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Cokato council approves water shut-off surcharge
June 20, 2011

By Jennifer Kotila
Staff Writer

COKATO, MN – Every spring, the city of Cokato goes through a similar routine.

It sends public works staff to shut off the water of residents who are delinquent on their water bill.

Those staff then turn right around, go back to the same house, sometimes on the same day, and turn the water back on after the resident has paid the delinquent bill.

To try to avoid this routine next spring, the Cokato City Council approved a water shut-off surcharge fee at Monday’s meeting for any residents who have their water shut off due to a delinquent payment.

“We want the fee to be enough that it’s painful, but not so much that a homeowner can’t reach it,” said Council Member Jesse Bunker during the discussion of how much the fee should be.

Many cities charge $75, along with whatever is owed on the water bill, noted Public Works Director Jeff DeGrote.

The council at one time discussed a water connect and disconnect fee for snowbirds of $50 – $25 for the disconnect, and $25 for the reconnection. “So, a $50-water shut-off surcharge seems reasonable,” said Council Member Butch Amundsen.

“If they’re having a hard time paying already, $75 is pretty hefty, in my opinion,” said Mayor Gordy Erickson.

The council approved a $50-water shut-off surcharge fee, along with paying any late fees and the delinquent bill.

Cokato seeks Safe Routes to School grant

The Wright County Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution June 7 to submit an application on behalf of the city of Cokato for a Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT) Safe Routes to School grant.

The council approved a resolution in support of the grant at last Monday’s meeting.

The Safe Routes to School program provides communities with the opportunity to improve the environment and infrastructure within a city to promote bicycling and walking to school.

The program is meant to enable and encourage children, including those with disabilities, to walk and bicycle to school.

Another goal is to make bicycling and walking to school safer and more appealing, thereby encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle for students.

The program also assists in facilitating the planning, development, and implementation of projects and activities that will improve safety, as well as reduce traffic, fuel consumption, and air pollution in the vicinity of schools.

Cokato is seeking a grant in the amount of $196,000 to fund the building of sidewalks, crosswalks, signs, and blinking lights in the vicinity of Cokato Elementary School.

Funding decisions by MNDOT should be made by the end of summer 2011.

If Cokato receives all, or a portion of the funding needed to complete the project, construction would start in the summer of 2012.

Council approves insurance renewal

Dan Faust of Faust Insurance Agency presented the municipal insurance package to the council.

The city will save nearly $2,000 on its premium for 2011, while receiving more coverage, Faust said.

Insurance coverage was added for the new dump truck for public works, and the new fire truck for the fire department.

There was also $1 million added in insurance coverage for the street dance sponsored by the fire department in August.

The total premium for the city’s insurance package is $111,847.

Faust also noted that in 2010, Cokato received a dividend payment from Faust Insurance Agency in the amount of $14,925.

Odds and ends

In other business, the council:

• affirmed the community pool appointments. Nancy Olson has been hired as the manager of the Cokato Pool.

• accepted a $1,100 grant from CenterPoint Energy to pay for an exhaust fan for the new pumper truck, purchased by the Cokato Volunteer Fire Department.

• approved a salary increase for DeGrote. He has now completed his probationary period, and has been hired permanently.

• discussed a future ordinance for sump pump compliance for the residents of Cokato.

City Administrator Don Levens is working on a draft of the ordinance. DeGrote, Amundsen, and Erickson will meet to come up with recommendations in dealing with the city’s inflow and infiltration issues.

• approved participation in a survey program from the Council on Local Results and Innovation.

By participating in the survey program, the city will receive 14 cents per resident (amounting to about $364), and will also be exempt from levy limits.

The survey rates the city in 10 performance areas.

• tabled discussion on a new pay loader for the public works department until August so more research can be done in regards to funding and what type of equipment to purchase.

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