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Harmony dealing with freezing pipes

Fri, Mar 14th, 2014
Posted in Harmony Government

At the Harmony City Council meeting on March 11, Kyle Morem, Jamie Breezer, and Bill Hanlon approached the council about getting credit for running water to prevent pipes from freezing.

The long stretch of below-zero temperatures has wreaked havoc on water mains and water pipes all over. To prevent frozen water pipes and a potentially expensive plumbing bill, many residents have been letting a little water run at all times. Some have requested the city offer some sort of credit on their water bills to help out.

Morem said his water is 36 degrees right now. Maintenance Employee Chris Johnson said it is recommended to start running water at 40 degrees.

Bill Hanlon said it could be helpful to the city to have people running their water as well. “If there is no water moving, it will freeze,” he said.

Later in the meeting, the council discussed the possibility of giving a credit to residents. Mayor Steve Donney had come up with a proposal to help customers offset the extra costs. He had spoken with several residents, and he suggested the customers pay for the water they use. The city will then take the average sewer usage for January 15-April 15 from last year, and credit the user the difference in this year’s sewer usage for those three months.

City Administrator Jerome Illg had a slightly different idea of how to compensate. He suggested the city give a lump sum credit on the water bill for the additional use. Illg had figured out the average extra water usage based on a pencil-thin stream of water running 24 hours a day. Illg felt this would be easier, and there would be no need to make calculations.

The council approved Donney’s idea. If someone has been running their water to prevent frozen pipes, they need to speak with someone at the city office so the city is aware. They must apply for this credit before April 21. The credit will be given at the bill that comes at the end of April, and there is no grace period.

Electric Work on First Avenue

Stuart Morem of Morem Electric was at the meeting to discuss possible electric work to be done during the First Avenue street project. Morem came up with two options for the city to do before the street project begins this summer.

The first option is to completely get rid of all light poles on the street and have everything underground from the grocery store to Third Street. The city could also simply set up the wiring so they could have everything underground in the future.

The estimated cost for total installation of new electric would be $175,000 for the primary work done by Tri-County Electric, and another $70,000 for the secondary work, getting wires to each house, etc., done by Morem Electric.

To simply install empty conduits for future utilities, the estimated cost would be $19,050.

Morem said the cost is the downside, but the cost will increase if they don’t go all the way with it now. The city will have to choose one option or the other before construction begins.

Councilor Jim Bakken said he feels it’s a good project and he thinks it should be done, but if the city uses the electric fund to pay for it, the fund will dip below $200,000. Illg said it has never been below $300,000 since he has worked for the city. The city had some big projects come up in recent years that were paid for with the electric fund, such as the downtown alley project, and the transformer that went out near Solberg Welding.

“If we hadn’t had those projects, we could do this, but I don’t know if it’s wise to spend this amount right now,” said Illg. He added that if the city goes through with the project, other projects will go on the back burner for a while.

Mayor Donney felt it made sense to do it now, but he would like to make this decision with a full council, and both Jerry Shuck and Debbie Swenson were absent. The council will look at the issue again in April.

Well Project

City Engineer Brett Grabau, along with Kurt Johnson from Bonestroo, spoke about the upcoming well project and the funding involved. He explained the PFA (Public Facilities Authority) had the Harmony well project on the PPL (Project Priority List), which ranks projects. Harmony scored well enough for a low-interest loan. Grabau said the city should request to be moved to the IUP (Intended Use Plan). There is a June 6 deadline for the request. Once on this list, they will rank the projects in September. At that time, the city will have a very good idea if they qualify for the low-interest financing.

At that time, the city must start with the design of the project, get plans and specs, and advertise for bids.

The city has already received a grant from DEED for $250,000 to go toward the project. The concern was the time it will take to finish the project. Johnson said the time to dig the well would be six months, with another 4-6 months to construct the well house. By the time it was completed, the DEED grant may have expired, if they didn’t approve an extension. Grabau suggested the city go ahead with the design, plans and specs, so that when the time comes the city qualifies for the financing, they are ready to go.

The cost of the well project will be about $680,000. The council agreed to move forward.

Building and Maintenance

Chris Johnson told the council about another water main break due to the cold water, a septic tank that froze, and three water service lines. There are other problems around town, such as the pipes on the street where Minnowa Construction is located. Johnson said there have always been problems there, since the pipes are much shallower at that spot than other areas.

Housing Incentives

The council approved the housing incentive program as presented. The incentive is for new home construction in Harmony, and the payback is determined by the estimated market value of the home. Funds to get the program started will come from the old TIF District #1 funds in the general fund. It is hoped the program will become self-sustaining.

Council Position

Councilor Jim Bakken will be resigning from his position as of the end of May. The city is looking for someone to fill his spot for the remainder of his term, which is up at the end of the year. Anyone interested should contact Illg at the city office or Mayor Donney.

Other business

The garbage/recycling credit policy for people who live elsewhere during the winter months was changed slightly. The language now states that nobody can occupy the residence at any time the credit is given. Residents must sign the application for the credit when they return to their home, and they will get credit for garbage on their next bill.

The new carpet for the library has been ordered, and installation will begin May 19. The library will be closed for two weeks.

The council approved a contract for PSN, Payment Service Network, Inc., for electronic utility payments.


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5:51:04, Mar 17th 2014

what? says:
I guess it depends who you are in this town. I called and talked to the city and asked if they will adjust the water bills. And the city said NO. So everyone in Harmony who has the frozen water pipes should make the city pay to get your water back. Shame on you Harmony.

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