"Where Fillmore County News Comes First"
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Fri, Oct 17th, 2003
Posted in Features
Posted in Features
There is a density to the Rushford City Council meetings that few organs of government in Fillmore County can equal: the agenda on Tuesday was four pages long and the council handouts for the meeting ran 57 pieces of paper. Many pages of the documents, which serve as tools for council members in the decision making process, were back to back, like the Economic Development Authority report, the Electric Utility Commission report and the Liquor Fund proposed budget, just to mention a few.
But while some may think this is a bit excessive, one only needs attend one of these meetings to know that they are run with a singular efficiency by Mayor Ted Roberton, who moves things along at a brisk clip. Last Tuesday, he brought his ship of state into the station in 1 hour and 45 minutes. The council had planned on two hours. Council members Larry Johnson, Ron Mierau and Norris Kinneberg (Nancy Benson was absent) didn’t appear overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work nor the speed in which it all took place. As one who doesn’t normally report on the Rushford City Council (I was filling in for reporter Wanda Hanson last Tuesday night), those were a few of my preliminary observations as I struggled to keep up. That said, the council spent a quarter of its time dealing with a problem Paul and Luanne Dvorak have had with sewage damage to their home. On September 24, the High Street Lift Station malfunctioned which caused sewage to back up into the Dvorak’s finished basement. A similar thing happened in 2001. At issue was the fact that the city’s liability insurance would only cover 80% of the replacement of carpet because of depreciation. Considering that the carpet was replaced only two years ago under similar conditions, the Dvorak’s felt that the city should cover the balance for what “was not our responsibility or fault.” There was some debate about this. Council member Ron Mierau likened the depreciation the Dvorak’s are facing to driving a new car off the lot. But the Dvorak’s balked at this metaphor. “It’s happened twice now and I am sure it will happen again,” Luann told the council. Mayor Roberton proposed a middle ground, where the city would pay half of the depreciation, similar to what was done for another resident some time ago. “We want to be fair here. We have a precedent for what has happened here,” Roberton said. There was some confusion about how much the depreciation amounted to. The Dvorak’s produced two adjustments, the most recent one included some compensation to the couple for taking time off of work to clean up the mess. A third set of numbers was produced by Rushford City Clerk Kathy Zacher. This prompted Roberton to state, “I thought I understood, but now I am confused.” Eventually the council agreed to pay half ($277.81) of the $555.61 in depreciation the Dvorak’s would incur, with the city’s insurance company paying $3,722.49. If the Dvorak’s agree to the compromise, they would pay $277.81 as well. Paul Dvorak wasn’t sure what he was going to do. “I have to think this over,” Paul said. “The last time this happened, we were out $400,” Luann added. The Dvorak’s were instructed to work with City Administrator Larry Bartelson in the event they agree to the plan. Lift Station With an offer made to the Dvorak’s, the council discussed ways it might prevent this from happening in the future. According to Council member Norris Kinneberg, the problem at the Dvorak home occurred when there was a mechanical failure at the lift station, which prevented the pump from drawing down sewage. After talking with representatives from Norman’s Electric in Rushford, Kinneberg told the council one solution would be to install a SCADA system for monitoring and controlling the lift station. The system would alert the city when there was a failure, thus prompting intervention. There was some discussion about installing the system at the High Street Lift Station as well as the lift station in Brooklyn. Based on preliminary estimates by Norman’s Electric, the cost for the two sites could exceed $13,000. Following a motion by Kinneberg, the council voted unanimously to seek two quotes that would do what “is minimally needed to fix the High Street problem.” Water Utility Rates The council will hold a public hearing October 27 on proposed water utility rate changes that would go into effect on November 1, 2003. It is proposed that the base rate of $9.10 for a base of 18,000 gallons, be changed to $10.80 for a base of 12,000 gallons. gallons per month. The intent is to generate enough revenue to cover expenses. Ron Mierau believes that charging on a fee basis is fairer than spreading costs across the tax rolls. Larry Bartelson told the council that the plan is to further increase rates in 2004, from the $10.80 base rate to $12.10 Other Business •Authorized the city administrator to hold discussions with the Farmer’s Elevator and Riverwood about cost-sharing on blacktopping the parking lot the city and the two businesses share. •Approved a recommendation by the Tree Board on a 50/50 cost share policy for planting of trees on city right of ways. The tree would have to be on a pre-approved list of trees adopted by the city. The council also authorized the removal of a tree located on the sidewalk on the North Side of Motor Parts to allow installation of underground wiring. •Authorized payment of $10,000 to Associated Consultants Engineers for work on the application for a permit with the MPCA to install three diesel generating units in the new power plant. •Hired Norman’s Electric as a electrical consultant to the city and placed the company on a retainer of $100 per month. •Received from the city administrator a seven year Capital Improvement Plan and a 10 year Improvement Plan from the Electric Utility Commission.