Oct. 23, 2006

Delano council reduces sanitary sewer rates; discusses concerns about ditch drainage issues

By Ryan Gueningsman
Managing Editor

The shining star of a marathon four-hour Delano City Council meeting Tuesday was the council’s decision to reduce sanitary sewer utility fees.

Following a study done by city staff, it was discovered that the city has been able to build up an adequate reserve for slowdowns in growth and in the event of emergencies, if either should arise.

With the new rates, city staff feels the city will be able to meet its current obligations, and maintain a balanced budget in the sanitary sewer fund, noted Finance Director Brian Bloch.

The council approved decreasing the rate from $8.69 per 1,000 gallons to $5.35 per 1,000 gallons. It was also noted that, in the future, staff will review future rate adjustments on an annual basis.

City addresses concerns raised at county board about drainage issues

Responding to a letter received by the Wright County Attorney’s office regarding County Ditch 34, the city council discussed with Wright County Commissioner Jack Russek drainage issues relating to the ditch.

The City of Delano is working with a private development group on the creation of an industrial park along Highway 12 in northwest Delano, said City Administrator Phil Kern. The site is approximately 59 acres, and if developed, would contain roughly 40 acres of developed land, and 19 acres of ponds/wetlands.

The property has drained into the county ditch system for many years, Kern said. The city is requiring the developer to build sufficient ponding and storm water systems so the water does not run into the ditch faster than it would now. Even though this will be a significant expense to the developer, Kern said the developer has agreed to meet the standard.

At a recent county board meeting, many residents who live along or near the ditch, commented on its poor condition. According to the county, the ditch has not been maintained for 75 years.

Russek said that the county doesn’t maintain the ditches, and that if people who live along the ditch want work done to it, they would bear the costs of any improvements.

“Nobody on the ditch can afford to pay it,” Russek said. “We need to all sit down and plan what we’re going to do. This is the beginning of a big problem.”

Council and city staff agreed that it would be good for the city, Franklin Township, and the county, to all sit down and discuss the issue, as Russek noted the township has a development proposal in the works that would also use the ditch for drainage.

“We’re not picking on the city in any way,” Russek said. “Franklin Township is going to get the same answer the city got.”

Kern noted the letter received from the attorney’s office stated the city’s industrial park proposal was not denied, but that a drainage plan needed to be worked out before moving forward. Kern said the county is demanding the city bear the burden of a storm water management plan for the entire drainage area, which he feels is unfair.

“The city is willing to be part of the solution, but it is unfair to the city and its taxpayers to bear the entire cost of studying and repairing County Ditch 34,” Kern wrote in a request for action to the city council.

Following more discussion, it was decided to try to form a partnership with the township to study the issue, to determine the costs of a study, and move forward from there.

Pension increase approved for Delano firefighters

A $500 per year, per member increase to members of the Delano Fire Department for annual service pensions was approved at the meeting.

The pension prior to the increase was $2,000 per member, per year of service, with the increase raising the number to $2,500.

The department compared pension numbers for several other local departments from the year ending 2004, which are the latest numbers available, according to Relief Association President Rodger Erickson.

Some comparisons included the City of Buffalo at $2,000 per year, Loretto at $2,550 per year, Maple Plain at $1,750 per year, and Rockford and Watertown at $1,500 per year.

It was noted the increase will have no effect on the current budgeted amounts for 2007, and is not expected to have an effect on the usual budgeted contribution to the firefighters’ relief association in 2008. Over the past five years, the contribution has ranged from $25,000 to $30,000.

The pension benefit amount has increased four times from 1992 through 2006, it was noted, equaling a 6.3 percent increase per year from 1992 to 2007.

Trees to be trimmed at Crow River Villa

The council discussed a contract with Tree Top Service for trimming trees at the Crow River Villa building at the request of resident Harlan Lewis.

Lewis wanted to know if the city staff could do the work cheaper than the low bid, quoted from Tree Top, of $3,149. A second bid for the project, received from Emery Tree Service, was at $5,644.

“I don’t see that this isn’t a project our city people couldn’t do,” Lewis said. “I think our staff should do it.”

Kern said that the department is getting ready for the approaching winter, and is also short a member, and said it was the initial staff assessment that the project couldn’t be done by city staff for less than the low bid for the project.

After discussion, the council approved the contract with Tree Top, and noted that the work won’t be done until the ground is frozen, so as not to damage any landscaping with the boom trucks needed for the project.

Odds and ends

In other business, the council:

• established the sale date for the $2,020,000 general obligation street reconstruction bonds as Tuesday, Nov. 21. These bonds are for the construction taking place on Ninth Street and Rockford Ave.

• approved a resolution to have a state statute regarding restricting on transfers of specific parcels of property enforced by Wright County, similar to a resolution the City of St. Michael recently passed.

The resolution requires that, before an individual presents a subdivision for recording and parcel identification number assignment, the city must first authorize the subdivision.

• approved sending a letter to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) requesting a change from a cul de sac design to a “pork chop design” for three locations on the Highway 12 reconstruction project.

The three locations include Third Street South, Fourth Street South, and Kelsey Street.

After MnDOT officials began obtaining right of way information from businesses and residents, it was discovered that a 30-foot by 30-foot triangle would need to be acquired from Bill Glover’s property to construct the cul de sac along Kelsey Street.

City Engineer Kent Torve said the alternative pork chop design would reduce impact to the Glovers and adjacent residents, and still provide adequate turnaround space for trucks.

• approved a mass grading request by Jeff Martineau for the DC Ranch project at the intersection of 72nd Street and McKinley Parkway.

Martineau will begin grading this fall for the development project, but it was noted if the project doesn’t go ahead, or the final plat is not approved, the property will have to be restored to its current state.

• discussed additional information on the Fifth Street South and St. Peter Street drainage issues, and requested Torve to obtain a cost on doing the project.

Torve stated after the issue was discussed at the last meeting, that he began working on the number, but before long, the project began getting too expansive, and he wanted to get the council’s opinion before moving forward.

“The project really keeps expanding,” Torve said. “I don’t have an easy answer.”

Residents present hoped that this issue could be resolved sooner, rather than later. Following discussion, Hotchkiss asked Torve to come back to the next meeting with a solid cost of the project. Discussion also took place regarding a neighbor dispute taking place about a retaining wall on the alleyway at 300 Kelsey Street.

• adopted the preliminary plat and site and building plans for the proposed Ace Retail Center, which will be located on the south side of Highway 12 east of Seventh Street South, just east of the New Attitudes Salon building.

This will be a one-story retail shopping center that features seven tenants.

• accepted a bid of $3,575 from AAA Nursery and Landscaping for trees around Central Park’s ballfields.

• authorized a full pay request from Diversified Drainage for the Wright County Road 30 culvert extension, noting that the project was done satisfactorily.

• discussed and approved a fine grading contract and seeding of the Central Park ballfields. The seeding costs $9,403 and will be done by Pogue Excavating.

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