Caledonia WWTP

A layout of what Caledonia’s new wastewater treatment plant will look like. For reference, Old Highway Drive is in the upper right corner of the photo.

By Craig Moorhead

The Caledonia Argus

With a major rebuild of the City of Caledonia’s wastewater treatment plant looming on the horizon, city council members authorized staff to apply for some serious funding from the Minnesota Public Facilities Authority (PFA) on Monday, Feb. 8.

The city has already been awarded a $7 million State of Minnesota grant to help pay for the project. And the actual PFA low-interest loan amount which would be needed to pay for the rest of the cost could remain a moving target for quite some time. But the resolution to apply for the loan pegged the  amount at $10,559,889. 

“Because we’re going to have some contingency (funds) built in there, your final loan amount won’t be determined until the project’s done...” Caledonia clerk/administrator Adam Swann told the council. “The 10.6 million includes about 2.5 million in contingency...

“The tough thing is in terms of knowing exactly how much to put in our application... it’s kind of guess work right now. The PFA knows that... Basically the purpose would be to get our application in, to get in line.

“This is our best guess right now as to what we would need.” 

The $10 million plus loan application includes funds to pay off a $764,000 General Obligation Sewer Revenue Note from the Minnesota Rural Water Association which the city took out to temporarily cover the cost of design and bidding services. That note came with an interest rate of 1.7 percent. The PFA’s revolving loan program is expected to offer a lower interest rate.

Swann also reported that the project will almost certainly require higher utility rates to pay off the loan. 

Pocket Park for S. Kingston?

The future of a vacant lot in downtown Caledonia was also on the agenda. Members discussed the potential for establishing a new “pocket park” at 119 S. Kingston, and those talks drew some comments from volunteers with the Caledonia Streetscapes committee. 

Committee members said the idea has merit, stating their group is willing to pay for a large (48 by 8 foot) free-standing mural at the site. 

“We think it could be a draw to get people to come and see,” one Streetscapes representative said. That mural could be something unique. The group reported they have been meeting with three-dimensional mural artist Sarah Pederson of Coon Valley, Wisconsin. Her “Lucid Painting” business has completed some eye-catching projects throughout the region, they noted. 

After discussion, council members voted to make on offer to purchase a parcel. The motion was to offer it’s taxable market value ($13,200), which means that, after recovering some liens, the City of Caledonia can be expected to pay between $5,000 to $6,000 for the purchase, Swann reported. 

A pocket park design from city engineering firm Bolton & Menk (which was presented as a possible option but not yet approved) was also discussed briefly. The estimated cost, including ornamental fencing on three sides of the property, tree plantings, pathways, benches and more, was $21,372.

In other news, Swann reported approximately $43,000 in insurance claims presented to the League of Minnesota Cities for City of Caledonia expenses related to fixing damaged stainless steel gutter at the Caledonia Aquatic Center have been accepted. Most of those expenses are engineering fees for the project, which is expected to total almost $500,000 by the time the job is done.

The council also approved a second resolution, which expresses their support for the extension of North Warrior Avenue to State Highway 76. The document also formally authorizes the submission of an application for funding to MNDot’s Local Road Improvement Program, and asks Houston County to support that application.

Briefly

A single vote approved several increases to the rates charged for various services provided by the Caledonia Ambulance Department, effective March 1, 2021. 

Ambulance director Mike Tornstrom said, “The goal of the ambulance service is to cover its own expenses without being too crazy on bills (based) on our rates. (And) understanding that our taxpayers should not have to pay too much for services if they’re not using them.” The per capita charge for the city and affected townships was not increased, and will remain at $14.

Council members also voted to raise the rate of pay for “casual part-time police officers” from $17.95 to $20.50 per hour.

Finally, the consent agenda included the hire of Kristina Hauser as a part-time clerk at the Caledonia Liquor Store, and the purchase of a Ferris 61” lawnmower for $9,500.

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