Three years in the making – pool plans purchased
By Clay Schuldt
A new family aquatic center will be built in Caledonia. Member sof the Save Our Swimming pool committee attended the May 13 Caledonia City Council meeting to announce they had reached the $1.2 million goal necessary for the council to purchase the plans for the new pool from USAquatics.
Joanne Zard, committee member, addressed the council and gave an update on the fundraising process that began three years ago. Zard said that of the $1.2 million in pledges, a little over $400,000 has been paid.
City Administrator Ted Schoonover informed the council the engineering aspects of the project would need to be opened to bids, but the plans could be purchased from USAquatics because they were already chosen as the most logical company for plan designs.
Councilmember DeWayne Schroeder raised some concern about building the new pool using any of the old pool’s footprint.
“If you’re going to spend $1.7 million, might as well redo the whole thing instead of patching it up.”
Schroeder said he believed it was impossible to use any of the old structure, since it was too old to be practical. In addition, he said he was concerned that not enough upfront cash was available to begin the project.
“I am not against this, but if money isn’t there when the bills start coming, we’re strapped for cash already,” Schroeder said.
The SOS group was not overly devoted to keeping segments of the original pool, but they were anxious to move forward with the project. Zard reminded council members they had already planned to infuse the project with up to $400,000. Several other donors had expressed plans to donate once the council had purchased the pool plans.
“We know we’re not done yet,” Zard said.
Mayor Robert Burns chose to honor the city’s agreement and made a motion to purchase the plans from USAquatics with the condition that the issues brought up by Schroeder would get addressed and the project would be done in phases to ensure the council could keep track of costs. The council unanimously approved the motion.
The council agreed to have a rate study performed on the city’s electrical use following a 3.1 percent rise in electrical rates. Councilmember Tom Murphy took issue with the rate increase.
“I am starting my fifth year on the council and we’ve had a rate increase every year,” he said.
Murphy pointed out that the previous year Tri-County Electric gave out a significant amount in refunds. Murphy wanted to know why a rate increase was necessary if the company’s profits continued to increase. He suggested having a meeting the Tri-County to explain the increase.
Later in the meeting, city electrician Matt Blocker brought a series of items to the council, beginning with quotes for ballpark lighting. The quote included the prices for wood and steel poles. The quotes did not include the cost of installation. According to Blocker, the city will need two 70-foot poles and six 80-foot poles. The council took no action on the matter.
Next, Blocker requested the city get quotes for equipment to fix a problem with a service panel on West Main Street and North Decorah. An issue with a breaker is causing power loss in a four-block area. The stop lights on Kingston went down twice in the past few months as a result. Blocker estimated the cost would between $300 and $400. The council authorized seeking quotes to fix the problem.
Third, the council discussed at length the need to purchase an excavator and construction equipment. The John Deere 27D mini-excavator was quoted at $30,000 and budgeted for 2013. Mayor Burns asked if Caledonia would use an excavator enough to warrant its purchase. Blocker estimated that he put 30 to 40 hours on a contractor’s excavator last summer.
“Once you get it and start using it, you’ll find other uses for it,” Blocker said. Another piece of construction equipment was also budgeted for 2013 but would have to be purchased new because few of these machines are put on the market as used. However, the council discussed trading equipment along with the purchase. Blocker warned the cost of these machines would increase next year. The council tabled the issue until the next meeting.
Last, Blocker informed the council Karian Peterson would start on the 2013 electrical project the first week in July rather than in June as originally stated due to weather delays on other projects.
The council discussed an ordinance amending provisions for opening burning in the city of Caledonia. Schoonover estimated that in the past week, 20 individuals asked about having a fire within city limits. Murphy was against having recreational fires within Caledonia, citing the disturbance caused by smoke and noise.
Administrative Coordinator Mike Gerardy said Caledonia’s current ordinance does prohibit recreational burning. Schoonover said the ordinance has simply not been enforced.
The council chose to table the issue to give the city attorney a chance to review the proposed ordinance. All changes to the ordinance are subject to a public hearing.
Property line dispute
Andy and Sheri Allen returned to the council asking that another citation be submitted to Dean Foltz for violation of the zoning ordinance. The Allens have argued that Foltz has encroached on their land by building a retaining wall. The council cited Foltz for the violation back in November.
Andy Allen said that the original citation was thrown out by the judge as Foltz planned to go after the land through adverse possession; however, Foltz has to follow through. The Allens were requesting the citation to prevent losing their property through adverse possession. “We have to continue to have this dispute be ongoing because, of all of sudden, he will have our land because we let it go,” Sheri Allen said.
Councilmember DeWayne Schroeder made the motion to go ahead with another citation, which passed.
Water/waste water resignation
Water Department employee Ryan Skillings submitted a letter of resignation, effective May 23, which was accepted by the council with thanks for his work.
Following this resignation, the city of Caledonia is seeking qualified applicants to fill the position of water/waste water operator. Schoonover has been in contact with an individual with a B level water license who is willing to take the position with the long-range goal of being a full-time employee of the city.
Schoonover said that with difficulties of finding an employee with an “A class” license, the city needed take advantage of every opportunity, pointing out that the new employee hired during the past council meeting will not be eligible for an A license for another eight years.
In other news
• The council authorized repairs to the Bissen Street lift station at a cost of $2,594.93.
• A public hearing on Miles Esch alley vacation is set for June 10.
• The council hired Trisha Schmitz as a part-time liquor store clerk.
• Murphy recommended replacing the tree in front of City Hall with a white oak and suggested planting additional white oaks along the highway. Murphy wanted to plant white oaks to recognize Staggemeyer Stave Mill as a local industry.
• The council plans to meet with Caledonia Township Ambulance Association on May 29 at the Back 40 Supper Club.