Herald JournalHerald Journal, June 23, 2003

Pumps give Howard Lake City Council a headache

By Lynda Jensen

Two pumps purchased by the City of Howard Lake caused unhappy discussion during the council meeting Tuesday.

Steve Van Oss of Burly Pumps in Plymouth spoke with the council about problems with the pumps.

The city paid $24,924 when it ordered the pumps from Van Oss last August following historic flooding in the area.

For six months, the city waited for them to arrive, with one of the two being delivered in February.

Immediate problems were reported on the pump's operation and priming, since it does not self prime, which means the pump stops running once water runs low, said Public Works Supervisor Tom Goepfert.

"As soon as it sucks air, it's done," Goepfert said. The pump was sent back.

Council Member Shelly Reddemann said it takes almost two people to prime the pump because three different parts of the pump need to be adjusted at the same time to make it go.

Resident Pat Van Oss, who is Steve's father, objected to this saying he got the pump going in very little time with little fuss by himself.

Steve Van Oss acknowledged the problems, saying that a part was changed to make the pump run better in relation to priming.

The change helped, Goepfert said.

However, the city wished to use the pump for the water treatment plant, which would require a self priming pump, since the Burly pump requires someone to watch it to ensure its operation.

The Burly pump is actually designed to pump water with debris in it; something like a slurry pump, Goepfert said.

This caused a disagreement between the city and Van Oss about specifications.

Verbally, Pat Van Oss assured some council members at the time of sale that the pumps were the same as other bids, Council Member Shelly Reddemann said.

However, this turned out not to be the case, as all the other bids obtained by the city were self primed; some listing the feature and some not in their specs.

The city presumed all the bids were self priming and did not issue a specification sheet.

"Here we are a year later," Mayor Gerry Smith said. "Are you going to stand by your pump?" he asked Steve Van Oss.

Steve Van Oss told the council his business delivered what was ordered, being that he didn't claim it to be self priming in the first place.

"Right now we need pumps that protect our citizens," Council Member Don Danford said.

Van Oss will return with ideas in two weeks on how to address the priming issue.

Compost woes

Turning to other issues, the council discussed chronic problems at the city compost site at length.

The site is turning into a magnet for garbage, debris, and other odd chunks of waste.

Someone threw old window casements and screen doors in the compost site recently, among other unfit items, Goepfert said.

Brush and grass that does make it into the site is unsorted, despite signs posted otherwise.

"I can't believe people can't read," Reddemann said, noting that where grass goes is clearly marked on a sign.

"This is nonsense," Smith said.

"It's the same thing every year," Danford said.

Council Member Terry Ostgulen noted that all citizens will pay for the actions of a few abusers.

Reddemann expressed frustration, saying that even the parks have problems with people dumping household garbage ­ even cat litter ­ into park garbage bags.

The council talked about fencing the site, but thought it wouldn't solve the problem since people would leave items outside the fence. Fencing is costly, it was noted.

Aside from this, it would be a bad idea to erect a fence on a land that wasn't owned by the city is in the first place. The temporary fence previously used at the ballpark could be used for it.

It was thought to look for a different site, possibly in a neighborhood setting, so that people could help keep an eye on offenders. Smith noted that it would have to be aesthetically pleasing to do this.

Cameras were discussed, as well as other preventative measures to head off the abuse.

The compost site will remain open for 30 days, and then be closed at the end of this time until the council decides what to do.

Good audit report

The city once again received a good report from accountant Matt Meyer of Kern, DeWenter & Viere.

The city is good shape, although there was a drain of $350,000 from purchase of the new city hall building, which is the current Security State Bank building, he said.

Nevertheless, the city still holds a comfortable reserve, he said.

Meyer noted that the tax increment finance (TIF) numbers were slightly different than what was reported to the state, which is an administrative problem that can be corrected with the TIF consultant.

In addition, the city should carefully consider the arrangement it has with independent checkbooks held by the fire department and ambulance, Meyer said.

There were a few instances when checks were signed by fire department officers for that account, and this is a problem, Meyer said. The checks must be signed by the mayor, he said.

"Our concern is that they are city funds," he said. In addition, there was one instance where revenue receipts were hard to locate for the audit, he added.

Meyer also encouraged the council to continue its plans to conform with the state law known as GASB 34, which requires the city to record its fixed assets like a corporate balance sheet.

City can't prohibit concealed weapons

The council also discussed the conceal to carry law.

Previously, Danford reported that the city can ban food and drink at the library, but not concealed weapons.

This turned out to be true, since Administrator Kelly Bahn told the council it cannot directly forbid carrying weapons on public property.

The city can take several steps indirectly, Bahn said, such as ordering employees not to carry weapons and requiring those who lease space from the city to refrain from carrying weapons.

However, in places such as the liquor store and the city council chambers, the city cannot forbid firearms.

In the bar room area, the law allows managers eject someone with more than .04 blood percent alcohol who is carrying a weapon.

However, this requires patrons to voluntarily tell the bartender they are carrying weapons; something thought to be very unrealistic.

"They sure got our hands tied," Smith said. "My biggest concern is the municipal liquor store."

Ostgulen noted he was against making regulations over irrational people.

Smith noted that Wright County continues to follow its "no firearms" rule in the courthouse and other public despite the law.

It was decided to take a wait-and-see approach regarding the conceal to carry law.

Odds and ends

In other matters, the council:

· adopted a no phosphorus ordinance, with the exception of golf courses or those who test their soil to prove they need it.

Previously, the council wanted to know why golf courses were excepted. Bahn indicated that it was the state law to except golf courses and not legal for the city to prohibit phosphorus use for them.

· approved insurance coverage of light poles along Highway 12 for $910 per year. There are 30 poles worth $3,000 each along the highway.

The city owns the new light poles. The old wooden light poles were owned by the city, with NSP owning the lamps.

The council considered insuring fire hydrants as well, but decided against it.

· approved a request by property owner Duane Burkstrand for the relocation of a fire hydrant at his business located along Highway 12, with the fire chief and city engineer to determine the new location.

Moving it will allow a renter in the lower portion of Burktrand's office complex to use parking on the north side, he said.

· commended the HLWW high school class A state champion baseball team for winning the state title, but also for notable sportsmanship, Smith said.

The council also voted to add signs that reference the team's win below each city entrance.

· approved $700 donation to support Aquatennial activities, which Howard Lake royalty attends each year.

· approved replacing the library furnace for $1,765 with an energy efficient model. The old furnace could be refurbished for $700, but it is running at 65 percent capacity now, according to Mert Diers, Goepfert reported.

· approved a bronze plaque for the city hall building denoting the structure as being on the National Register of Historic Places, which is being paid for by Omar and Verna Glessing.

· approved a variance for Daryl Drusch and Julie Mifek at 815 10th Avenue for building a new garage, reducing their rear yard setback from 15 to 8 feet.

· approved the American Legion for its annual strong liquor and Sunday license.
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