might not be available in 2014. However, the county still did not have the inspection crews available to begin the project until next year. The county would need to hire additional workers to complete the project in 2013, which would add an additional $20,000 to the project that Caledonia would need to cover.
The council agreed by consensus to have Schoonover speak with the county engineer to determine the most cost-effective option.
At the last city council meeting, a decision to approve a certificate of trading with JP Morgan was tabled. Councilmember Tom 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 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.
At the latest meeting the council received a response from attorney Murphy that if the changes were made to the document it is considered a counteroffer. In the event JP Morgan does not sign the document after the changes, the agreement is void. If the agreement is signed with the changes it is considered legally binding. The council approved the contract as redacted.
• At the last meeting the council scheduled a public hearing for the continuation of Mike Rogich’s interim use permit for the old elementary school building; however, the council needed to reschedule the hearing for Feb. 25 to give proper notice.
• A motion was made to accept the low bid for lighting replacement at the wastewater treatment plant. The bid went to Becker & Stemper Electric at $945 on condition that removal and disposal of materials was included under labor.
• The council approved a tobacco permit for Dollar General.
• The purchase of a computer for the police department was approved at a cost of $1,345.
• A payment request of $64,159 from Visu-Sewer was approved as part of the sanitary sewer rehabilitation project.