By Jennifer Kotila
COKATO, MN The Cokato City Council approved a preliminary levy of $1,118,792 for 2012 at last Monday’s meeting; an 8.7 percent increase from the 2011 levy.
There are no levy limits this year, and the city auditor warned the city its cash reserves were depleting due to state cuts in the past few years, according to City Administrator Don Levens. This number also includes $21,900 for the Trailstone bond, and $106,300 for the Broadway Avenue bond.
One of the state cuts that was a contributing factor was the $52,789 loss from the Market Value Homestead Credit.
A truth-in-taxation hearing is scheduled to take place Monday, Dec. 12, after which the final levy resolution will be approved.
Sanitary sewer improvements
The council approved the expenditure of more than $250,000 for sanitary sewer improvements.
There are 16 manhole structures in which structural deterioration is to the point where failure is eminent and there is heavy infiltration into the sanitary sewer system, according to city engineer Eric Lembke of Bonestroo.
Those manhole structures will be repaired at an estimated cost of $58,000.
During the discussion of repairing the manhole structures, Council Member Jesse Bunker stated he did not want to approve spending so much money to repair them unless there was a guarantee that they would last 25 years.
“That is a massive expense for a little city,” Bunker said. “It’s a responsibility that we have to make sure we are getting our money’s worth.”
The issue with the sanitary sewer system has been put on the back burner, until the inflow and infiltration are now out of control, noted Council Member Butch Amundsen.
“These things haven’t been done for 25 years, at least the ones that are not necessary,” Amundsen said.
An estimated $200,000 will be spent to remove the sludge from pond one at the water treatment facility in order to bring it back up to its full capacity.
Currently, the ponds are not able to be drawn down far enough to provide adequate storage for the springtime wet weather flows due to the 22,600 cubic yards of material which has settled to the bottom, according to Lembke.
“This is not a question of if we want to do this, but can we do this,” Bunker asked during the discussion of the sludge removal. “Do we have enough money?”
“There’s money in the sewer fund,” noted Amundsen. “This is a lot of money. It’s too bad we haven’t been monitoring this all along. I don’t know whose responsibility it was.”
Monitoring will take place from now on, noted Public Works Director Jeff DeGrote.
DeGrote also asked about removing the sludge from pond two at the same time, but the council decided to wait and see if it could be put into the budget for next year.
County plans improvements for CSAH 3
The council discussed the county’s improvements to Wright County State Aid Highway 3 from Klarsyn Avenue south to Wright County State Aid Highway 31.
The county will be reconstructing the portion of highway to rural standards, and was asking the city if it would want that portion completed to urban standards, which could include bike paths, sidewalks, or curb and gutter.
“Ideally, it would be nice to make the road wide enough, but I don’t know if we have the funds,” stated Council Member Carl Harju. “We have some sewer and water repairs we have to think about first.”
It was noted that there have been complaints about erosion due to road runoff from residents living near the area to be reconstructed.
The council directed Lembke to talk to the county’s assistant engineer, Virgil Hawkins, to address the erosion issues and see what can be done.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• discussed a code of conduct and ethics ordinance as recommended by the city auditor with city attorney Ron Batty.
It was decided that state statute covers everything that would be in the city’s ordinance, and a policy would be the preferred.
Batty will draft a policy which can be approved by the council at a future meeting.
• discussed the existing sewer ordinance with Batty.
It was decided to incorporate a point-of-sale inspection into the ordinance, which would require all homes to be inspected for proper connections at the time of sale.
The ordinance has also been clarified as to what the proper connections are, and what the city’s options are to inspect those connections.
The amended ordinance will be brought before the council at a future meeting for final approval.
• discussed storm sewer repairs at Second Street and Swanson Avenue.
Lembke did not have any recommendations at this time to solve the issues at that intersection.
He will further investigate the stormwater issues that are occurring in that area and bring his recommendations to the October council meeting.
• accepted a grant from AgStar for a market feasibility study, which will help the city understand its best options for bringing in more business.
• approved Lundeen Interiors to replace carpeting in city hall at a cost of $6,386.
• approved purchasing controls and sensors for the north water tower for $16,541, which does not include sales tax, electrical installations, or pressure taps or sense lines.
This will allow the city to monitor how well the water tower is working, DeGrote said.