Ambulance decision bobbles before settling at $4 per capita

By Clay Schuldt

Caledonia Argus


The Caledonia City Council once again discussed the township ambulance subsidy. During the Ambulance Association meeting, five out of the nine townships were represented.

Currently, the subsidy is set at $4 per capita with the understanding that city of Caledonia would be willing to give back any leftover funds after paying off the ambulance overhead and purchasing new equipment.

According to Mayor Bob Burns, the majority of the townships were receptive to this program, but Kermit McRae of Caledonia Township was not in favor of the subsidy.

During last year’s discussion, the council dropped the subsidy from $7.50 to $4 per capita, but Caledonia Township refused to pay the $4 because this figure had not been agreed upon during the 2012 Ambulance Association meeting. McRae has spoken out against the subsidy, citing the Caledonia Ambulance surplus as reason to drop the charge.

During the latest city council meeting, Burns suggested setting the subsidy at $2 because the service could still maintain a surplus.

Councilmember Dewayne Schroeder said he was comfortable with leaving the subsidy at $4 because it is impossible to guess what Medicare changes will come up in the next few years.

Councilmember Tom Murphy agreed and further commented that the ambulance fund represented a surplus, and areas of surpluses should be managed. “We have to build on that,” he said.

Burns was reluctant to keep too large of a dedicated account, considering the ambulance department is not a private enterprise designed to make profit.  Burns made a motion to set the subsidy at $2, which was seconded by Councilmember Randi Vick, but the motion failed to garner enough votes.

After the failed vote, Councilmember Bob Lemke offered a compromise and made a motion to set the subsidy at $3, which was seconded by Schroeder, but this vote failed as well.

Murphy voted against both motions because the 2013 budget had already been established with the subsidy set at $4. Murphy suggested the subject be revisited in December.

With the failure of two motions, Schroeder made a motion to leave the subsidy at $4, which the council approved on a  3-2 vote, with Burns and Vick voting against.

Lemke said, “It’s easier to leave it where it is than to drop and try to get it back in two years.”


Alternate side parking

Schroeder said that he would like to see stronger enforcement of the alternate side parking ordinance.

“There were no tickets written last week with a snow storm coming.  [The snow plows] couldn’t get through some streets.  We’ve got to either enforce it or get something that has got teeth in it so it gets taken care of… There are cars that sit out there every night; they never move for a week,” he said.

Schroeder suggested Caledonia consider adopting Spring Grove’s ordinance, which requires vehicles to be moved within two hours after the snowfall stops, and agreed better enforcement was needed.

“If we don’t stay on top of it, what’s the difference in having an ordinance?”

Burns said he intends to bring the issue up at the next police/fire department committee meeting.



Outdoor wood burning stove

The council approved a request from resident Jeff Rud to install an outdoor (forced air) wood furnace.

Caledonia does not currently have a solid fuel burning ordinance; however, the council was provided with a copy of La Crescent’s ordinance. Administrative Coordinator Mike Gerardy said Caledonia may want to consider adopting a similar ordinance.

Burns made the motion to approve the request because there was no reason to deny it at this juncture. Approval was given with the stipulation that if Caledonia creates a solid fuel burning ordinance, Rud would be subject to the new ordinance.


Mayo Clinic expansion

The South East Minnesota League asked Caledonia to approve a resolution in support of a Mayo Clinic expansion in Rochester.

Burns commented that, while expansion had no bearing on Caledonia and would not cost any money locally, it would be a benefit to Rochester and could generate tax dollars in the future. The council approved the resolution by consent because the expansion could have statewide benefits.


County 5 project

City Administrator Ted Schoonover spoke with the Houston County Engineering Department and was informed that the county would cover the cost of additional inspection costs needed for the County Hwy. 5 road reconstruction project. The project would not cost the city of Caledonia extra if it begun in 2013 or 2014.

With this understanding, the council voted to begin the County 5 project this year rather than wait until 2014.


SOS Phone-a-thon

Burns wished to correct a rumor involving the upcoming SOS pool project phone-a-thon.  The rumor was that volunteer callers were expecting $250 donations. Burns clarified that any donation to the pool would be accepted.

“The more we get, the faster this project comes forward, so we’re looking to get as much as possible, but we’re not turning anyone’s donation down.”


In other news

• The council agreed to reconnect the pathway lighting along Hwy. 44. The pathway lighting was accidentally disconnected during the construction project last year.

• The council voted to increase the ambulance director’s monthly wage by $25, with Lemke voting against. In addition, the council approved a 25-cent raise for the tree and debris site/parks position.

• An anti-virus software purchase was approved from Affordable Technology Solutions at a cost of $352.57.

• An Economic Development Authority loan in the amount of $23,433 for Caledonia Oil was approved. Lemke abstained from the vote and left the room during the vote discussion due to his affiliation with the company.

An EDA loan in the amount of $45,000 was approved for the Snodgrass project.