The City of Fountain received some welcome news at the Wednesday, October 4 council meeting. After achieving six consecutive months of compliance at the wastewater treatment plant, the city has the option to dissolve it’s corrective action plan with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).
A meeting was recently held between representatives from the city and the state agency. In attendance from the city were Mayor Richard Kujath, Councilor Brian Ostby, Clerk Rhonda Flattum, along with Rick Whitney, of PeopleService — the firm assisting with mitigating plant issues — and engineer Richard Parr, of WSB.
“According to a stipulation in the agreement, we can dissolve it if we want to,” stated Flattum. Dissolution would end additional items of follow-up, quarterly reports from the city, and the required action plan. “We don’t have to decide now, but it’s out there.”
“There’s no sense in having it,” said Kujath. “We have to stay in compliance. The engineering done on it [action plan] will still be at the engineering office in case something comes up. We have some leniency if we report it right away.”
“It surprises me. Rick got it in compliance and no one else could,” added Councilor David Gudmundson of the PeopleService representative.
Kujath noted that a substantial amount of MicroC, a treatment method, is being dumped into the system. Due to cost, the city may try a similar, more cost-effective treatment.
Councilor Chad Wangen was vocal about his disappointment that only a fraction of the council met with MCPA. “If we’re gonna have a meeting as a whole, we should have a meeting as a whole, not behind the council’s back so the papers can’t be there.”
Ostby responded, “We don’t have a choice,” before noting he and Kujath had always represented the council. He stated he assumed that’s why the agency asked to meet with them.
“We discussed, as a whole council, to have it. We didn’t get the full option. We didn’t even know about it,” countered Wangen.
Councilor Jim Schott also indicated he thought the meeting would be different. “We said we all wanted to have a sit down. It’s done now. Right now, we’re in compliance. I’d hate to upset the apple cart.”
“It sounds like they’re backing off,” added Wangen. No formal decision was made on dissolution of the plan.
The city is also gearing up for a utility rate increase. Suggested by Parr, the increase would cover increased operational and mitigation improvements to continue compliance at the wastewater treatment plant. “If we find out things aren’t working, we would need to raise it to justify costs,” said Flattum.
It was indicated that rates need to be raised and the main question is the timing of it. It was suggested the rate increase come at the first of the new year. Any rate modification will be directly mailed to residents prior to the change.
In other news, the city has begun its contract with the Preston Police Department, as of October 1. Sargent Blaise Sass was on hand at the meeting to discuss the first few days. An awareness in the community of the new policing presence was noted by the council. “We try to stop and visit with people,” said Sass. “We hope we’re able to spread out our time here.” The Department is contracted for both day and night shift rounds in the City of Fountain. There will be a meet and greet with the Preston Police Department Saturday, November 11, from 10:30 a.m. until noon, at city hall.
Sass indicated he and Public Works Director John Hanson will be tackling remaining non-compliant properties this week. This comes prior to a deadline for city properties to be in zoning compliance or face citations. Roughly 11-14 properties were identified by the city. “We’ll let them know one last time,” said Sass.
Another notable agenda item approved by the council includes changing primary and general elections polling for city residents from Fountain City Hall to Mail Balloting Option. During the last election, the city spent more than $2,100 in costs and was reimbursed just $273 by the county. “It’s a huge expense for us,” noted Clerk Flattum.
The Mail Balloting Option would see a ballot mailed to every eligible city resident, along with instructions and an envelope. Similar to an absentee ballot, the option can be changed back to in-city voting if it doesn’t work for city residents. The county requires just a 90 day notice to opt out.
“I can’t imagine people won’t like it,” said Schott. The council approved the resolution to modify the voting unanimously.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Wednesday, November 1, at 7:30 p.m., at city hall. The public is encouraged to attend.