Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Jan. 14, 2002

Water tower squabble resurfaces

By Lynda Jensen

The water tower squabble with Wright County was tabled again at the Howard Lake City Council meeting Tuesday.

The new Howard Lake city water tower stands atop land that is owned by the county.

The county recently attempted to secure signatures from the Howard Lake council of a contract that included free use of water for the Wright County Fairgrounds.

It was noted that resolutions were passed by both the city and county in 1994 to allow five years of free water use for the county. This expired in 2000, City Administrator Doug Borglund said.

These resolutions are different than the unsigned contract being circulated by the county recently as well as the agreement that was passed in resolution by either entity, Borglund said. The resolutions are not a binding agreement, he added.

"There was definitely no commitment made to give them free water," Mayor Gerry Smith said.

Smith told fair board members at a previous joint meeting that the city would negotiate with the county.

The council will be weighing four options:

1) To rent the property from the county.

2) Give the county free water or allow a cap of 185,000, which is what the county regularly uses during the fair. The county has offered to pay for more of the water if it goes beyond this.

3) To buy the property from the county.

4) To condemn the property and declare eminent domain proceedings, which would mean the city would end up owning it anyway.

The county mentioned insurance, since the property is not insured, although the water tower itself is insured by the city.

The city needs an easement from the county before it can insure the land.

The subject was tabled to decide future action.

Is Howard Lake City Hall structure sound?

The council also discussed potential problems with the structural integrity of the historic city hall building.

Conflicting engineering reports caused council members to wonder what state the building was in.

The most recent report came from Barr Engineering, which noted the crack at the building's foundation on the northeast corner.

The weakness "could at some point lead to catastrophic failure," Barr reported. The crack is situated among the building's 100-year-old foundation, made with field stone and mortar, Borglund said.

The crack was fairly small before construction started, Barr reported, but became much worse after construction "due to the inadequate design of the retrofitted basement door." The report also indicated that there was very little vibration from the Highway 12 project which could have caused the crack to become so much worse.

This is contrary to reports from the city's engineer firm Hay Dobbs.

Several months before construction, the city's engineering firm Hay Dobbs, gave the building a clean bill of health.

"Hay Dobbs said the building was in excellent shape," Smith said. Nearly all of the councilors expressed doubt that the crack was from anything other than construction, since the timing appeared to fit the Highway 12 project perfectly.

"This all happened during construction," Councilor Shelly Reddemann said.

The door installed at the southeast corner is more than 10 years old, Clerk Gene Gilbert noted.

It was decided to have an outside engineering firm take stock of the situation.

Councilors also decided to hold off on an agreement with the Minnesota Historical Society, which would make a binding agreement to renovate the building.

It was decided to see if the grant money received already could be used to possibly help the situation first.

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