By Craig Moorhead

The Caledonia Argus

The Caledonia City Council took another step towards upgrading the city’s wastewater treatment plant on Monday, August 26. After hearing from Mike Gerbitz of engineering firm Donahue & Associates, council members approved an additional $48,400 in spending for the St Louis Park, Minnesota company to complete phase two of the facility plan that will jump-start the process.

Senior vice president Gerbitz said that a completed facility plan is expected to be submitted to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on or about March 6, 2020. He spoke with council members on the particulars of that document, as well as other aspects of the project, such as grants and low interest loans to cover costs. A best-case scenario would be for 80% of those dollars to come from grants,  Gerbitz added.

But the City of Caledonia has a challenging target to meet as far as the total amount of nitrogen in it’s wastewater discharge.

Eric Lynne of Donahue & Associates spoke on that topic following the meeting: “Caledonia’s wastewater (a variety of flow from sinks, toilets, showers, industrial waste, and the occasional undesirable sump pump) is conveyed to the wastewater treatment facility for water recovery and nutrient capture,” he stated in a written response to a question from the Argus. “These nutrients include carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus. Capturing these nutrients for fertilizer requires energy, time, and special techniques to maximize nutrient removal. The current facility is designed to remove a majority of these nutrients but is limited in the ability to remove all the nitrogen fractions. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has become increasingly concerned with the city’s final treated effluent water with respect to the total nitrogen concentration. A maximum limit of 10 milligrams per liter (mg/L) of Total Nitrogen (TN) is required to protect groundwater from contamination beyond the drinking water standards; especially since the municipal drinking water is obtained from the ground...” 

In other news, council members passed a resolution which requires either the repair or razing of a dilapidated home at 916 E. Main St.

If they do not take corrective action, homeowners or their legal representatives (such as persons with power of attorney) have 20 days to respond “by filing such an answer in the office of Court Administrator of Houston County District Court,” according to the document. 

“If you pass this tonight... even once they have time to respond to it there would be additional time by the time we actually file with the court to have the authority to enforce it...” city clerk/administrator Adam Swann said of the potential razing. “It’s a lengthy process.

“With winter coming up, if we think we need to get it torn down, we’re probably looking at the end of November at the latest, which was when we got the Hauser building down last year,” the administrator added.

Swann also reported that a vice president with Mayo Clinic called “to pass along a message that they want to assure us that despite the fact that they are closing the La Crescent Clinic, the Caledonia Clinic will remain open. They said that they are not in the process of downsizing.” The Mayo Clinic Health System clinic in La Crescent will reportedly be closing on November 22.

Council members broke open the 2020 city budgeting process as well, working through expected income and expenses for about an hour. The process is still in it’s early stages, but a levy increase of approximately 6.5% was proposed by city staff to keep the budget on an even keel. Members will need to set a proposed levy before the end of September, then certify the actual payable levy before the end of the year.

Briefly:

The council once again tabled a request from Neuman Pools, Inc., to release $43,096 in retainage funds held since the construction of the Caledonia Aquatic Center, citing the need to meet again with their legal council on the matter.

Members convened a public hearing on a 12-foot setback variance that would allow Amanda Mazza and Steven Breitenfield to build an attached garage at 420 S. Pine St., then voted to grant the measure.

Councilman Brad Rykhus abstained from a vote which added him as a member of the Caledonia Fire Department.

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