By Jordan Gerard
Editor, The Caledonia Argus
Hokah’s first resolution of 2020 was a momentous one, as the council passed a resolution asking the state to consider lowering the speed limit on Highway 16 as the road comes into Hokah.
The resolution essentially asks the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to conduct a traffic study in order to reduce speed in the area identified by Hokah Police Chief Bob Schuldt.
“I’ve had a lot of conversation with citizens, council members, the mayor,” Schuldt said. “We’ve had two fatalities. It’s a 55 mph speed zone all the way through to the intersection [of Highway 44].”
The section of Highway 16 in question is from the intersection with Highway 44 to city limits (10th Street) coming into town. That area does have a sign with a recommended speed of 45 mph, however that sign is “advisory only,” Schuldt said. He is not able to enforce that speed limit.
Highway 16 is also scheduled for a speed limit increase to 60 mph some time in the future. Highway 44’s speed was increased to 60 mph this past summer.
Councilor Don Bissen suggested asking the state to install rumble strips as drivers approach the city.
City Attorney Skip Weiser said the state historically requires a traffic study to be done before any changes would be made. It would also have to be decided who would pay for it and cost allocation.
Schuldt also reached out to Rep. Greg Davids (R-Preston) and Senator Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) about lowering the speed limit. Davids recommended passing the resolution and doing a traffic study with the state.
Davids told the Argus later, “I think it’s a very responsible, reasonable request to the state. We’ll be looking forward to a response from the DOT.”
Sen. Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) said he hoped Hokah officials and MnDOT would reach a “positive outcome.”
“The residents of Hokah know what’s best for their community, and I support the resolution passed by the city council. I am in the process of organizing a meeting between officials from Hokah and MnDOT in order to come to a successful resolution to this issue,” he wrote in a statement to the Argus.
The motion was made by councilor Jerry Martell and seconded by Cynthia Pfiffner. It passed unamiously.
Como Falls flood update
Schuldt announced the city would receive about $141,200 from Homeland Security, after the financials passed an auditor, after a 2019 flood re-arranged Como Falls Park.
The city spent about $35,320.60 on repairs to the park and other flood-related projects. Schuldt recommended closing out the Merchants Bank special fund, which brought in about $10,400. The Hokah Forever group also collected funds for flood efforts. Both funds will be donated back into the city.
Fire truck financing
The council passed a motion to negotiate with Mid America Bank Lease Corp. in order to finance a new fire truck that is expected to be delivered in February 2021.
The council has the option of a seven or 10-year lease on the truck, with no penalty if they pay it off early. The city will also get a deduction of $3,698 off the total price if they pay $96,638 of the price when the chassis is received.
The city will need to pay about $144,317.29 for the new truck and will receive payments from Hokah, Brownsville and Union townships toward the truck. Mound Prairie Township requested to borrow with the city. Each township would need to pay a chunk of funds toward the new fire truck.
The total cost of the truck is $332,677, but with $44,042.43 in the fire reserve fund set aside, that leaves $288,634.57 between the city and the surrounding townships. Hokah Township is asked to pay $75,044.99, Mound Prairie is asked to pay $34,636.15, Union is asked to pay $23,090.76 and Brownsville township is asked to pay $11,545.38.
Those amounts were determined by a formula based on population, taxable market value and number of fire calls, City Clerk Lindsey Martell clarified.
The council did not specify which term they would take, but asked Martell to get more information on the interest rate and if they could lock it in.
The council discussed restructuring pool staff and improving safety. Mayor Mike Walsh and councilors agreed a meeting with the recreation board was in order, but a date was not set.
The council approved a repayment schedule with MnDOT for a proposed snow removal agreement for the 2020 winter season. The city changed the term of the agreement to expire in June 2020 and will work with MnDOT later to get a more favorable agreement in the future.
The next meeting of the Hokah City Council will be Feb. 4, at 6 p.m., at the community room at the fire station.