By Starrla Cray
WINSTED In order to have a more objective standard to regulate noise pollution, the Winsted City Council is planning to amend its public nuisance ordinance in January.
The topic was discussed during the city council work session Dec. 19, specifically in regards to nighttime noise from nearby businesses affecting Grass Lake Farms Development on the south side of Winsted.
“Even with our windows shut, it has woken up my kids,” resident Laura Murphy told the council. She added that the noise level seems to have improved, though, after other residents complained this past summer.
In July, the City of Winsted investigated the area to see if there was a violation of the city’s noise ordinance,
The city purchased a decibel meter, and a police officer monitored the area for four nights. Police Chief Justin Heldt said it was difficult for the department to determine where the noise was coming from, because there are a few manufacturing companies in close proximity. The two companies mentioned at Tuesday’s meeting were Millerbernd Systems and AZZ Galvanizing, both located on 6th Street South.
Many communities regulate noise based on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) guidelines. The rule sets decibel limits based on land use at that location, time of day, and duration of the sound. For residential locations, nighttime (10 p.m. to 7 a.m.) noise cannot exceed 55 decibels for more than six minutes and cannot exceed 50 decibels for more than 30 minutes. (Exceptions are made for special events.)
Winsted’s current ordinance is more vague, however, regulating “operation of construction equipment or machinery emitting noise onto adjacent property prior to 6:30 a.m. or after 9 p.m.”
City Administrator Dan Tienter said the vagueness of the ordinance makes it difficult to enforce, because any noise even opening a garage door or starting a vehicle could technically constitute a violation.
During the city’s investigation near the Grass Lake Farms Development, city staff determined a “reasonable interpretation” of the ordinance, and concluded that area businesses weren’t violating the city’s policy. Tienter said the decibel ratings measured by the police department also didn’t violate the MPCA guidelines.
Resident Pat Murphy asked if there is anything that regulates spikes in noise level under six minutes. He and resident Chad Hawkinson said they have heard a nearby business dump metal in the middle of the night. This noise is loud, they said, but it does not last for six minutes.
Tienter said the MPCA doesn’t regulate this, but he encouraged residents to document anything they hear and report it to the police department. Council Member Patty Fitzgerald suggested that Winsted add a statement to the ordinance that would address a noise spike occurring on a regular basis. Tienter said he would need to check with the city attorney, in order to make sure this is legally acceptable.
Throughout the investigation, Tienter said area businesses involved have been “thoughtful and agreeable, and interested in doing the right thing.”
He said they have agreed to keep windows and doors shut, to bring in shipments at different times, and to rearrange their schedule for refuse pickup.
“They’ve expressed willingness to change their operations as needed,” Tienter said.
The businesses have also told the city that they would be in favor of more objective standards in regards to noise. The city council plans to approve amending Winsted’s noise ordinance to be in line with MPCA guidelines at the Tuesday, Jan. 2 council meeting. The meeting will start at 6 p.m. in the council chambers of city hall.
Fire department officers appointed
At the regular meeting Tuesday, the council appointed the following Winsted Volunteer Fire Department officers with a term beginning Jan. 1, 2018 and expiring on the date specified:
• Fire Chief Brian Langenfeld term expires Dec. 31, 2019
• Chief 2 Jonathan Davidson term expires Dec. 31, 2018
• Chief 3 Troy Scherping term expires Dec. 31, 2019
• Captain 1 Todd Koch term expires Dec. 31, 2018
• Captain 2 Ryan Chatterton term expires Dec. 31, 2019
• Captain 3 Kyle Thompson term expires Dec. 31, 2018
Increasing costs for residents
The council adopted a resolution certifying a total final property tax levy of $1,274,601, an increase of 5 percent ($60,746) compared to the 2017 levy.
The 2018 budget was also approved, totaling $9,918,572 for revenues (a 9 percent increase from 2017) and $11,049,657 (a 25 percent increase) for expenditures.
Tienter noted that the wastewater treatment facility improvement project contributed to the large increase in expenditures.
The water and sewer rates are increasing for 2018, as well. For water. the monthly minimum charge will be $6.23 (compared to $6.11 in 2017), and the rate per 1,000 gallons will be increasing from $3.37 to $3.44.
For sewer, the monthly minimum will rise from $9.01 to $9.92; and the rate per 1,000 gallons will go from $11.39 to $12.53.
Tienter said the rates were expected to go up more due to the wastewater treatment facility project, but fortunately the city received a large grant to help offset the cost.
The council approved the 2018 compensation plan for city staff, which includes 11 salary step ranges for each full-time position. The plan for 2018 is a 2-percent higher than the 2017 plan.
The council authorized Tienter to approve a salary step increase for individual employees effective Jan. 1, 2018, contingent upon a successful performance review.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• approved one-year solid waste hauler license applications for Randy’s Sanitation, Waste Management, and Mumford Sanitation.
• approved a memorandum of understanding between the city and the fire department, agreeing that fundraising efforts for the Winsted Fire Department and its relief association will not be spent for non-fire department purposes.
• adopted a resolution approving the assessment of $2,939 to 404 Westgate Drive, a property that was sold at a public auction for non-payment of property taxes.
• adopted a resolution accepting $2,500 in gambling proceeds from Holy Trinity Catholic Church to be dedicated to the city’s park fund.
• heard a reminder that all dogs older than 4 months need to be licensed in Winsted. The cost for the license is $10 per year. Forms can be picked up at city hall.
• heard that city hall will be closed Monday, Dec. 25 and Tuesday, Dec. 26 for the Christmas holiday.
• heard a request from a resident to clean the ditch along McLeod County Road 1. Tienter said he would consult the city engineer to get more information about this.