By Craig Moorhead

The Caledonia Argus

The Caledonia City Council approved a set of 2022 wage increases for non-union employees during their Nov. 8 session. 

Full-time positions such as chief of police, ambulance director, public works/zoning director, and city clerk/administrator will all see 2% increases, as will certain part-time, seasonal, and temporary positions. 

Some salaried employees will also see step increases after January 1st. The raises correspond with union wage agreements which have been settled. The city still has a contract to settle with Law Enforcement Labor Services, and a mediation has been scheduled for that matter on Dec. 22.

In other news, the council convened a public hearing to consider unpaid utility charges and unpaid special charges, such as the abatement of public nuisances and lawn mowing. No members of the public spoke during the hearing. 

When the regular meeting resumed, the council voted to certify the owed amounts with the Houston County auditor for collection with property taxes payable in 2022. The unpaid utility charges include properties at 708 E. Main Street, 219 E. Grove St. #2, 418 E. Grove St., and 315 W. Grove St. The unpaid special charges include properties at 315 W. Grove St., 916 E. Main St., and 418 E. Grove St. City clerk/administrator Adam Swann reported that more unpaid bills may come before the council for assessment in December.

A consent agenda vote approved a $5,600 payment to Ricchio Incorporated for retainage which was released via an earlier council vote to settle a dispute over “liquidated damages.” 

The city charged the company those damages for late-finished work at the Caledonia Aquatic Center. The City of Caledonia had deducted 51 days of damages from the total amount owed for the work when the job was not completed on time last spring, charging $400 per day. The reduced damages were accepted by the contractor, and totaled $14,800. 

Swann reported the City of Caledonia has been awarded a $6,300 Arlin Falck Foundation grant for improvements such as some new benches and signage at Sprague Woods, a city park which has undergone several improvements in 2021, including the introduction of goats to eat invasive plant species. Some of the funds may also be used to pay for further goat pasturing. Swann thanked Kari Neumann of the Friends of Sprague Woods volunteer group for help with the grant application.

Attorney/lobbyist Elizabeth Wefel of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities gave the council updates on recent and future State of Minnesota legislative sessions. 

Topics of particular concern for member cities include Local Government Aid (which was not cut in 2021), money for Public Facilities Authority water infrastructure programs, PFAS contamination (including efforts to reduce those pollutants at the source), child care initiatives, business development grants, housing grants (including a potential new fix-up fund program), and dedicated funding to help pay for street repairs. 

Council members expressed some enthusiasm for having new bike races visit the area, including one which could take place on Caledonia streets. Swann said he had been contacted by Chase Wark of the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities Cycling Team. There were no decisions made after initial talks, but two races were discussed – the aforementioned city-based competition on a short circuit, and another which could travel a much longer route over county roads. The third or fourth week of April or sometime in May were mentioned as possible race dates.

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