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Voters will decide future of Delano Municipal Utilities
Aug. 25, 2014

By Liz Hackenmueller

DELANO, MN – Despite concerns about the time frame, the Delano City Council will let the community decide if it’s time to abolish the separate legal entity that has been running Delano Municipal Utilities for the past 120-plus years.

The council voted Tuesday to put a resolution on the ballot for the November election that, if passed, would combine Delano Municipal Utilities and the City of Delano, placing the two entities under the same governance structure; the Delano City Council. The vote was 4-1, with council members Betsy Stolfa, Dan Vick, Derek Schansberg, and Jack Russek in favor; and Mayor Dale Graunke opposed.

“When [Delano Municipal Utilities] was established, it was a different world. We didn’t even really have power out in our town, so we are going back to the people and asking ... if a change is appropriate,” Stolfa said.

Although Graunke was the only dissenting vote, all of the council members shared concerns about whether the time frame, only about two months to the election, is enough time to adequately educate the public regarding the resolution.

“The only thing that concerns me is the time frame ... I would like to see a very informed vote,” Graunke said.

Delano resident Larry Bartels commented during the meeting. “I have to admit, I kind of pay attention ... to what’s going on in town and I know nothing about this. This is a big deal,” Bartels said.

Bartels has served on both the city council and the commission.

It was noted that, only now that the council has decided to submit the resolution to the county for the November ballot, can the educational material be generated.

The same joint study group that recommended the merging of the two entities under the same governance structure will put together the materials.

“We’ve been trying to work on getting this closer for three-and-a-half years,” Vick commented. He cited improved communication and efficiencies as key reasons to move it forward.

The city and Delano Municipal Utilities hired Springsted Incorporated, a consulting firm, to study the current situation and determine if there are structural changes that would improve efficiencies for the community.

Delano has changed demographically, and continued growth may bring changes to the way utilities are provided in respect to technological advances, according to City Administrator Phil Kern.

Springsted published a 48-page organizational report, which can be found on the city’s website.

In this report, there were three main options identified for moving forward – 1) Retain current business model; 2) Retain current organization, but develop a more formal relationship and partnership; 3) Initiate steps to combine the Delano Municipal Utilities with the City of Delano.

The third option was the one recommended to the council by the study group, made up of both members of the city and utility commission, and that is the option that will be on the ballot in November.

Soccer coming to the Riverside Commons building
The council approved a five-year lease agreement with Wright County Soccer (WCS) to grant it use of the Riverside Commons building from Nov. 1 – April 30.

WCS is a travelling soccer club for boys and girls 9 to 18 years old, according to its website.

The council agreed to make improvements of $60,000 to the facility so it would be usable by WCS, a private, non-profit entity.

Improvements will include a turf field, and netting to protect windows.

The city agreed to this deal if WCS pays $25,000 upfront, and the remaining $60,000 in costs reimbursed to the city during the next five years.

In addition, WCS would pay an hourly rental fee to cover heat and utility costs. WCS would use the facility about 20 hours a week, with the remaining time potentially available for other organizations.

Flood prevention update
The council approved obtaining bids for six flood prevention projects, with the goal of having modifications completed around the American Legion building this fall.

The other projects include improvements made near the Central Park T-ball field, Brinkman’s parking lot, west side lift station, backyards northwest of Hwy. 12 and Bridge Avenue, and along Franklin Avenue and River Street.

In September, the council will review quotes and prioritize the projects further, as well as discuss funding options. The goal is for the city to be better equipped to handle potential flood waters in the future.

Odds and ends
In other business, the council:

• adopted a resolution to set a sale date of Tuesday, Sept. 16 for $1,050,000 general obligation improvement bonds to finance improvements for the northwest business park.

• approved a $619,906 bid from Hardrives, Inc. for Hwy. 12 and Eaken Avenue construction. Hardrives submitted the lowest bid.

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