By Craig Moorhead
The Caledonia Argus
In their final meeting of 2020, the Caledonia City Council made some important decisions. The Dec. 28 session was also the last for two long-time members.
After plenty of discussions, the council voted 3-2 to purchase a parcel of land at 615 W. Washington Street as a building site for a new ambulance station. The purchase resolution states that the Paulette L. Chamberlin Revocable Trust agrees to sell the property for $95,000. The City of Caledonia will utilize $85,000 from the Ambulance Fund, and a $10,000 donation from the Caledonia Ambulance Association for the acquisition.
The resolution that enabled the purchase also states “the City desires to acquire the property because it is in a desirable location and of an appropriate size for construction of a new ambulance station.”
That statement summarized the crux of the matter, as members looked at several other potential sites which the city already owns before voting on the purchase, and even considered paying an outside company (TSP, Inc.) to prepare a feasibility study comparing two (or more) potential sites.
But all of the alternative parcels would have come with some shortcomings as to size, dimensions, and/or location, or would have required some potentially expensive preparations before they would be ready for construction. The West Washington parcel is already vacant, and is located near the intersection of that roadway and State Highway 44/76.
In other voting, council members formally approved an updated comprehensive plan for the city, as well as a capital improvement plan for 2021-2025.
Shannon Sweeney of David Drown Associates, Inc. presented the draft of the new comprehensive plan during a public hearing on the matter. He had met with council members for discussions on the evolving plan in special sessions numerous times in 2020. The plan lays out a path for future development, mapping the city into low and high density residential areas, commercial, industrial, public/institutional zones, and park/recreation/open spaces.
The draft includes the following statement by way of introduction: “The purpose of the Comprehensive Plan for the City of Caledonia is to assist in shaping the future for the community by creating a set of guiding principles. The Comprehensive Plan builds on previous community planning projects including the 1980 and 2007 Comprehensive Plans.”
One change that the plan proposes is “guiding the property (called Sprague Woods) for commercial development as that may be a more appropriate use for that property based on its location.”
The Capital Improvement Plan is another guiding document, laying out a set of future projects by department and funding sources. The CIP does not approve actual spending – which council members must vote on - but it does lay out numerous items that the council will need to address.
For example, the actual construction of a new ambulance station has an estimated cost of $950,000, and is currently slated for 2022. Replacing a Caledonia Police Department squad car in 2021 is another priority, with an estimated cost of $49,873.
And under the sewer division, the replacement/upgrade of the city’s wastewater treatment plant is expected to cost $16,584,028. Funding includes $7 million in State Aid, and a $9.5 million Minnesota Clean Water Fund Loan. That project was listed as “priority 1” for it’s department in 2021.
On a related note, the council reviewed three quotes and approved the low offer for an all -wheel drive 2021 Durango pursuit vehicle (without specialized equipment) for their police department. The winning quote came from Sleepy Hollow Inc., and the price was $35,000, including a $4,500 trade-in. City clerk/administrator Adam Swann said the city had budgeted $39,000 for the vehicle, with another $10,000 set aside to equip the car once it is delivered.
In other news, members finalized the 2021 budgets for several enterprise funds. Those include the Water Fund, Sewer Fund, Stormwater Fund, Electric Fund, and Liquor Fund.
Council members Paul Fisch and Randi Vick were attending the last meeting of their terms of office. Mayor DeWayne Schroeder presented each of them with plaques recognizing “Twenty years of honorable, distinguished service to the City of Caledonia.”
Fisch and Vick’s replacements are Amanda Wray Ninneman and Robert Klug, who were scheduled to take the oath of office on Jan. 4.
The next council meeting is scheduled for Jan. 11 at 6 p.m.