Mop heads and wet wipes clogging city sewer system

By Clay Schuldt

Caledonia Argus


The Bissen Street lift station was discussed at the July 8 Caledonia City Council meeting because mop heads are getting caught in the pump system. The speculation is that an area business may be disposing of mop heads through the sewer system.

Councilmember Dewayne Schroeder said that in addition to mop heads, wet wipes have a tendency to clog up lift station pumps and recommended residents dispose of this waste in the trash.

The city cannot prove which business is responsible for the mop heads getting into the system, but all area businesses were warned of the issue.

The council considered installing baskets in the lift station to catch garbage to prevent it from getting caught in the pumps. If the pumps become damaged the cost of replacement is around $3,000. Baskets cost around $7,000 each. The issue was tabled until the next meeting to look for alternative options.


Smoke test

During the flooding last month some residents reported sewer line backups, which may have been caused by other residents hooking sump pumps up to the sanitary sewer lines. Other possibilities included a leaky line that has gone undetected. One option to identify the problem is to perform a smoke test. Smoke is pumped through a line and any leaks or improper connections are identified by the presence of smoke.  The estimate for performing the test on the northeast side of town is $3,800, and be added to the MIDI loan.

Councilmember Schroeder said he believed the test should not be limited to the northeast section of town as during heavy rainfall water reaches the treatment plant within 15 minutes, suggesting the problem could be closer to the plant. “To do it right we should probably do the whole town.”

The city will go back for further quotes on smoke testing the entire town.


One-way on Grove

The council considered turning a section of Grove Street into a one-way street.

The request was presented by the school district and is fueled by safety concerns for schoolchildren. The one-way would only be in effect for the block of Grove Street near the elementary school.

City Administrator Ted Schoonover said he has asked the League of Minnesota and City Attorney Tim Murphy how to proceed. Schoonover recommended that, for simplicity, the section of the street be a permanent one-way.

One councilmemeber asked which direction the one-way traffic should travel, as this would affect residences and at least one business. The council also wondered if the school considered switching bus pickup back to Grove Street while allowing parents to pick students up on Main Street.

The council took no action on the item and will continue to work with the school district on the issue.


Liquor store computer

On Tuesday, July 2 the city’s liquor store computer/register lost power. As a result, the store needed to be closed early.  On Wednesday an older computer’s power supply was hooked into the system allowing for sales over the Fourth of July weekend.

The council was asked to approve a new system and program that would provide the liquor store with redundancy. In the event of a future power failure, the information on the computer will be backed up. A recommendation was made to switch from QuickBooks accounting software to StoreTender software as it was more compatible with liquor store sales. The cost of the software, computer/register/scanner, installation and a year of support comes to total of $5,985. A request for a software change had originally been requested in November; however, at that time the computer system was operating without incident.

Councilmember Schroeder was in favor of the upgrade as long as it would make the system more efficient and made the motion to approve.  The motion was seconded by Robert Lemke and passed by the council with Mayor Robert Burns voting against.


Baseball field lights

The council received pricing for inspection of the light poles at the baseball field. Total hourly time for the inspection crew was priced at $377.64 an hour, not figuring overtime or price of the vehicle and materials to perform treatment. Each pole would cost $20 for sound and bore to determine condition of the poles.  All poles passing the inspection would cost $55 each for a below ground line treatment, with additional fumigant treatments of $17. The council took no action and will continue to look for alternatives to lower the cost. One option discussed was shortening the height of the light poles. The council agreed to investigate how other cities have handled similar problems.


Zoning application

A zoning application was submitted by Larry and Holly Youngerberg of 123 North Sprague Street for the construction of an eight foot by 36 foot open porch in the front yard.  A variance of 13 feet from the property line is required.  The council approved the application as none of the neighbors had filed any complaints and would not cause any visual blockage from the nearby intersection.


In other news

• The city was approached by Elsie Rud on opening a concession stand by the baseball diamond.  Since Rud already has a catering license everything could transfer to the concession stand. As the building had been unused for several years, the council was eager to approve the request.

• An application was sent to a person in Milwaukee interested in the waste water treatment plant operator position. The council has struggled finding suitable persons to fill the position as the treatment plant requires a Class A operator. The position was offered to an applicant who has since declined.

• Heidi Lampert walked into the council meeting to submit a complaint regarding recent behavior of pool lifeguards. Lampert reported that one of the on-duty lifeguards was hanging around with friends rather than paying attention to swimmers. The other on-duty lifeguards did not put a stop to this behavior. The council agreed to look into the situation.

• Mayor Burns brought up issues with four wheelers and golf carts being driven around Caledonia. Burns said that he has witnessed some unsafe activities with these vehicles, specifically children standing up on back of the vehicle. Currently the Caledonia Police do pull over riders for hazardous use of golf carts and four wheelers; however, most reports of improper vehicle use occur when officers are out of sight. Schoonover agreed to look into state statutes regarding operation of recreational vehicles.

• The next council meeting is scheduled for Monday, July 22 at 6 p.m.