Carl Harju appointed to Cokato council

December 17, 2007

By Lynda Jensen

Lifelong resident Carl Harju was appointed to the Cokato City Council last Monday to fill the spot of outgoing Council Member Jan Severson, who moved outside of city limits.

Harju is a member of the Cokato Ambulance Service, and has previously served on the police advisory commission, the comprehensive planning commission, as well as the planning and zoning commission; the latter of which he still serves.

For this reason, a vacancy exists on the P&Z since Harju took the place of Council Member Jan Severson as the council liaison on the commission.

“I am a good listener and very willing to listen to others’ points of view,” he wrote on his application.

Harju will be sworn in at the council’s meeting in January, scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14.

The city is also looking for more applications for the Economic Development Association, which needs five residents and two council members to fill the board there. Residents are not required to live inside city limits. So far, four applications have been received.

Water, sewer rates up

The council approved higher water and sewer rates, as advised by the city accountant, Paul Harvego, who has warned the council that the water fund has no money and the sewer fund is “sinking,” as Mayor Bruce Johnson described it in a previous meeting

Rates were increased according to the following:

• base rates went up from $25.58 to $29 per month. Meterless rates are charged differently (and at a higher rate now), being the equivalent of $44.75 per month. Water meter rates went up from $4 per thousand gallons to $5.25.

High volume users will pay the same, 10 times the base rate, plus the meter use rate for the first 500,000 gallons usage and 25 percent of the meter use rate for usage over 500,000 gallons per month.

For sewer service, the base rate will stay the same at $20.16, but the meter use rate went from $3 per thousand gallons to $4.88 per month. The meterless rate is being charged differently (and at a higher rate now), being the equivalent of $34.80 per month. Also, for sewer rates, the residential sewer credit was repealed.

The rates will be indexed 3 percent annually to reflect inflation.

The rates haven’t been raised in three years.

Will the library be moved to the old Ben Franklin?

Former Council Member Tom Keaveny spoke with the council about the possibility of having the city either rent or buy the former Ben Franklin location, next to Keaveny’s Drug.

There are 7,000 square feet available there, Keaveny said, and the city already owns the parking lot at the Tower Mall.

He wondered if the city could set up a tax-deferred status for this building, if it was leased.

Librarian Mary Ackerman said that there are about 150 patrons who visit the library every day.

More locations discussed for new fire hall location

Once again, the council talked about a possible new fire hall location, going into closed session to discuss potential land dealings.

Amundsen noted that two more locations had been brought forth, and that the committee would be meeting again to discuss location.

Previously, council members appeared to give a cool reception to the top choice, along Highway 12 and Third St. E., recommended by the land search committee recently.

Cars will be tagged now

Although cars parked overnight on the streets have been given warnings until now, the council went out of its way to instruct the sheriff’s deputy who attended the meeting to start giving out tickets in the next snowstorm, instead of warnings.

This means cars parked on city streets after 2 a.m. during a snowstorm that requires plowing will be ticketed.

City’s levy increase is from cutbacks of state aid

In other subjects, the city adopted its final levy at a lower rate than before – 11.63 percent increase over last year’s levy, instead of the proposed 18.2 percent increase discussed this fall.

The lower percent reflects the removal of $50,000 out of the capital improvement fund at the insistence of Council Member Butch Amundsen, as well as $25,000 that was previously added to the capital improvement fund, which was removed at the insistence of outgoing Council Member Jan Severson.

The amount remaining can be attributed exclusively to cutbacks in local government aid (LGA).

A first step in upgrading its treatment plant

In other subjects, the council also took a first step in expanding its wastewater treatment plant.

The existing plant has reached its capacity and the new expansion will accommodate 20-year growth.

Another reason the city must upgrade is to accommodate new limits on phosphorus set by the government. This will translate to $50,000 per year in chemicals to treat the wastewater for phosphorus.

The project is estimated to cost $4.422 million. To recapture costs, the city will be increasing sewer access charges for new residents, increasing user charges for existing residents, and charging the following per year to Forsman Farms - $20,200, Faribault Foods - $21,600, and to DC school - $19,000.

It is still early in the process, and the city is just taking initial steps to get into line for government funding.

Odds and ends

In other business, the council:

• decided it will go with Waste Management for its garbage services instead of Mumford Sanitation, and bundled the recycling and garbage together at the request of Waste Management.

It was noted that there was a fuel escalator clause in the contract, and the council wanted to negotiate this, but Pam Fleischacker indicated she couldn’t adjust the price.

Tom Keaveny also commented about this subject during the meeting, expressing surprise that the council switched haulers. As a monopoly in other locales, Waste Management quadrupled its rates over four years elsewhere, Keaveny said.

• heard from librarian Mary Ackerman about the library’s space needs, but it was decided to bump the discussion to January.

• approved a low bid from Water Tower Paint & Repair of Clear Lake, Iowa to paint the north water tower for $36,980.

• approved rink attendants Brice Berggren, Carl Holm, Jeff Barth, Jeremy Quaas, and Jeff Salmela. Jodi Raisenan will serve on a call basis.

• approved an annual off and on sale liquor license for Nelson’s Bar and Grill.

The council also approved licenses to Mumford Sanitation, Peterson Sanitation, and Waste Management for refuse hauling.

Vacancies are open on Cokato EDA, P&Z

There are vacancies open on two committees, one seat on planning and zoning, as well as the Economic Development Association.

Council members who are willing to serve on the EDA are Butch Amundsen and Wayne Murphy, although the official list of committees has not been approved yet.

So far, the EDA has received four applications, which is short of the five residents needed for the seven-member committee (two members will be from the council)

Those interested should contact the city hall for an application at (320) 286-5505.

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