By Jennifer Kotila
COKATO, MN Although city engineer Eric Lembke of Bonestroo said he had no real good news for the city of Cokato in regards to its sanitary sewer problems, he added that progress was being made.
Lembke addressed the city council last Monday, noting that last time he was there, in May, he warned the council about the sanitary sewer ponds overflowing, which happened less than two weeks later.
“It was bound to happen based on the infiltration occurring in the community,” Lembke said.
Infiltration is water that leaks into the sanitary sewer system through cracks in the pipes underground.
Lembke has spent the past few months investigating the city’s infrastructure in order to update the city’s base maps and get a handle on the situation.
The process is 95 percent complete, aside from a handful of off-road structures that Cokato Public Works Director Jeff DeGrote and Lembke are trying to locate, Lembke told the council.
The sanitary sewer lines that were scheduled to be televised this year are complete, and other recent televising reports are being reviewed by Lembke.
Over the last few weeks, a majority of Lembke’s time has been spent inspecting all the sanitary sewer structures, he said.
Out of the city’s 300 structures, 16 of them are severely deteriorated, with the bricks crumbling to the bottom of the structure, according to Lembke.
“That’s not all that bad; I thought there would be more,” he said.
It was noted that although many of the structures on Louise Avenue in the southeast corner of town are fairly new, there is a high amount of infiltration in that area.
Another step for solving the city’s sanitary sewer problems is to measure the depth of the sediment and grit in the bottom of the ponds at the wastewater treatment plant, which was recently completed by DeGrote.
Now that the measurements have been taken, Lembke will be able to create an estimate for how much it will cost to remove the sediment.
There is a pretty substantial list of repairs which need to be made throughout the city’s infrastructure, Lembke said.
He advised the city to establish a budget for fixing the city’s infrastructure to correct the problems identified.
The city has still not heard from the Environmental Protection Agency in regards to the wastewater treatment ponds overflowing, Lembke noted, and it may want the repairs to the sanitary sewer system accelerated.
Fixing the 16 crumbling sanitary sewer structures will help a lot for the city’s infiltration problem, Lembke said. “But in the grand scheme of things, they are not contributing greatly (to the city’s sanitary sewer problems).”
Sump pumps, roof drains, downspouts, and other structures improperly connected to the sanitary sewer system were a bigger concern, he added.
“We talked about cleaning up our own house first,” said Cokato Council Member Butch Amundsen. “We should wait to do the sump pump inspections until we clean up our own stuff.”
A final item to be looked at in regards to the sanitary sewer problems is getting a clear picture of what the lines through town look like, Lembke said.
Televising the lines can be time-consuming and costly, but a smoke test could identify the worst areas in town.
Lembke was directed to bring a list of repairs to be made, along with cost estimates, to a workshop scheduled for Monday, Sept. 12 at 6 p.m.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• decided to hold a workshop for a code of conduct and ethics ordinance Monday, Sept. 12 at 6 p.m.
• approved a visual inspection and rehabilitation of the pumping system to well number four in Cokato by Thein Well.
Thein Well inspected the well in March and found it had dropped in capacity by 24 percent.
The goal is to restore the capacity to 2009 levels, at a cost of $10,000 to $15,000.
• denied making a portion of Sunset Avenue North “no parking” as requested by Jean Paulson.
Paulson made the request because since 2005, three minor accidents have occurred in that area from people backing out of parking spots near Save and Share Thrift Store and hitting cars parked on the other side of the street.
• approved the resignation of Council Member Jesse Bunker from the economic and development authority and appointed Council Member Ken Bakke to the vacant position.
• approved the resignation of Wayne Murphy from the police commission, declared a vacancy on the police commission, and directed city staff to advertise for the vacancy.
• accepted a $3,500 AgStar Fund for Rural America grant to fund a market study for recruitment of businesses and developers to the city of Cokato.
The Cokato Economic Development Authority is also committing $1,500 towards the market study, which will be conducted by Maxfield Research.
• approved the appointment of Johanna Ellison Cloquet to the museum assistant position.
She is in the process of moving to Cokato, and should start at the museum Tuesday or Wednesday this week, Museum Director Mike Worcester said.