By Jennifer Von Ohlen
COKATO, MN In reflecting on the achievements of 2016, city services presented their annual reports to the Cokato City Council last Monday.
Cokato librarian Sheila Reike shared that the public library had 53,557 items circulated in 2016, with a total of 20,540 visitors.
It also hosted 41 programs, which 1,418 people attended. Some of these events included story time, an antiques roadshow, Friends of Cokato Area Library (FOCAL) book club, arts and crafts, and a magic show.
Looking ahead, the library will be providing a tech tutor program every first Thursday of the month from 4:30 to 6 p.m., where participants can receive assistance operating their personal devices. Appointments are also available for alternative times and dates.
Jen Anfinson will also be conducting a memory wire bracelet workshop Tuesday, Jan. 31 from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
For more information on these and other upcoming events, contact the library at (320) 286-5760.
According to Cokato Museum Director Mike Worcester, the museum’s “accomplishments were worth the effort put forth.”
In 2016, the museum hosted its first national traveling exhibit, ‘Trains in the Night,’ and Escape Room, as well as several special events and speakers.
Looking at numbers, the museum had 3,900 visitors in 2016, which is a slight increase from 3,825 visitors in 2015.
Cokato Fire Chief Hutch Erickson of the Cokato Fire Department informed the council that the department responded to 121 calls in 2016, with 71 being in Cokato.
The department also responds to Cokato Township, French Lake Township, and Stockholm Township.
In analyzing the data, Erickson stated 2016 was a high year in terms of providing mutual aid to neighboring communities, such as Dassel, Howard Lake, Silver Lake, and Monticello.
Usually the department is called to assist about three times a year, but in 2016, they responded 10 times.
“Everyone had a lot of fires this year,” he said.
According to the data presented by Cokato Ambulance director Jim Erickson, the department responded to 365 calls in 2016.
Cokato had 252 ambulance responses, 108 of them not requiring hospital transportation.
When asked why this number is high, council member and ambulance assistant director Carl Harju explained that these calls are more often “acts of community service.”
For instance, if aiding an elderly individual (who falls once in awhile) keeps them in their home longer, the department is fine with responding to the situation.
Wastewater treatment discussion
In response to a special council meeting in December, the council had a discussion concerning the wastewater treatment facility (WWTF) options presented by Bolton & Menk principal environmental engineer John Graupman.
According to Graupman, Cokato’s WWTF has “maxed out” its hydraulic capacity, and the city therefore needs complete an expansion project of sorts in order to meet the phosphorus limit.
Two options were most recommended to the council: to construct an extended aeration activated sludge WWTF with the addition of tertiary filters ($15.3 million), or regionalize with Howard Lake and join the Annandale-Maple Lake WWTF ($8.5 million, plus an unknown usage rate).
If the city does not act, Graupman said Cokato would be in violation of the compliance schedule and would be fined by the state (an amount unknown at this time).
“This is a huge deal,” stated council member Paul Boger at Monday’s discussion. “It’s a huge amount of money.”
When asked if City Administrator Annita Smythe had received a usage fee amount from the Annandale-Maple Lake WWTF, Smythe stated she had not, but will continue to inquire.
The council tabled the discussion for the next council meeting and public hearing, Monday, Feb. 13, hoping to have more information by then, before committing to a project.
“It’s going to cost you a lot no matter what you do,” commented public works director Jeff DeGrote.
A detailed plan needs to be selected and submitted by March 1. Construction would begin in 2019.
Odds and ends
In other news, the council:
• approved ambulance 2016 write-offs of $63,317; a 13 percent decline from 2015 write-offs;
• authorized submitting a pay equity report;
• awarded a bond sale for the new fire and ambulance station;
• authorized advertisement for bids for the 2017 slip lining project; and
• authorized a 2017 seal coating as part of a Wright County project.