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Rushford City Council attacks full agenda with full audience

Fri, May 1st, 2009
Posted in Government

With an ambitiously long agenda, and a packed house of spectators, the Rushford City Council held its regular bi-monthly meeting April 27.

Three public hearings were scheduled, and no doubt the nearly fifty spectators were hoping their dinners had adequately settled by the time the talk turned to wastewater management with details about...uh...solid wastes.

Bill Chang, P.E., of BDM Consulting Engineers and Surveyors. LLC, gave a presentation on Rushford's Wastewater Facility Plan, which had been requested at the previous council meeting.

A 20-year facility plan is required by the MPCA if the city is going to seek state or federal funding.

There are significant problems with wastewater treatment in the area, and current facilities are inefficient. Chang informed the crowd of two major concerns: inefficiencies in the balance between the two oxidation ditches, which causes problems especially during storms, and the lack of an efficient aerobic digester with a cover.

Chang explained that new regulations for the digester of solids requires that "sludge" should be covered for 40-60 days in a digester. With Rushford's current system, solids remain in the covered digester for less than seven days, and are then moved to an uncovered holding tank. Yikes.

(Interestingly, a question that arose during the public question/comment session was about the problem of odor for those living near the plant.)

There had been hope in recent months that perhaps nearby municipalities would be willing to share and support a new wastewater facility. But since the city of Peterson has decided against participating in this option, a new facility is no longer feasible, said Chang. That leaves the option of a major facilities upgrade.

However, Rushford Village mayor Gordon Johnson was present with a letter to say the village is indeed interested in pursuing a relationship with the city on this matter.

Rushford mayor Les Ladewig called Johnson's announcement "a giant step forward for our communities moving into the next generation."

The project is to be completed in two phases: one in 2010 and the other in 2020. Chang's estimate is that the facility upgrade will cost a total of $1,664,250.

Now that the public hearing is completed, the issue will move to the May 11 council meeting.

Those Inevitable Taxes

Ron Vikre, Fillmore County Property Appraiser, was present to explain valuation and assessment procedures to property owners, and to take questions from the public.

Vikre explained that his office is legally required to be within 90% - 105% of the market value of any given property. He also mentioned that due to the nature of property business transactions, his data is always a little behind, whether property values in an area have generally gone up, or gone down.

Two citizens asked questions about their properties and Vikre set up meetings with both of them to discuss their concerns.

The pipes are HOW old?

The third public hearing of the night was about the city's aging water system. The council had ordered a feasibility study from Otomo Engineering Services, Inc. Dean Otomo, P.E., was present to give a detailed report of his findings.

Otomo outlined four phases of projects that address problems with watermains, service lines, sanitary sewer, storm sewer, utility improvements to certain areas of town, and utility and street improvements in the Himlie Business Park Subdivision.

Unfortunately, a portion of the work needed is not eligible for grant money at this time. Some projects may qualify for 20% grants, and the Himlie Business Park improvements may qualify for 50/50 funding through federal stimulus money, according to Otomo.

As was explained by BDM's John Stewart at the last meeting, the plans need to be on paper in order to qualify for any funding in the future. Projects can always be removed, but cannot be added after the Feasibility Study period.

Councilman Robert Dahl made a motion to keep all projects except Himlie Business Park in the study. Councilman Larry Johnson seconded the motion, but it failed when councilors Nancy Benson, Jim Wolter, and tie-breaker mayor Ladewig voted against it.

"Why drop it (Himilie Park development) out?" asked Wolter, prior to making a new motion that included all four phases of the plan. Benson agreed. Otomo added that Himlie Park plans are actually done, as they'd been asked for in the past.

The motion to include all four phases and hold a public hearing at the May 11 meeting passed.

Flood Recovery Loan Money

Another lengthy agenda item was the redistributing of flood recovery business loan funds. Some money from many of the loans obtained last year has not, nor will it be, spent by the recipients. The EDA took stock of what money would be "left over" and then accepted requests from businesses for additional flood money so that the city wouldn't be in a position of needing to return a lot of the funds to the state when the deadline comes.

Joyce Iverson of SEMDC was present to explain all the recent requests. There were a total of 28 new requests for Category 1, Category 1-A, and Category 2 loans. The council went through them one-by-one and approved the committee's recommendations on each one.

Now, if all of THESE loans are used, the city would be giving back $8,903 to the state out of the $17.5 million granted to the city.


The council received a recommendation from the EDA to proceed with the final platting and infrastructure development of the Himlie Business Park, and to draft a sales agreement with F & L Development, Inc. for the purchase of approximately 4 acres in Lot 3. No other lots have been sold in the park to date.

Tom Serie of F & L Development was in the audience. His intention is to build a 21-unit Guardian Inn motel on the property. Serie's plan, in the works with the city since before the August 2007 flood, has come under fire recently by a group of forty-seven citizens and business people who, two weeks ago, signed a letter of support for the idea of a motel in the downtown area, and expressed opposition to Serie's plan to build one in the Himlie Park.

Nancy Benson made a motion to accept the EDA's recommendation and go ahead with drafting an agreement for F & L's land purchase.

"The EDA has worked long and hard on this project," Benson said. "And it (the building of the motel) will expand our tax base as time goes by."

Jim Wolter seconded Benson's motion. Dahl and Johnson voted against. As a tie-breaker, Ladewig voted in favor of the motion.

According to city administrator Windy Block, the agreement will have to come back before council for a signature.

Creekside Park

The council also accepted numerous donations for the rebuilding of Creekside Park, to take place next month.

Donations are as follows:

• Rushford Lions-$2,800

• Rushford Women's Club-$1,200

• Main Street Ingredients-$290

• Brown's Tire-$250

• Karaoke Kris-$150.

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