City Council-Owen Blocker

Eagle Scout Owen Blocker presents to the Caledonia City Council.

By Craig Moorhead

The Caledonia Argus

With a new well to pay for, and construction of a new wastewater treatment plant scheduled to begin soon, the Caledonia City Council approved increases to water and sewer rates during its March 22 meeting.

Beginning on July 1, 2021, water rates for 5/8 and 3/4” service lines will increase from $15.60 to $17.30 for fixed monthly charges, with larger increases tied to bigger lines/meters. 

The variable (per gallon charge) will also rise slightly, from $2.30 per 1000 gallons to $2.40. On the same date, sewer charges will also increase, with fixed monthly amounts going from $13.30 to $19.20 for 5/8 and 3/4” meters, and bigger increases for 1 inch to 4 inch lines. Volume charges will rise from $5.40 to $6.20 per 1,000 gallons. 

The council also voted to update disconnection and reconnection fees for electric, water, and sewer service for mixed-use buildings, such as downtown businesses with upstairs apartments. Electrical, water, and sewer disconnections will cost $50 each. Reconnection charges will be $50 for electric, $100 for water, and $250 for sewer.

City clerk/administrator Adam Swann reported the League of Minnesota Cities, which the City of Caledonia has insured its aquatic center, has forwarded $450,000 to go towards the replacement of rusted gutters at that facility. The work has already begun, and the pool is expected to open on time this spring.

Members approved several items on their “consent” agenda. One of those was a memorandum of understanding modifying a 2021 – 2023 collective bargaining agreement with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49. 

Union members will be able to participate in the Minnesota State Retirement System’s Health Care Savings Plan under the MOU, with employees who have 0-24 years of service contributing 3% of wages, those with 25-34 years contributing 4%, and those with 35-plus years contributing 10%. Upon retirement or termination of city employment, members will contribute 100% of the value of their unused vacation time to their HCSP account.

Another consent item was the acceptance of a $10,000 contribution from Caledonia Ambulance, Inc. to be used towards the purchase of a parcel of land at 615 W. Washington Street. That land has been earmarked as the future site of a new ambulance station. 

The consent vote also approved the purchase of a three-door display cooler for the Municipal Liquor Store for $6,934, moving a walk-in cooler condensing unit from the inside of that building to the outside for a cost of “up to $2,280,” and a three-year pump station maintenance agreement with Minnesota Pump Works to inspect pumps at 10 stations on a yearly basis. The cost for that service is $2,558 per year. 

Council members discussed some needed repairs to a section of Green Acres Drive. A portion of that roadway approximately 300 feet in length runs through the city limits, servicing a number of homes in Caledonia Township. 

Swann said the city is obligated to prevent the deteriorating road from becoming hazardous, but work would not necessarily involve paving the road, which could be re-built as a gravel-topped thoroughfare. City staff provided four quotes from contractors who offered to do the work of digging out the base, disposing of that material, then rebuilding with 12 inches of compacted breaker run rock topped with six inches of class 5 or class 2 road rock, also compacted.

The least expensive quote totaled $14,220. The council decided to discuss the matter with the township before proceeding. If the latter group wants to work out an agreement and help pay for a different fix, council members would entertain an offer, either at their next meeting on April 12, or by calling an emergency session sooner than that.

The council also voted to utilize Liquor Fund dollars to pay for a parcel of land at 119 S. Kingston Street. Members offered to buy the lot for $13,200 on February 8, and Houston County (which had acquired the property for back taxes via a quit claim deed), accepted the offer the morning after the March 22nd council meeting.   

Eagle Scout candidate Owen Blocker presented a recap of his recent project to the council, including some photos. Work included painting and other improvements (such as new equipment racks) to ballfield dugouts at Veteran’s Recreation Area in Caledonia. Blocker worked with the American Legion and Caledonia city staff, both of which he thanked. “It looks nice!” Mayor DeWayne Schroeder said. Other council members agreed.

The council also discussed some potential uses for an 18-acre parcel bought to locate their new wastewater treatment plant on, but chose not to make any decisions on the matter until that facility is much closer to completion. 

Approximately 14.5 acres of the land is expected to lie outside the boundary of the WWTP, even though some of those acres will be set aside as a “dry pond” for storm water retention.

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