A public hearing was held at the November 14 Harmony city council meeting to discuss the proposed 2024 street project. City Engineer Brett Grabau reviewed the project and its finances with the public, noting that some of the things in the presented plan could still change before the assessment hearing that will be held in about a year. The project consists of three areas on 4th St North, Snake Alley, and the Main Street alleyway. The total estimated project cost is $2,304,249.17 with $699,632.69 assessed to property owners and $1,604,616.48 paid by the city. Assessment rates for property owners are 40% of the street reconstruction project costs, 100% of water and sewer service reconstruction, and 20% of residential frontage along a second side of a corner and dual frontage lots. The city will pay 100% of trunk water main, trunk sewer main and storm sewer costs. The minimum residential assessment is 60 lineal feet with a maximum of 150 feet. Grabau noted that anyone over the age of 65 who can prove the assessment would be a financial burden, will be able to appeal it.
One resident whose property lies within area 3 of the proposed project said that he didn’t feel the 60 foot minimum was fair for people who own small parcels or who own more than one. Grabau said that the decision to do so was based on the city’s assessment policies which try to be fair and equitable to everyone. Grabau was asked if people will have access to their homes and businesses during the project as well as if multiple sections will be shut down at one time. He assured the residents with those questions that the contractor will be required to ensure accessibility and to finish each section before moving on to another one. Assessment payments can be handled in several different ways. Residents will have the option to make the payment in full right away or can roll their payments into their taxes for a 15-year period with the option to pay it off at any time.
Harmony business owner Miles Petree commented on the streetlight decorations during the public forum section of the meeting. The decorations consist of white lights wrapped around the poles with lighted white snowflakes hanging from the light. He felt that it didn’t look very inviting to visitors to Harmony. “I thought we were putting up more color,” he said. Petree also did not agree with the council’s decision not to use garlands due to concerns that they could scratch the poles.
The consent agenda was approved and included the minutes of the last meeting, the claims and October checks, the cash in CD, cash balances and the renewal of the 2024 contract with CEDA.
Sarah Scheffert from Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, or SMIF, updated the council on SMIF’s impact on Fillmore County. For every dollar given to SMIF, $33 is invested back into communities in Fillmore County; $1.5 million has been loaned to various entrepreneurs in Fillmore County and $3.4 million has been awarded in grants. “We appreciate them quite a bit,” Mayor Steve Donney commented.
The remaining tasks for the 2024 street and utility project proposal were approved.
Brett Grabau presented the preliminary design for the proposed installation of a wastewater treatment UV disinfection system. Currently, the city uses chlorination tablets which are neither cost effective nor consistent in water treatment. Installing a UV system for disinfecting would be more reliable and less expensive. A study had previously been done which recommended using an in-pipe system, but Stantec recommended installing an open channel system instead as it would be more economical and easier to operate. The council approved the preliminary design and the fee schedule for the project.
The EDA asked the city to approve the hiring of outside legal counsel in case legal action is needed for a tax-increment financing or TIF district. The TIF district was created for Twin City Trimmers owner Jeff O’Connor. He was originally given a deadline of having the building constructed by the end of 2022, but asked for a one-year extension which was granted. The deadline now stands at December 31, 2023, but the building still hasn’t been completed. The EDA will offer O’Connor a final one-year extension as long as he completes the extension paperwork and payment by December 1, 2023. It was noted that with each extension, O’Connor is required to pay an amount to make up for the lost taxes on his proposed building. If he misses the deadline for the extension, the EDA and the city will need to move forward with collection and enforcement of the development agreement. As city attorney Greg Schieber is an EDA member, there would be a conflict with him conducting the case. The council approved the EDA’s request to seek outside legal counsel to assist if necessary.
The Personnel Committee conducted reviews for three maintenance employees and recommended grade and step changes for all three. The council approved the changes. The committee had also been meeting with the Local 49 Union for the union contract. The council reviewed and approved the city’s counteroffer to the union’s request. The union had already approved the counteroffer.
The DNR asked the city to approve some temporary construction leases to allow construction on the bike trail extension to continue. Resolution 23-12 authorizing the acquisition of the leases was approved.
Resolution 23-13 approving the transfer of funds to the TIF-7 district to eliminate a negative balance was accepted. The negative funds in the Dairyland TIF district were an oversight as an audit transfer was made to the EDA in 2022 instead of to the TIF district.
The EDA discussed the idea of having the Chamber board, the EDA, and the city council meet together to discuss cooperation on future opportunities. The council was amenable to the idea.
The Harmony library recently posted for an open position as one of the library aides is moving away at the end of the year.
The Arts Board will be hosting their annual lighting contest again this year and will have three categories. Judging will take place on December 1.