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October 22, 2018

10/4/2018 3:49:00 PM
Bids for sewer line to new school rejected, early levy OK'd


The Chisago City Council on Sept. 25 worked its way through a lengthy agenda that saw some long-awaited projects move two steps forward and one major project take a giant step back.

Inability to acquire the necessary easements for a planned trunk sewer line on Karmel Avenue leading to the new Chisago Lakes Elementary School forced the council to reject all eight bids on the project. Bids had ranged from $527,000 to $1 million.

The city engineer told the council that the depth of the planned line meant the city had to acquire right of way from private property owners to complete the project. Because some of those property owners declined to provide easements, the city will now look at a different design.     

Mayor Bob Gustafson expressed concern saying, “If we have to go out for bids again, we’re going to be deep into the fall before this comes back to the council.”

The city engineer said, despite the delay, they would still be able to provide sewer service to the school by next April, although a special council meeting might be required to keep things moving. He said it would take a month and a half of “actual work” to construct the sewer trunk line once a new design is created and new bids are received.

2019 Levy and budget hearing set
With minimal discussion, the council approved a $2.637 million preliminary tax levy for 2019 (plus an additional $45,000 for the sewer plant levied only in Taxing Subdistrict A/former Chisago City). The public hearing for the levy for 2019 is 6:35 p.m. on Nov. 27.
The proposed levy represents a 5.4 percent increase over last year and includes $100,000 to the capital improvement levy for downtown renovation, a 6.58 percent increase in the Lake Area Police budget, an increase in health insurance benefits for staff and a 3 percent cost of living increase in wages.  

Also included was nearly $400,000 for debt service. The levies for Ojiketa Regional Park and the EDA were also increased. Because the net tax capacities of the city have increased, the proposed overall tax rate for the city will remain the same.

City subscribes to solar savings
Despite ongoing concerns voiced by Councilman Jeremy Dresel, the council voted four-to-one to go ahead with a 25-year subscription to a community solar garden.

Under terms of the agreement, the city will receive a credit on Xcel bills for energy produced by the solar garden, and will pay a monthly subscription fee to ReneSola Power Holdings, LLC, the company operating the solar garden. The monthly subscription fee is less than the Xcel credit, resulting in a savings to the city.        

ReneSola estimates savings of $791,000 to the city over 25 years based on current electrical use. That estimate assumes rate increases of 2.5 percent a year by Xcel over the course of the contract.

Councilman Dresel argued repeatedly that “the cost (to the city) is guaranteed but the credit is not guaranteed.”  Dresel contended that, theoretically, if Xcel’s rates would go down in the future the savings to the city would disappear.”

Mayor Gustafson countered, “The only way we would lose is if the (Xcel) rates go down…and we’re never going to see a utility bill go down.”

Representatives of RenaSola stated that the fee charged the city will never increase over the 25-year life of the agreement. They also said, “The credit you receive is, by law, an equation that takes Xcel’s rates and calculates your credit. If you think Xcel’s rates are going to go up, then the credit will go up.” It is acknowledged by all that the majority of the savings to the city will come at the end of the 25-year agreement.

Another small solar garden project required council discussion. US Solar Corp. is seeking a permit to install a 10-acre solar garden at the corner of Wyoming Trail and 275th St. The project does not need city council approval as long as it meets zoning requirements. The only question before the city was a the city’s requirement that the developer cover the potential cost of decommissioning the facility in the future. The council voted unanimously to require a $35,000 letter of credit in lieu of cash to cover any potential decommissioning.
The council voted in favor of rezoning 11 acres off Old Towne Road from low/medium density residential to medium density residential before approving the final plat for Old Towne Estates. The development is located on the east side of Old Towne Rd. between 276th and 278th streets. Planner Courtney Weikert stated that about 50 percent of the property is wetland, and the rezone allows single-family small lots and clustered development with preservation of wetlands.

Neighbors had expressed concern about the project at a Sept. 6 public hearing after which the planning commission had voted 3-2 to recommend approval. Concerns centered around density of housing and comments that it did not fit the character of the neighborhood. No members of the public appeared to speak on the project at the Sept. 25 council meeting.

The developer originally submitted a plat proposing 26 lots for detached single-family homes, amended now to develop the land in two phases. They will develop 11 lots on land south of 276th in Phase 1. The area north of 278th designated as an outlot will be developed in Phase 2. The two phases ultimately will be connected by a sidewalk. The platted lots in Phase 1 are 55 to 60-feet wide and 125-feet deep, located on 1.93 net developable acres. Phase 2 is approximately 7.469 acres.  Drainage issues and maintenance of storm water ponds were issues of concern to the council. Before voting to approve the plat, Councilman Dresel commented that he hesitated to vote on the project without updated drawings, which had been requested by the planning commission. Updated drawings are one of the conditions for it to proceed.

In a related action, no public comment was heard at a brief Sept. 25 public hearing to vacate 277th St. and two alleys in the Old Towne Estates development. City Attorney Tom Miller explained that the city’s only role was to determine whether the public ways were necessary after the property is developed and new roads are completed. Hearing no objection, the council voted to approve vacating the identified public ways.

The city entered into a contract with Straight Line Construction for design/build of a park pavilion and bathroom facility in the downtown Moberg Park. Previous formal bids on the project came in well over estimates. Administrator John Pechman explained that Straight Line was asked to review the previous bids and make revisions. Under terms of the contract, financial impact will be under $175,000 per structure and the structures will be priced separately (to remain below the threshhold for formal bids) with the project to proceed as soon as possible. The contract period is Oct. 1, 2018 to June 1, 2019.

In other business, the council:
- Approved the design for two accessory structures requested by Peterson Companies, a 17-foot wide by 210-foot long structure and a 16-foot wide by 90-foot long structure, to be located across from his business on County Road 22. The buildings, which are closed on three sides and open to the south, will be used to store equipment.

- Approved a taproom, brewery off sale and Sunday liquor license for Lakes Brewing Company, also known as Uncommon Loon Brewing Company. The licenses are contingent upon completion of the required background check. Applicants are Bradley Klatt, Mark Skoglund and John Cariveau. The microbrewery, located in the old fire hall/community center, is due to open Nov. 1.

- Promoted second-year seasonal employee Justin Verhey to a full-time public works position contingent on completion of a background check and drug screen.

- Approved the addition of a 30-hour per week position to the Motor Vehicle License Bureau.

- Hired a new executive assistant, Jennifer Zeiler, to replace Linda Singer who retired. More than 70 applications were received for the position. Zeiler has 16 years of experience in local government.

- Approved purchase of a new plow truck to replace an 18-year-old vehicle. Money for the $80,000 Freightliner will come from the 2018 public works capital works budget and the proposed 2019 capital budget, with delivery in 2019. The new truck is a smaller chassis truck with a better turning radius to handle the increasing number of cul de sacs and “hammerhead” cul de sacs on residential streets.
- Appointed Marlys Dunne to an open position on the seven-member Economic Development Authority.

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Ron Rollins for Sheriff

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