Public hearing set for recreational burning

By Clay Schuldt

Caledonia Argus


During the May 28 Caledonia City Council meeting the council once again reviewed a proposed amendment to Caledonia’s Open Burning Ordinance.

Currently Caledonia does not allow recreational fires, but this amendment would allow residents to have recreational fires under certain conditions. The fire must have a total area of two feet or less in diameter and be no more than two feet in height. Fuel is limited to clear wood, no chemical additives or charcoal.  Fires cannot be constructed within 10 feet of a structure or combustible material unless contained in an enclosed barbecue grill or a commercially manufactured patio burner, which has legs elevating the unit off the ground and has the burning area completely enclosed with a screen.  Fires must be fully extinguished by 12 a.m. and shall not burn between midnight and 8 a.m. Additional conditions dealing with disaster rubbish, training fires and gasoline storage are also included with the ordinance.

Councilmember Tom Murphy was against the inclusion of recreational fires and wanted to keep the recreational fire ban in effect; however, the current ban on recreational fires has not been strongly enforced. Administrator Ted Schoonover said there have been no real complaints from citizens regarding recreational fires. A public hearing on the matter has been scheduled for June 24 at 6:30 p.m. at city hall.


New sewer line for Sno Pac

SnoPac is interested in piping their waste water instead of hauling the waste water by truck. This would require the construction of a new sewer line from Sno Pac. Councilmember Murphy said the EDA is in support of the concept but the subject of financing has yet to be settled.

By establishing a new sewer line, truck traffic would be significantly cut, and over a period of 20 years the project would pay for itself by eliminating the cost of hauling waste water.  The exact route the pipe would take has not been decided, as a number of easements will be necessary to begin the project. The proposed project would be a pass-through, meaning the city covers the initial costs and SnoPac would pay back the city. The pass-through would allow better funding and loan options.

In addition, the pipe would need to cross under several government right-of-ways, which is not allowed by private entities. Mayor Robert Burns had no issue with the concept of putting in a new line but had concerns over Caledonia’s liability if the line should ever break or the business be sold to a new company.

The council made no decision and chose to research the issue further.


Zoning overhaul

The council approved a zoning application from Larry Schmidt, 608 North Hokah Street, who proposed to construct a 15 foot by 30 foot addition to the existing garage. The request required a variance of 210 square feet over the 1,008 square feet allowed. Both Councilmembers Randi Vick and Murphy were against the application. Vick said she felt that rather than approve variance requests on a regular basis, the council should consider updating current ordinances. “I would rather see a change to the ordinance than come back for variance after variance,” Vick said.

Schoonover made the recommendation that the council go through the entire zoning ordinance and make updates deemed necessary rather than update ordinances one at a time. The topic will be addressed at future meetings.


Light pole inspection at ballpark

The council received estimates for light pole inspection at Veterans Memorial Field.  The cost of the inspection varies based on the condition of the pole. A pole passing an inspection would be treated internally with preservation materials, which would cost $55.  Poles that do not pass inspection would not be treated but would still cost $37.

City Electrician Matt Blocker believed that if one pole failed inspection they should all be replaced. In order to replace one pole a large amount of equipment would be needed and it would be simpler to replace all the poles at once, he said.

Schoonover suggested the city go through with the inspection as it would decrease Caledonia’s liability in the future.

Councilmember Dewayne Schroeder agreed that an inspection should be done to save on liability and made a motion on the condition that it is a full inspection. The motion passed.

Later in the meeting the council approved a recommendation from Blocker to accept a quote from Hoskins Electric for repairs to a service panel on West Main and North Decorah at a cost of $207.

Four quotes on the American Legion Shelter for Music in the Park were received and Becker Stemper Electric came in the lowest at $332.08. This was accepted by the council.

In order to make the electric department more efficient the council passed a motion to acquire the mini-excavator from SEMA at the cost of $30,000. The purchase of a Ditch Witch from Ditch Witch of Minnesota was also approved at the cost of $33,410 following the trade-in of Caledonia’s older model Ditch Witch, which cut the price $12,500.


Ambulance district

Ambulance Department Director Mike Tornstrom spoke with the council about the possibility of establishing an ambulance district similar to the fire departments fire district.  Mayor Burns suggested the possibility of splitting the costs of the department at the end of the year similar to how the fire department operates. By splitting the cost between the city and the district, Burns said he believed this would eliminate the disputes over the per capita charges to the townships.

“I am fine with it however you want to do it,” Tornstrom said, “as long as we’re paying all the bills at the end of the year.”  Tornstrom went on to say that the arrangement would be unusual but couldn’t think of a reason it would not work.

Councilmember Robert Lemke was not convinced an ambulance district could work the same way a fire district does, saying the per capita payments would still be needed as the fire department does not generate income to support itself the same way the ambulance does. The fire department budget is more fixed than the ambulance department and costs are easier to split. The council made no decision on the issue at this time.

Also under the ambulance department, the council approved the hire of three individuals as emergency medical responders, including Nick McGraw, Laura Peter and Heather Gavin, and two emergency medical responder cadets, Devin Schiltz and James Tewes.


Ambulance district

Walking path improvements along the east side of Highway 44 from West Foltz Drive to North Park were approved with Yaggy Colby Associates. Caledonia will receive up to $50,000 from MNDOT for the construction project, but the estimate came in at $23,500.


New pool crew

Katie Schieber and Vanessa Rud were hired as assistant pool managers for the 2013 pool season. New 2013 lifeguards include Trece Frank, Meagan Sheehan, Meggan Scanlan, Matison Scanlan and Alison Goergen.