COKATO, MN Cokato Fire Chief Hutch Erickson, during the city council meeting June 11, presented a proposal to the council to purchase a used fire truck for $95,000 from the Edina Fire Department. Erickson noted that Edina is replacing three engines for around $1.1 million each, something that would never be possible for Cokato.
This engine is relatively inexpensive in comparison to others of its model and miles, as a truck like this normally costs between $195,000 and $340,000. A typical purchase of a fire truck involves sending the truck to Alabama first, which adds expense. This truck will be purchased directly from Edina, eliminating the middleman.
While the department got a new truck only three years ago, this one would be a vast improvement, with a ladder reaching 100 feet, instead of 50 feet like the current one.
In order to have a high ISO (Insurance Service Office) rating, the city needs a ladder that either reaches the top of all of the buildings in the town, or is 100 feet. While Cokato does not have very tall buildings, a 100-foot ladder allows for better grain bin and silo rescues. The money would come out of the fire department’s capital fund, which is currently at around $320,000. The council voted unanimously to purchase the new truck, and then to sell the old one. The truck goes out of use at Edina in January 2020, at which point Cokato would receive it.
The council heard two requests for utility relief.
Jose Larios informed the council that over the winter, a tenant moved out of a property he owns and called the gas company to turn off the gas, without his knowledge. As it was winter, the pipes froze and burst, leading to 115,000 gallons of water usage, compared to the property’s average usage of 3,100 gallons. Larios stated that he is taking responsibility for the water bill, which has already been paid in full, but he requested that the council waive his sewer bill of $909, since the wasted water did not go into the sewer. The council agreed 2-1 to reduce his sewer bill to the average amount for that property, with council members Kevin Wilson and Jarod Sebring in favor, and Council Member Forrest “Butch” Amundson opposed.
The second request was from Dave Denesha, representing the East Mobile Home Park in Cokato. The park had several pipes break during the winter. Because the water meter was underwater and unreachable throughout the winter, they did not realize the extent of the wasted water until spring. An excess of 1,393,000 gallons was shown when the water meter was finally able to be read.
Similar to Larios, the park is paying the full water bill, but asked for relief on the $10,000 sewer bill.
The council noted that unlike in the previous request, this was not done by a tenant, but was rather more of an issue of wear and tear. The council decided to relieve half of the bill, voting 2-1, with Wilson and Sebring in favor, and Amundson opposed.
Wilson commented that, as an engineer, he questions the state of the infrastructure at the mobile home park, since there were multiple breaks, and said that Denesha should not come back next year with the same request.
To eliminate the issue of the water meter being unreadable, adding a sump pump to remove the water was discussed.
Amundson pointed out that the city had already heard requests for utility relief at past council meetings. He asked that the council create a policy for when this is acceptable. “Sooner or later, we got to put our foot down and say, somebody has responsibility,” Amundson said.
The council agreed to create a policy at a future meeting for when the city will approve these, and for how much.
Parking ordinance to be updated
The council noted an increased number of complaints about large vehicles parked on the streets. While they have been reported to the sheriff, the sheriff informed city staff that the current ordinances are too vague to allow the sheriff to ticket violators.
City Administrator Annita Smythe agreed to look into the ordinances nearby cities have, and to work with the sheriff’s office to improve the ordinance, which will then be discussed more in depth at the next meeting.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• approved the 2018 annual audit presented by Justin McGraw from Conway, Deuth & Schmeising. He noted that, while the city saw significant decreases, specifically in the general fund, this is due to various capital improvement projects, including the new public safety building.
• met with the attorney in a closed session to discuss legal strategy for pending litigation.
• renewed liability insurance with Lake Region Insurance.
• authorized the sale of a Sterling plow truck from public works.
• authorized seeking bids for Field Crest neighborhood road reconstruction project.
• authorized seeking bids for water main project from Field Crest Park to Swendra Blvd.
• approve the hiring of a seasonal worker for public works.
• approved the hiring of a public works Maintenance Worker II.
• approved hiring three new people for the ambulance service.
• approved the adjustment of lot lines for Bruce Semke. Semke is selling his property, and after having it surveyed, he discovered his driveway was on his neighbor’s land. He and the neighbor came to an agreement to adjust the lot lines to include the driveway with Semke’s property.
• approved a purchase agreement for sale of a Trailstone lot.
• added the DC Chargers Boosters to the list of nonprofit organizations allowed to rent city facilities for free.
• denied a donation request from the Howard Lake Good Neighbor Days organization and passed it on to the fire department relief association.
• approved claims of $394,544.