After conducting a public hearing on financing a new pumper truck for the Houston Fire Department, the Houston City Council approved the purchase of the truck at their regular meeting October 12. The truck that will be replaced was 27 years old; in recent years the department had had to spend as much as $12,000 to $13,000 on repairs for the old truck. The new truck will be able to apply foam to fires as well; Fire Chief Steve Skifton assured the public that the foam that would be used would not be the AFFS (aqueous film-forming foam) that had been causing issues in French Island. Skifton noted that all AFFS had already been removed from the fire department.
The financing would be through USDA at a 2.25% interest rate and a 15-year repayment schedule. Skifton shared that grants may also be obtained to help with the funding. The city will be responsible for 50% of the expense while rural townships will share the remaining 50% of the cost. The city’s share will be $15,758.85.
A citizen comment summed up the consensus of the public in attendance when he said, “It’s important to have good, reliable fire equipment.”
The council discussed whether to proceed with the archaeological study required in order to access the grant funds that have already been awarded for the OHV trail. The OHV account has money in it to use for the study; the city would have no expense from the proposed $2,550 study. The OHV club is in the process of planning more fundraising activities.
Council member Cody Mathers reported that he had spoken with the deputy director of the state of Minnesota highway office about the OHV trail. He said that it was a very real possibility that the highway department will ask the DNR to give the money back to the city of Houston. He recommended that the council wait to take action on the study until next month since an answer might be available by the end of this week. After toying with the idea of approving the study based with a contingency regarding this, the council eventually decided to just table the item until next month.
The council approved payment of the Wapasha Pay estimate number six of $390,229 for the WWTP (wastewater treatment plant). Randy Thesing recommended that the council come down and look at the WWTP now that it’s all laid out.
The east pavilion park restrooms will have a new steel roof. The council approved the $7,175 steel roof estimate, noting the new roof will last a lifetime. Money saved from a recent seal coating project will be reallocated for the project.
The council decided to survey the Maple Street Community Center and food shelf property parcel at an expense of $1,700 in order to split the property so the community center property can be sold. PWD Randy Thesing told the council that the electrical and water service would need to be split as well in order to sell the property. The food shelf building is in good condition and will remain as is and continue to be available for use as the food shelf.
The council approved the solicitation of bids for winter snow removal and newspaper publishing and printing. The winter snow removal is to help with the business corridor; the expense is reimbursed by the state later. The official newspaper of the City of Houston will be chosen at the January organizational council meeting.
The Explore Minnesota memorandum of understanding was approved; this merely finalized the previously voted upon agreement. The nature center will staff the center and report visitor data to Explore Minnesota.
During the public comment period, the council was asked when the donated noise reducing baffling will be installed at the Cedar Street Community Center. Mayor Dave Olson responded that the baffles had arrived without the necessary hardware which is now on its way.
A request for publication of council meeting information packets on the city website was agreed upon. City Administrator Michelle Quinn will add them to the website prior to council meetings with the exception of data such as sealed bids which need to remain private.
Scott Wallace extended an invitation to any of the council members to come and visit his home near the proposed OHV trail so they can see exactly where the trail will be in relation to his home.
The next Houston City Council meeting will be November 8, 2021, at the Cedar Street Community Center at 6 p.m. The public is welcome to attend.