COKATO, MN Cokato City Council members eyed several big budget items carefully at the council’s meeting Monday evening.
City Center options
NOTE: The "City Center" project refers to a road and infrastructure project in the city center, or original part of town.
Shelly Eldridge of the municipal financial planning firm Ehlers, told the council about several bonding options that could be used to fund the proposed City Center project. The project cost is estimated at $9 million.
“This scares the heck out of me,” council member Butch Amundsen said. “If we do this thing, we don’t do any projects for 20 years.”
Mayor Gordy Erickson expressed his understanding of Amundsen’s position. “If we do these two phases (of the City Center project), the rest of the town is pretty good,” he said. It’s a hard decision to make.”
City Administrator Annita Smythe presented a possible way to help make the decision. She suggested asking for input from the public, and hiring Ehlers to conduct a utility rate study.
If a public meeting regarding the City Center project and the utility rate study could both be completed in the next 30 days, the council could address the issue again at its December meeting, when city fees are set.
Eldridge told the council the proposed rate study would provide statistics for the next 20 years. “The staff can do a lot of ‘what-ifs’ from them,” she said.
The council approved Smythe’s idea to host a public meeting at a date and time to be determined, and have the utility rate study completed.
Timing wastewater facility improvements
City engineer Josh Halvorson informed the council that both bid approval and the beginning of construction for the city’s wastewater facility improvements are due to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) no later than Monday, Dec. 2.
Halvorson said while the project plans were ready to bid, funding was too limited. He noted the city had applied for project financing with the Revolving Loan Fund and a Point Source Improvement Grant (PSIG).
He also said that MPCA delays on permit modifications and the limited size of the bonding bill were the primary reasons the city was not eligible for project financing previously.
Halvorson suggested a solution. He said the city could work with the MPCA to have the wastewater treatment permit reissued prior to the expiration of the current permit, with an adjusted compliance and construction schedule.
If approved, the city would have time to learn the amount of monies to be received from both the bonding bill and a related PSIG grant. (The proposed PSIG grant amount is approximately $2.2 million.)
Halvorson said the waste- water treatment plant project was at the top of the list for receipt of potential bond funds.
“I feel fairly confident we’ll be able to get some money,” he said, “and I don’t think there will be any recourse from the MPCA.”
The council expressed appreciation to Halvorson for the update.
The council accepted the resignation of firefighter Mike Enerson, and the hire of Hans Aho to fill the vacancy. Fire Chief Hutch Erickson said the fire department currently has 25 members, but would like 28 on the roster within the next year.
The council also accepted the resignation of Dan Faust from the Cokato Manor Board. Faust has served on the board since 1987. The council appointed Teresa Martinson to serve as Faust’s replacement.
Odd and ends
In other business, the council:
• decided to ask the fire department to burn the brush pile, instead of having it chipped. (The cost to chip the brush pile was $5,000 in 2018.).
• designated Cokato City Hall as the city’s official polling place for the next year.
• approved the renewal of a memorandum of understanding with the city of Dassel, Dassel Township, and Dassel-Cokato Public Schools, regarding the Dassel-Cokato Area Trail.
• approved pay voucher number one, in the amount of $182,578, for the Field Crest street improvement project.
• received the museum’s quarterly report.
• rescheduled the November city council meeting to Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 6 p.m., because Veterans Day is on Monday, Nov. 11, the normal meeting day.