City Engineer Matt Mohs and Wastewater Treatment Facility Manager John Graupman visited the November 13 meeting of the Houston, Minn., city council for several purposes. Graupman was there to request a change order to cover an accounting correction as well as the final payment order which included the remaining retainage on the completed wastewater treatment plant. The total amount requested by Graupman was $66,209.23. Graupman informed the council the project had been completed for just below the budgeted $4.2 million. Graupman shared that the city had received a $3 million INI (Inflow and Infiltration) grant for the WWTP project.
Matt Mohs reported on some upcoming projects for the city. The Cedar Street project will hopefully begin at the end of November. To begin, the main will be cleaned and televised; this will take about a week. In approximately a month, the company will return to begin lining the pipes. Notices will go out to residents about water usage at that time.
Staff and Mohs recently walked the entire project route for Spruce Street. The county will begin working on the street design; water and sewer will be planned and designed in the spring and early summer. This project is scheduled for 2025.
After preliminary engineering and identifying the conditions and scope of the projects, Mohs said they will start the assessments portion of the project. Residents will be invited to meetings regarding it.
Mohs shared that MPCA (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency) had informed the city they needed to attack some sewer deficiencies. The city obtained some INI (Inflow and Infiltration) grant dollars for work on Lincoln and Spruce Streets. While Cedar wasn’t identified on the original plan, the work done on it will also work with this.
Public Safety Aid Allotment
Recent legislation has provided a one-time Public Safety Aid allotment of $43,497. City staff put together a list of possible items for which the money could be used. Some of the needs included 800 MHz radios for all EMS services; ambulance pagers, lift cot, and Zoll monitors; fire department turnout gear, air packs and a medical skid for the six wheeler; and police department tasers, bullet-proof vest, squad camera and other cameras. With a replacement ambulance also needed, the list is well over the $43,497 allotment.
The council decided to put the funds in the general fund rather than portioning it out to individual departments. The money will be tracked and spent on emergency items as requested.
PFAS Cost Recovery
In order for the city to take part in the class action PFAS Cost Recovery, there is a requirement to have a baseline test done. According to the city attorney, there is a $500 cost for each water source. City Administrator Michelle Quinn had been attempting to get a quote from the lab that would perform the test, but has gotten no response. Councilman Cody Mathers was hesitant to approve funding for the tests and asked Quinn to research more on the cost and if the city must do it.
The council approved a 4% COLA increase for staff in 2024 as well as a 9% increase in the cost of health benefits for employees. The ESSL (Earned Safe and Sick Leave) policy was approved as updated. This policy provides for time off for part time employees with employees earning an hour for every 30 hours worked. The policy was mandated by legislation.
An ambulance hardship waiver was granted to Charles Ness. Ness will be taking a $1,600 training course; the city will pay $1,100 toward the course. Valerie Ness is enrolling in an RN to EMT course as well. Both of the Nesses have signed commitments to serve with the ambulance.
The council decided to follow the lead of many area cities and no longer hold their own LBAE (Local Board of Appeal and Equalization) to hear citizens’ claims regarding their team assessments. Since the citizens must then follow up with another hearing at the county level, the council decided to go to Open Book. Using this method, the citizen goes to the county level right away, thus eliminating a meeting and saving time.
In other business the council:
•Approved getting an appraisal for green space to be purchased for the Owl Center;
•Approved liquor licenses for JT’s and the Legion;
•Admired the award Houston received from ABC as Woodland Employer of the Year; Quinn noted that the agreement with ABC has been working well.
The next regular Houston City Council meeting will be December 11 at 6 p.m. in the city hall council chambers. The public is welcome to attend; a public comment period is available at the beginning of the meeting.