By Craig Moorhead

The Caledonia Argus

The Caledonia City Council gave a green light for Houston County to build a new $6 to $7 million highway headquarters/shop facility near the county fairgrounds last week. 

The project was delayed briefly as city and county officials worked out just how much each party would pay for water main improvements to feed the site. That was decided at the November 9 meeting. The county has agreed to pay two-thirds of the cost of constructing the water main loop, while the city will provide one third of the estimated $126,446 cost. The improved service main will be able to deliver more water to the county shop, while also providing enhanced flow to current and future users along the loop. A formal contract on the cost-share agreement is being drafted by Caledonia’s city attorney.

With that issue settled, council members voted to approve a conditional use permit application for the project, and also issue a building permit via the land use application. Members also approved a pair of setback variances in the southeast corner of the site for new rock, sand, and salt storage sheds.

In other news, the council voted to utilize all of the city’s remaining CARES Act dollars before any leftover funds would need to be turned over to Houston County. Those funds began with a $212.761 distribution to the City of Caledonia, which began by creating a COVID-19 relief grant program. Caledonia-based businesses and non-profits applied for, and were awarded 35 grants totaling $161,681. City expenses related to the pandemic were also tracked. With a November 9 addition of seven laptop computers for city use (such as allowing staff and council members to join Zoom meetings), those costs totaled $50,675. 

A separate grant through Houston County for some plastic barriers reduced the expense total by $1,411, so approximately $1,815 in CARES Act funds remained at the time of last week’s meeting. However, city staff reported that recent COVID-19 expenses could use up all, or nearly all of that remainder. A final vote by the council directed that any potential remaining dollars will be donated to the Four Seasons Community Center before the November 15 deadline to use the money.

Members also voted to assess eight unpaid utility bills and unpaid special charges owed by an equal number of landowners to property tax rolls. The special charges were incurred for a number of reasons, such as snow removal or cleaning up garbage.

A single consent agenda vote approved several items, including accepting the resignations of two long-time members of the Caledonia Ambulance Department. Council members noted the leaving of part-time EMR (emergency medical responder) Mike Meiners and part-time EMT (emergency medical technician) Jacob Theobald with thanks for their years of service.

The council also discussed the 2021 final levy, but made no motion to certify the amount which will eventually appear on tax rolls. A potential cut to 2021 Local Government Aid from the State of Minnesota is the wild card which makes budgeting difficult, members noted. For each percent point of “un-allotment,” the City of Caledonia would lose around $10,000 in revenue.

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