By Clay Schuldt
In December, the city of Caledonia received a request to install a new cell phone tower in Sprague Woods. On Jan. 13, the City Council denied the request during its regular meeting.
The proposal had the 300-foot tower situated to avoid disturbing the airport but improve cell phone service. Last month, Mayor Robert Burns questioned whether the donation of the park prohibited such construction, and the council tabled the discussion until the legality of such a proposal could be determined.
Upon further review, the council chose not to allow the tower in the woods. In addition to previous concerns, Burns commented that at 300 feet tall, the tower would be the first thing people would see coming into Caledonia from the north.
“Personally, I don’t like the idea of that being the first thing you see coming up the hill into Caledonia,” he said.
The city suggested placing the tower near the dump site out of town, as it would be out of sight and out of mind, but Verizon wanted a tower closer to town.
Council member Tom Murphy said Sprague Woods was not donated with the intent of turning it into a commercial property. Murphy worried that leasing a portion of the land could discourage a future donation. He said he believed that, at the very least, this issue warranted a public hearing, but the council ultimately voted to deny the request.
In a related issue, the council agreed to look into removing trees from Sprague Woods that were rotten and at risk of falling. Administrative Coordinator Mike Gerardy said he believed the cost of removing the trees would be offset by the sale of the lumber.
Coffee shop drive-thru approved
In November, the council first discussed an application from Norman Snodgrass to install a drive-thru window on the new coffee shop he intends to open.
The coffee shop will be located in the building of the former China Buffet. The drive-up window will be located on the north side of the building and requires paving a portion of the vacant lot between Snodgrass’ building and the liquor store. The entrance will be on Kingston Street with an exit into the alley behind the buildings. At the time, the council’s major concern was the effect on traffic and ensuring handicap accessibility to the building.
During the most recent council meeting, Snodgrass returned with a plan to manage many of these concerns. Handicap access will be placed next to the drive-thru window, which means no alterations will need to be done to the Kingston Street sidewalk. Pole barricades will be installed to protect the gas main on the corner of the building near the drive-thru exit. A 15-foot green space will separate the drive-thru lane from the liquor store.
Snodgrass was confident that by re-landscaping the vacant lot, water leakage into his building and the liquor store could be prevented.
Burns made a motion to approve the request to allow a curb cut along Kingston to allow access to the new drive-up window and handicap entrance. The motion also allowed traffic to exit through the alley behind the liquor store on the condition a barricade is installed to protect utility lines. The council unanimously approved the application.
The coffee shop will open in March, but construction on the drive-thru is not expected to be completed until April, weather permitting.
The Caledonia City Council once again agreed to contribute to the Houston County Victim Services fund in the amount $2,000. The council made an identical donation in 2013 to help fund the county service.
Victim Services had previously been paid for by the state, but was cut in 2012. Since then the county has asked the cities to assist with funding.
Murphy said he agreed Victim Services was a worth-while program but felt the County Attorney’s Office should be able to cover the service and questioned how many cases the Attorney’s Office handles in a year.
Council Member Randi Vick made the motion to approve the $2,000 contribution to Victim Services, which was seconded by Murphy and was approved by the council. Following the vote, Burns asked that the city request statistics on how many court cases per year are handled through Victim Services.
City Administrator Ted Schoonover informed the council that a few of the new radio water meters have been breaking down due to freezing conditions. The question brought to the council is whether the city or the homeowner is liable to pay for a replacement.
Council Member Dewayne Schroeder argued that it was not the city’s fault the meters broke as it not in the city’s power to keep the meters from freezing. Burns was in agreement that the damage was not in the council’s control but is the result of the property owner’s inattention.
No decision was made at the meeting. Schoonover agreed to develop a policy for replacing damaged meters.
Resignation and hire
The council accepted the resignation of part-time officer Tim Irwin. Irwin said his retirement is due to significant changes in the state retirement system. The council thanked Irwin for his service to Caledonia.
Officer Sheldon Haedtke was hired as a permanent part-time officer. Haedtke has previously worked for Caledonia and this is considered an internal hire.
• The council approved the estimated quote for the codification of city ordinances. Every six years, the city of Caledonia goes through the process of arranging new ordinances into the ordinance book for any government entity, such as the city or county, that requires ordinance information on Caledonia. This codification process will be the first update with all ordinances adopted since 2004. The estimated cost is between $3,000 and $4,000.
• An application was approved by the council to allow Kraus Oil to raise the highway pedestal sign an additional 60 inches to allow for better visibility. In addition, the council approved its request to redo the canopy sign above the gas pumps.
• The council passed a motion to advertise the use of the city auditorium in the Caledonia Argus.
• The Caledonia Police Department has established a new ride-along policy. In addition, the city agreed to advertise for the hiring of three new part-time police officers.
• The Caledonia Fireman’s Annual Appreciation and Blowout is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 24. Social hour starts at 6 p.m. and the dinner is at 7 p.m. in the Caledonia City Auditorium basement.
The meeting ended with a closed session for a wage negotiations. No decision was made upon returning into open session.
The next regularly scheduled City Council meeting is set for Feb. 10.