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Harmony City one step closer on wastewater plant


Fri, Dec 13th, 2002
Posted in Features

The city of Harmony may pass "Go" and collect anywhere from $374,850 to $624,750 in funding if the Environmental Review Report application is approved for a U.S.D.A. Rural Development Grant explained Mike Lynch, Bonestroo & Associates, at the Harmony City Council meeting December 10. The dollar amounts are based on percentages - a base of 45% up to a 75% limit on the citys plant budget.

The city is one step closer in completing the paperwork on the wastewater treatment plant project. Lynch said the remaining paperwork submittals include a revised budget, a signed engineering services agreement in Rural Developments grant format, and the minutes and affidavit of publication for the public hearing held last month. If this is completed and sent to the U.S.D.A. Rural Development program within the next week, the council could receive an answer by their January meeting. It is extremely important that the city get the paperwork finished by the end of December in order to sneak under the 2,000 census average household income bar, which targets household income at $30,000. This is a major increase in comparison to a census taken several years ago showing Harmony with an average household income of $18,700, the figure that the treatment plants potential grant money hinges on.

The original budget was $909,000. This included an $80,000 sludge mixing system which has since been deemed unnecessary if the city would instead, hire a contractor every two to three years to mix the sludge tank. The citys engineer requested the council consider a screening press, which filters out organics, and also devise a better system that protects the primary clarifier from icing up. This would cost $20,000-$30,000. The budget can be amended at a later date when costs for these items are established. With additional tweaking, the revised budget is now at about $833,000. Bonestroos engineering fee is $86,450, (included in the budget) which covers the Facility Plan costs and the costs to prepare the rural Development application. The revised budget and the engineering fees were approved by the council as presented.

T.H. 139 Road Project

Lynch gave a brief update on the T.H. 139 project. A thin layer of bituminous will be laid shortly, opening up the road for the winter months. Come spring, it will be torn up again to complete the construction process. The contractor is looking at $30,000-$40,000 additional expenses since completion dates havent been met. MN DOT wants the road open as detour routes cause additional stress on roads not normally designed for additional traffic. A pay request of $325,876.41 was approved.

In other related business, the Sixth Street sanitary sewer work is completed. Restoration of streets and boulevards will be done in the spring. Bituminous patching is not covered by the contract but will be done by others. Assessments will be levied next fall for 2004 collection. A pay request of $51,234.21 was approved.

Overdue Utility Bill

The council was addressed by what had to have been one of the most diplomatically spoken requests theyd heard of for a correction on a utility bill. Michael Zombory explained to the council he had purchased his property in June having gone through all the proper channels of a new property owner, only to have a bombshell sent to him by the citys utilities. The letter said he owed over $800 in late utility charges.

According to Zombory, the previous owner hadnt cleaned up the account when the property was sold. A title search did not reveal any lien on the property due to the dated account. The overdue balance was passed on to Zombory, who was notified that not only was it due within a few short weeks, but late assessment fees would be attached if the account wasnt cleared.

The citys new ordinance regarding the collection of late utility charges was treading in murky waters as the council agreed Zombory shouldnt have to be responsible for the $800 + charges. Zombory said that had he read on the utility application that there might be unpaid bills, he would have taken it a step further and done research. The new ordinance shows the city going after overdue accounts at the end of the year. Each year, the city must struggle to collect $5,000-$7,000 on old accounts, mostly from renters. The ordinance will be fine tuned to include closing loopholes for those selling property and still holding outstanding accounts.

Other Business

The proposed 2003 city budget of $652,683.75 was approved. This is a 3.33% reduction from the 2002-projected budget. The property tax levy is set at 12.25%. Both budget and levy were approved.

City Clerk Eileen Schansberg informed the council the ambulance will no longer act as a taxi for those clients coming back from an emergency trip to the hospital. It will be up to the individual or nursing home to find transportation for the return trip. The ambulance and its team need to be available for other calls.

Steve Seger came before the council requesting aid in paying for his sewer hookup. He said his old sewer was working just fine. He felt it was unnecessary for the change of hookup. The council pointed out others had expenses as well and they felt no obligation to provide financial support. Seger said he would seek further action.

City Administrator Joel Dhein presented his resignation, saying he has accepted a position in Mora, MN that starts in mid January. He will put together a job description and would be willing to help the council review applicants for the opened position.

More detailed roofing designs for the community center will be brought to the council for examination.

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