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Water worries Rushford Council


Fri, Feb 28th, 2003
Posted in Features

The Rushford City Council addressed the city’s omnipresent water concerns as it met February 24, 2003. The annual water report showed that in the past year 22,901,108 gallons of water were unaccounted for (and as a result not paid for either). This water "leak" amounts to 29% of the total water pumped. Jeff Copley, city public works director, explained the situation to the council. Currently, the trailer court does not have individual meters; rather each customer pays the base rate plus two dollars per month. With many customers in the court running a stream of water to keep pipes from freezing, the water usage goes up drastically in the winter. Copley cited the lack of funding as the reason individual meters had not been hooked up. At this point only 300 meters have been installed in the city, with another 300 waiting. "We’re saving pennies and losing dollars," Ron Mierau commented, concerned that high users aren’t paying their share.

Other meters needing to be replaced include the liquor store and the meters at the Good Shepherd Apartments. An apparent leak under Highway 43 near the school responsible for a loss of five million gallons a year also needs to be capped.

Since the water rate is scheduled to no longer include a base rate in 2003 (water would be paid for strictly based on amount used with no "free" water), Kathy Zacher, city clerk, recommended the council look at the rates before the April water reading.

The council examined the short term and long term water problems in Rushford. The water problems of high iron and bacteria in the water surfaced in 1950 as Rushford began to grow. At that time, the city chose the super-chlorination of the entire water system as a solution. Now, the city is opting to let a hydrant run in Jerusalem to see if keeping the water moving will help with water quality for the short term. Copley suggested using a computer modeling program to virtually "fix" waterlines and see how the repair affects the entire system. The council okayed the idea, recognizing the money and time saving that would result.

Airport paving

The Airport Commission presented its recommendation to repave the runway at the city-owned airport at a cost of $305,000. The state, recognizing the bad shape of the runway, offered 80/20 funding until June 30th; after June the rate returns to 60/40. The city’s share of the project would be around $60,000. With only $20,000 in the airport budget, the city would need to find an additional $40,000. Although the paving would last for twenty years, The council’s concern was finding the money to pay for the paving in light of the state legislature’s cuts on LGA.

"What are we getting from this?" was Councilman Larry Johnson’s query.

Ron Mireau responded, "The same things that we’ve gained from the airport in the past—entice businesses here, it’s an asset for the city."

Commission chair Carl Miertschin informed the council that the airport was making strides to increase commercial use, revealing plans to offer flight lessons, establish a flying club, and perhaps get more use from the Houston and Caledonia area.

The council tabled the discussion, deciding to check with other engineering firms for quotes on the engineering and spec writing before proceeding.

Southern Minnesota

Initiative Foundation

Myron Schober, president of the Rushford Community Foundation, spoke to the council about the recent SMIF report. Urging the council members to "be a little positive—it seems to be awfully popular to be negative," Schober told the council, "SMIF is less interested in handing out money and is more interested in handholding through a new process." Schober stressed the community aspect of SMIF’s recommendations. Councilman Ron Mierau opined that Rushford Village, Peterson, and Rushford have more cooperation than ever. Schober pointed out that we need it more than ever too.

LGA

The council concluded the meeting with an update on the state legislature’s policies. Governor Pawlenty has informed cities that although the LGA will be cut, he expects the cities not to raise local levies. Mayor T.S. Roberton pointed out the state budget is not less—the metropolitan area will actually be getting more. Rushford stands to lose $68,000 in 2003 with an additional loss of $133,000 projected for 2004. This represents a 31% LGA reduction. Roberton suggested that the unfounded mandates from the state (such as the phosphorous improvements to the water system) should be taken away as well if LGA is being reduced to that extent. With such large cuts in funding, the city will need to look at operating and maintenance cuts as well as capital projects according to Roberton. In his subtle, low-key manner, Roberton closed his comments by declaring, "I think we’re getting screwed!"

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