Winsted City Council Minutes

City of Winsted

City Council Meeting

Council Chambers

March 4, 2008

6:00 p.m.


Present:                        Mayor Steve Stotko                                   

Council Member Bonnie Quast                                   

Council Member Tom Wiemiller


Staff Present:                        Brent Mareck, City Administrator

Raquel Kirchoff, Administrative Assistant

Fran Eggert, City Attorney

Justin Heldt, Police Officer


Absent:                        Council Member Tom Ollig

Council Member Dave Mochinski


1)            Mayor Stotko called the meeting to order at 6:00 p.m.


            a)            The Pledge of Allegiance was taken.           


2)            Consent Agenda


            Mareck requested the addition of a consent agenda item for the authorization of the purchase of three (3) 40 ft. flagpoles by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company for the new City Hall for $3,897.00.  He mentioned that Millerbernd Manufacturing Company should be commended for the price of the flagpoles.


Quast motioned to adopt the Consent Agenda as presented, and additionally motioned authorization for the purchase of three (3) 40 ft. flagpoles by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company for the new City Hall for $3,987.00.  Wiemiller seconded.  Motion carried 3-0.


a)              Minutes – City Council Work Session – February 19, 2008


Accepted the minutes of the City Council Work Session of February 19, 2008.


b)              Regular City Council Meeting – February 19, 2008


            Accepted the minutes of the Regular City Council Meeting of February 19, 2008.


c)            Employee of the Year” Program


Adopted an “Employee of the Year” program for full-time city employees.


d)              Camera Equipment – Interview Room – Winsted City Hall


Authorized the purchase and installation of audio/video equipment by Dostal Electronics for the interview room in the Winsted City Hall for $2,784.75 (cable fund).


e)               Additional Contaminated Soils - Change Order – Winsted City Hall


Authorized a change order for the removal of additional contaminated soils for the Winsted City Hall in the amount of $5,144.55.


f)               Winter Conditions – Change Order – Winsted City Hall


Authorized a change order for the reimbursement of winter conditions for the Winsted City Hall in the amount of $46,967.66.


g)            City Hall and Lakefront Promenade Project – Pay Request #5


Approved Pay Request #5 in the amount of $255,241.25 to Greystone Construction Company for work completed on the City Hall and Lakefront Promenade project.


h)               Plans and Specifications – Airport CIP


Approved plans and specifications and authorized the advertisement of bids for capital projects at the airport.


i)            Claims



3)            Public Hearings


4)            Old Business


5)            New Business


a)            Littfin Lift Station – People Service


Dan Wroge, People Services, Incorporated, was present to address the City Council about the Littfin Lift Station malfunction that occurred on February 10, 2008, which caused sewer back-ups for four (4) Winsted properties.  Wroge summarized the events that happened as follows.  People Service operator Phil Robinson received a high-level alarm from the Omni-site at the Littfin lift station at 12:55 a.m.  Robinson contacted Lee Ortloff, People Service operator on call, at 4:35 a.m.and told him to check the station on his normal weekend rounds.  The reason he did not contact Ortloff immediately was because the Littfin lift station has over 15 hours of holding time under normal conditions.


Ortloff arrived at the station at 5:00 a.m. and did all the necessary checks, including running the pumps at hand.  He then placed the pumps back into auto mode.  He saw no indication that the high level alarm was still active and assumed the pumps were working normally again.  He could not see if the level in the wet well was pumped down due to fog and steam in the well created by the cold weather.  After this check was done at the station, both operators assumed that everything was working normal because no more alarms were received from the Omni-site.  People Service did not realize there were any more problems until they were contacted at 9:40 p.m. by Dave Meyer, Public Works Lead – City of Winsted, who informed Robinson that Winsted residents were reporting sewer back-ups.  Meyer and Robinson worked to return the pumps to normal operation.  


Wroge stated that the malfunction was caused by the cold weather with extreme windchills.  The heater in the control panel could not produce enough heat to keep the controls working.  Since this incident, new heaters have been ordered for both the Littfin and Kingsley lift stations.  He also acknowledged operator error as a cause for the sewer back-ups and stated that corrective action has been issued.  The operators should have been on-line, checking the status of the station.  He stated that People Service did not realize that the Omni-Site would only issue one warning even though the alarm was still active.  To prevent any future lift station malfunctions, Wroge stated that a strobe light will be installed on top of the lift station that will remain lit after an alarm until all systems are working properly.  In addition, e-mails will be sent to People Service personnel to ensure that everyone is aware of the alarms sounding.  Wroge also stated that People Service’s insurance has been in contact and is in the process of issuing settlements with back-up victims.


Mayor Stotko extended an apology and sympathy from the city to the victims.


Council members Wiemiller and Quast stated their concerns about only one call coming from the Omni-site and why the operators did not know that there was still a problem after Ortloff had checked the station.  Quast questioned if a new alarm system should be installed.  Wroge again stated that the strobe light should be a sufficient alarm addition and that human error was the cause for no on-line monitoring of the station after the alarm was received.


Andrew and Marie Riemer, 402 6th Street North, were present as victims of this sewer back-up incident.  Riemer stated that he had four (4) –six (6) inches of sewage in his basement.    He stated his dissatisfaction with the response time of the insurance settlements, noting that it has been over three (3) weeks without the use of their basement.  He believes that the only reason he has received the response that he has is because he has had to be demanding of the insurance company.  He believes that this issue is the ultimate responsibility of the city as an overseer to their contractors.  Riemer stated that it is good to talk about prevention of future malfunctions, but questions if the lift stations can truly handle the needs, especially with the new developments that are planned for his area of the city.  He also reminded the council that the previous owner of his property had storm sewer back-up at the property. 


Mrs. Riemer questioned if the response time from the time the initial alarm was received to the time an operator got to the Littfin lift station was a reasonable response time.  Wroge responded that the lift station has 15 hours of holding time and he believed it was.  She disagreed and Mr. Riemer suggested that a “reasonable” response time be defined in a service agreement.  Mrs. Riemer also questioned if there were any mechanical fail safes available to prevent pump malfunctions.  Wroge responded there were not for pumps. 


Gordon and Lenora Kubasch, 210 6th Street North, were also present as victims of sewer back-up.  Kubasch stated that he was lucky that he did not go to bed at his routine time on this night and was up a while longer.  Because of this, their damage was not as extensive as others.  He also stated that because of their family business, he had pumps to use to remove the sewage from their property.  Mrs. Kubasch stated her frustration on the fact that they had not reached a settlement in writing from the insurance company and that they seemed sluggish in the handling of the claim.  She wanted the council to know that there is a lot of manual work involved in cleaning up and repairing the damage and that it is especially hard because it is winter, giving no option of moving belongings outside while the damage repair is in progress.


Wroge stated that he did request a Minnesota representative to help with the insurance claims and Mrs. Kubasch verified that they had had some help from a Minnesota representative and they were satisfied with her customer service skills.


Mareck stated that weekly contacts from the city would be made with each victim until their claims were completed.


In other topics, Wroge ended his discussion with a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA)/pond abandonment update.  Mayor Stotko then asked if the monthly management reporting, produced by People Service for the city, could be put into a table or graph format.  Wroge stated he would provide this type of reporting.


6)            No Department Report


7)            Open Forum


Mareck summarized a letter received from Greg Gehrmann, 161 Main Avenue West, stating that it was a letter of clarification from the February 19, 2008 City Council meeting.  At this meeting, Sam Ulland, 163 Main Avenue West, had displayed photographs of the poor physical condition of the hardware store at 161 Main Avenue West, owned by Gehrman.  Gehrman states, in his letter, that these photos were at least two (2) years old and not current.  Gehrman also stated that the blight mentioned by Ulland, in regards to the hardware store, was also nearly two (2) years ago and was corrected immediately upon notification at that time.


8)            No Announcements


9)            Adjournment


Quast motioned to adjourn.  Wiemiller seconded.  Motion carried 3-0.


Respectfully submitted,




Raquel Kirchoff

Administrative Assistant

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