Public hearing set for possible sewer extension in Caledonia

Craig Moorhead

The Caledonia Argus

The Caledonia City Council met for nearly three hours on Monday, Aug. 28. Budgeting for 2018 was once again on the agenda, along with a forgivable loan program from the city’s Economic Development Authority, and a possible sewer extension for South Street.

After reviewing a feasibility study on extending city sewer to the South Street area, members voted to hold a public hearing on the matter on Oct. 9.

Produced by Davy Engineering, the study compared three options to provide city sewer to South Street east of Winnebago Street: a gravity-only system, gravity sewer with a lift station, or a small diameter pressure sewer. Due to the elevations involved, the cost of the first option “would not be practical at this time,” the study concluded. The second option (with a single lift station) would cost approximately $266,510 to provide service to a dozen lots, while the third would require individual grinder pumps at each property. The project cost for the small diameter pressure system is estimated at $118,130, but each property owner could also expect to pay around $9,500 to install their own pump station.

EDA program gets nod

Another vote approved a “Downtown Redevelopment Program” from the Caledonia EDA which features forgivable loans of up to $20,000. The program will provide funds for demolition, site cleanup, site prep, and renovations in the city’s central business district (zone B-1).

Property owners must meet a 1:1 match requirement to qualify, and the work must boost the tax base on the property “within 2 years of project approval,” according to the plan. Owners will also need to hang on to the improved properties to take advantage of the “forgivable” nature of the loans. For those who sell within 3 years of approval, the principal is due immediately, but only 40% is due after the third year, 20% after the fourth, and no repayment is due after five years.

The budget for the loans was set at $50,000. The program was authorized until Jan. 1, 2019.

Budget work continues

The council spent an hour sifting through numerous items in the proposed budget for 2018. General fund expenses (without capital items) are projected to rise from $1,839,890 to $1,991,760. Members left a 5% increase in the levy proposal for the time being. The city has until Sept. 29 (the last business day of the month) to submit it’s proposed levy to Houston County. After that, the total can be trimmed, but not added to when the levy is certified for the tax rolls at year’s end.

Council members anticipate the need for major repairs/improvements to seven to eight blocks of Kingston St. in 2018, likely costing more than $1 million. Bonding for the work would essentially take the place of debts being retired. No hard cost figures are yet available for that project, however.

Other news

The council approved a joint powers agreement between their prosecuting attorney and the State of Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. The document provides access to state criminal justice data to the prosecuting attorney’s office. Unless terminated, the pact will remain in effect for five years.

Members reviewed a recently-completed banding study covering part-time, seasonal, and temporary employees. The plan breaks down pay rates into three categories, covering unskilled, skilled, and para positions (Band A), technical and specialized positions (Band B), and supervisory and administrative positions (Band C). Each band is further divided into three wage zones. Suggested wage grids graduate from $9.50 per hour (casual/temp/aide) all the way to a top rate of $19.50 (department head). No actions were taken on the wage schedules.

Houston County Public Health/Nursing director Mary Marchel asked the council to make October’s Wild Turkey Fest a “family friendly tobacco-free” event. City administrator Adam Swann noted that a no-smoking policy for an outdoor event would require an ordinance change, so “if we want to advertise it as – we would appreciate people not smoking – it’s one thing to request it, but we can’t enforce it.”

Council members agreed. “Between now and then, I don’t think we have time to make an ordinance change, anyway,” councilman Bob Burns noted. By consensus, the members agreed that signs can request that attendees not smoke, but not prohibit it.

Repairs to a city-owned basketball court are well underway. By consensus, the council agreed to send thanks to volunteer Chuck Schulte for all of his work at the site.