Funding through Rural Development could take up to two years
By Kristen Miller
DARWIN, MN - Darwin City Council will continue playing the waiting game, as it was told it would likely be two years before funding comes through for its pond and sewer project.
Kevin Friesen, representing the US Department of Agriculture’s Office of Rural Development, attended Tuesday’s meeting to highlight the programs and funding opportunities available through them.
Friesen told the council much of the funds through Rural Development have been depleted until 2010, when there is a new bonding bill cycle.
“I don’t want to tell you it will be one year, but I don’t want to tell you it will be five years,” Friesen said.
“The best thing for you (as a council) to do is get the project ready and wait,” he added.
Friesen told the council it would likely be two years before it will even be able to seek bids for the project.
“I don’t want to discourage you, but I want to be realistic. It’s going to take some time,” he said.
Friesen advised the council to begin by starting the application process with Rural Development.
Also, Friesen recommended the council get a contract worked out with Bolton & Menk regarding payment for the engineering report and the work they’ve done thus far.
With the report being a part of the project, the cost would be reimbursable, Friesen said, but the council needs to determine if the engineering firm will allow the city to wait for funds or pay on a monthly basis.
Friesen also suggested boring samples be done of the soil where the new pond will likely be built.
The boring is part of the environmental review and is necessary to make sure the land is acceptable for use, explained Carmen Kolar, Darwin city clerk, following the meeting.
Council Member Lee Peterson suggested purchasing the land would be a good idea, while Friesen recommended the council wait with this since the land wouldn’t be used yet.
One of the stipulations with Rural Development loans and grants, is that it is recommended the city raise monthly residential sewer fees up to at least $44 before the project is underway. Doing this would help pay for the project.
The current residential sewer rate is $23 a month, and $30 for commercial.
Friesen recommended raising sewer rates on a gradual basis rather than one quick jump before the project begins.
Before any action is taken regarding the raising of rates, the council asked Kolar to gather sewer rates from the surrounding cities including Dassel and Litchfield.
Odds and ends
In the public works report, Jill Holte informed the council of a Minnesota Department of Transportation vehicle along Highway 12 which was likely conducting a speed study.
In a previous meeting, the council asked Holte to contact MnDOT to see if it would be possible to have the speed reduced through town, or to even allow a light reminding drivers to yield to pedestrians.
Regarding Harvey Riebe’s property, Kolar informed the council a letter was sent reminding him of the city’s expectations in the terms of variance.
The council reviewed the Red Flag Rule, which Kolar drafted with the purpose of protecting Darwin Municipal Utilities from identity theft.
One of the terms is that a program administrator be appointed to oversee the program.
The council accepted the program, with Kolar as the designated administrator.
The council also adopted a resolution for code of conduct establishing standards of conduct at a public meeting as well as a code of ethics for public officials.
A public hearing is set for Tuesday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. for the vacation of any city interest for 4 feet along the west border of property owned by Chris Hansen. The property is located in at 112 East Williams Street.