By Ivan Raconteur
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN It took two years from the time the subject was introduced, but it appears that it will finally be clear sailing ahead for a new Lester Prairie water treatment plant.
The city council authorized preparation of plans and specifications for the facility during Tuesday’s meeting.
Prior to approval, council members cited favorable financing and widespread resident support for the project as reasons for moving forward at this time.
Construction could begin in 2011, and be complete by 2012.
City Engineer Jake Saulsbury said current interest rates for other projects that have been approved for Public Facilities Authority (PFA) funding are about 2 percent.
The size of the building needed for the new treatment plant will be about 30 feet by 60 feet, and it will be located on city property on the east side of the city park on Second Avenue South.
The facility will be designed for easy and convenient expansion in the future, Saulsbury said.
The council also approved a water main looping project to improve water flow on the east side of the city.
Saulsbury said the net price for completion of both projects, including ongoing maintenance, will result in an additional annual cost of about $26.80 per household.
Saulsbury proposed a tentative schedule for the next steps in the process, which include:
• topographic survey and soil borings Nov. 2010;
• project scoping and final design Dec. 2010 to Feb. 2011;
• bid and award project March 2011;
• close on PFA loan April 2011;
• start construction May 2011;
• project completed, water treatment facility online May 2012.
The timeline for the water main looping project will proceed on a similar schedule, according to Saulsbury.
Vision obstruction ordinance revisited
Chuck Paschke, the attorney representing resident Roy Strasmann, asked the council to consider exempting Strasmann from the ordinance the prohibits vision obstructions within 40 feet of corners at intersections.
There are lilac bushes lining the street on two sides of the Strasmann property, and in order to comply with the ordinance, they would have to be trimmed to a height of 32 inches.
Paschke also suggested the city could put up a stop sign at the intersection on Elm Street North (there is already a stop sign at the intersection on Lincoln Avenue).
Mayor Andy Heimerl said he is concerned about the safety of children who walk past the property on their way to and from school.
City Attorney Jody Winter said a recent Supreme Court decision makes it more difficult for cities to approve variances, and they must have very specific reasons for doing so.
Council Member Ron Foust said he doesn’t think the city should even consider a stop sign, because if it approves it in one location, it would have to do so in others.
Lester Prairie Police Chief Bob Carlson said the reason the city was asked to look at the vision obstruction ordinance in the first place was because of a fatal accident that occurred in the city, and the city is looking at liability issues it may face, including vision obstructions at intersections.
Police officer Mark Thiry said the Strasmann property is not the only one in town that is being asked to comply with the ordinance.
In response to Strasmann’s contention that there have been no complaints about the lilacs, which have been in place for decades, Foust said Strasmann may not have received complaints, but the city has received complaints.
Thiry said he has also received complaints about the lilacs from firefighters and law enforcement officers who have responded to calls in the area.
Council member Bob Messer said lilacs can be pruned significantly without harming the plant.
The council asked Winter for guidance.
“My concern is that the city council is now aware that there is a visibility issue, and the city could lose its immunity if there is some kind of an accident there,” Winter said.
The council made no decision regarding Strassmann’s request, but directed the planning commission to review the ordinance again, to consider re-wording it for clarification.
Sidewalk ordinance discussed again
The council discussed the sidewalk ordinance, which has been the subject of meetings since last spring.
One new twist that was revealed was that, although the council unanimously approved a motion in favor of the ordinance in July, and letters were sent to business owners, it was never forwarded to the city attorney, and the actual ordinance was never formally approved.
Winter asked City Clerk Marilyn Pawelk to forward the information so she can draft the ordinance for council approval.
The council made no changes to the July ordinance, and business owners will be expected to comply, which will require Eric Angvall, owner of Angvall Hardware & Mercantile, to move the propane cylinders from the sidewalk in front of his building.
The storage of propane has been the subject of much discussion during recent council meetings.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• approved a $32,241 bid from Juul Contracting for storm sewer repairs in the Prairie Ridge development.
• set the canvassing board for the general election for Tuesday, Nov. 9 at 6:30 p.m.
• approved an off-sale liquor license for Doug and Sheila Jilek for the former Depot property, and agreed to prorate the $100 license fee. City Clerk Marilyn Pawelk said the owners of the new business hope to have it open by the end of November. Liquor license renewals are due in January each year.
• approved a request from Darian Litzau to haul wastewater from a body shop in Hutchinson to the Lester Prairie wastewater treatment plant for the same $35 per 1,000 gallons cost as it accepts wastewater from John Deere in Glencoe (also hauled by Litzau).
Dan Wroge of PeopleService said the wastewater does not need to be run through the plant, only through the digester, after which it is hauled away and spread on fields.
The approval was 4 to 1, with Mayor Andy Heimerl and council members Art Mallak, Larry Hoof, and Bob Messer in favor, and council member Ron Foust opposed.
“We’re taking other cities’ stuff we should be making money on it,” Foust said.