In August, the Fountain Council voted to place the hotly debated issue over the keeping of chickens within city limits on the November ballot. At the time, City Attorney Dwight Luhmann recommended against the decision, instead recommending the issue go back to Planning and Zoning for review. He suggested the board put together a potential Chicken Ordinance and bring a recommendation back to the council. Now, it appears, per state statute, that the issue cannot be put on the general election ballot.
The issue was first brought to the council in May when resident Emily Root approached the council with a detailed plan for a secure coop in which to house 10 hens. At the time, the council did not have further questions for Root and noted no major objection. When she returned at the June meeting to hear their decision, she said she was blindsided by their decision to discuss the issue no further.
Then, at the July meeting, Root attended with a petition from residents and support from others requesting the issue be discussed again. At that meeting, the council unanimously approved a motion to hold a public meeting on the issue. No official date was set for the public meeting.
At the August 1 meeting, the council voted to rescind that motion, to hold a public meeting, noting that it assumed a Conditional Use Permit would be sought and the meeting was for the purposes of discussing the permit issuance and not for general information. It was also at that meeting when the council voted to place the issue on the ballot, indicating it would ask whether or not the city should consider moving forward with amendments to current ordinances or creation of a specific chicken ordinance. If approved by voters, the council indicated zoning could then come up with a amendment or new ordinances.
“There’s a lot of different ordinances in other towns around. I think we need to take it back to the zoning board and let us look at it to come up with a plan to see if it’s worth coming up with a new ordinance, amending it, or sticking with the one we have,” said Councilor Jim Schott at the September 5 meeting. “We will bring it back to the city council next month and we’ll be done with it.”
According to City Clerk Rhonda Flattum, the date of the next zoning meeting is undecided at this time. When details are set, she indicated she would post it on the city’s Facebook page. Interested persons may attend the meeting or contact city hall for more information.
In other news, several items related to the Wastewater Treatment Plant were also back on the agenda. Matt Mohs, from WSB Engineering, was present to discuss three items: the Phosphorus Management Plan within the Valley Design agreement, a bulk chemical tank for the plant, and a floor slab analysis for the tank.
“Rhonda and I have been talking for several weeks and it came to a head. We decided, we have to really talk about some things at the council meeting,” said Mohs.
The city has attempted to get a final agreement in place with Valley Design for some time. The current agreement draft references a Phosphorus Management Plan. A seven-page technical document has been drafted, at a cost of $650. WBS Engineering intends to send the document to Minnesota Pollution Control for review. At the same time, Mohs suggested the city send the document to Valley Design for a 7-10 day review. “See if Valley Design has any input before it’s final,” he added. It’s estimated the plan with take an additional $200-300 to finalize
“We’ll update the agreement to state the city has a Phosphorus Management Plan. The light at the end of the tunnel is getting this done,” said Mohs.
In regards to the bulk chemical tank, Mohs indicated it was the main reason for wanting to come to the council. “This is what I meant when I said it was going to come to a head,” he said, noting he’d worked with Clerk Flattum and the Wastewater Plant operator. “The operator has some design parameters he wants to work with and we need that input. The tank will not fit in the building. It won’t fit unless it’s stood up. Ultimately, it’s left up to you to decide what you want for a tank We have a 5,000 gallon tank goal, and I’m not sure how it came to be 5,000 gallons, but Rhonda said, ‘Let’s just put the brakes on here and share this with the council.’”
To date $1,300 of a $3,800 budget has been spent for a floor slab analysis for the placing of the bulk tank. “Some of it is due diligence work that is outside of the scope of the budget,” said Mohs. “I know that’s not what you want to hear, but in order to get to the point we are, it needed to be done.” Mohs indicated the city needed to define what it was looking to accomplish. “What we do with chemicals and the bulk tank will directly impact floor slab analysis.”
“Looking at prices, I don’t see anything we’re going to gain here,” said Schott. “We’re going to gain some cost sharing, but we’re not going to recoup anything.”
“Moving ahead, I’m perfectly fine stopping the project here. Looking back, knowing what I know now, there’s a whole other side we need to look into,” added Mohs.
“I don’t see where, in the end, it’s going to pan out,” concluded Schott. WBS Engineering will end billing for the analysis and issue a final invoice to the city.
The date for the preliminary budget discussion has been rescheduled, in light of Mayor Richard Kujath’s absence from the meeting. A special budget meeting will be held Thursday, September 26 at 7:00 p.m. The preliminary levy certification must be sent to Fillmore County no later than September 30 and the amount will be determined at the special meeting.
A planning meeting for Fountain’s 150th celebration will be held September 12, at 7 p.m., at city hall. Citizens are encouraged to attend.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Wednesday, October 3, at 7:30 p.m., at city hall. The public is encouraged to attend.