By Craig Moorhead

The Caledonia Argus

Eric Lynne of Donohue & Associates (St. Louis Park) gave the Caledonia City Council and the public a look at plans and bid specifications for the city’s new wastewater treatment facility during an April 12 public hearing on the project. 

The plant will re-use some items (such as large holding tanks) that the current facility has, but will also inhabit approximately 3.5 acres of nearby land which the city recently bought as part of an 18 acre parcel.  

Council members were asked whether they wanted to “beautify” the cold storage building at the new plant, adding siding and block to dress up the exterior. But they decided by consensus to stick to a basic (less expensive) exterior look for the large shed. 

Lynne reported the estimated total project cost now stands at $17,164,765. A direct appropriation grant from the State of Minnesota will pay $7 million towards that amount, however. 

“Bid-ready” plans are slated to be delivered to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for certification later this month. Bidding is expected to take place in May and June, and the project should be awarded in July. Construction could begin in a matter of weeks after that, with an initial start-up of the new systems tentatively set for the fall of 2022. The end date for all construction is expected to be May of 2023.

The council voted to approve the project manual (plans) and the bid specs for the new wastewater treatment plant. Another vote (part of the consent agenda) approved a proposal from Braun Intertec to provide “pre-demolition inspection services” for hazardous materials at the old wastewater plant. The cost for that work was $2,711.

The council also approved a resolution authorizing the City of Caledonia to apply for a Minnesota Public Facilities Authority loan of $950,070 to construct well house No. 8, bringing the well that was drilled last year into production. “The ultimate loan amount will depend on what the bids come in at,” city clerk/administrator Adam Swann reported.

In other news, members approved an agreement with Caledonia Township which will rebuild the portion of Green Acres drive which lies within the city limits. That part of the roadway is about 308 feet in length, according to a project quote. 

The city and township will each pay 50% of the cost to rebuild the roadway in 2021, and double chip seal the project in 2022. A third coat of chip seal will cover a snowmobile crossing over the road. A Griffin Construction quote to perform the 2021 work for $16,133 was accepted on the same vote.  

The City of Caledonia and the Rural Fire District will split the $33,573 cost of a battery-powered “jaws of life” unit for the Caledonia Fire Department. A Caledonia Fire Department Relief Association donation paid for a set of additional tools for the device. Those items cost $10,624.

The council also approved a cooperative agreement between the City of Caledonia Ambulance Service and the City of Houston Ambulance Service to provide “advanced life support intercept” service. Caledonia already offers ALS service, while Houston currently offers basic life support to patients, according to the pact. 

The council discussed the future of Sprague Woods. That parcel of City of Caledonia land near Highway 44 in the north-western quarter of the city currently hosts walking trails, but was cited in a recent (December 2020) update to the city’s comprehensive plan as being better suited for commercial development. The comp plan noted that steering the property towards commercial development made sense “as that may be a more appropriate use for that property based on its location.”

Councilman Bob Klug asked members to consider selling the parcel to a private individual who has expressed interest in developing the land. 

“There isn’t really a whole lot of use for it as far as walking paths...” he noted. 

Council member Amanda Ninneman said the city should take input from  community members before selling. Mayor DeWayne Schroeder said, “Most of the trees out there are not in good shape... I’d just as soon see it put to good use.” 

Matt Schuldt of the Caledonia EDA suggested any proceeds from the sale be earmarked for City of Caledonia parks, adding the 18-acre parcel, which will house much of the new wastewater treatment plant, is likely to become mostly parkland. 

Councilman David Fitzpatrick said the council should hold a public hearing on the topic. The subject was tabled until a public hearing can be convened on the matter. That will most likely occur on May 10.

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