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April 24, 2019

4/11/2019 4:13:00 PM
Seasonal incidents deal blow to city's bottom line

The wet early spring coupled with unusual snowcover, resulted in more than just deeper, faster water on the St Croix at Taylors Falls.  One of the city’s wastewater treatment facility lift stations flooded and has been operating on expensive back-up fuel and much personal attention ever since. Then, the municipal library basement took in water and that furnace had to get repaired.

These and other lesser aggravations were reviewed by the city council Monday night.  

Council approved about $33,000 to hire General Repair for the specialized lift station work.  The bill includes new parts, control panel and pumps at Lift Station #2.  Electrician labor will be a separate bill, along with costs related to the structure itself.  Plus about 30 gallons of fuel daily for the temporary lift station apparatus is an additional expense.  It was pointed ut that this lift station was installed around 1985 and this is the first actual flooding incident affecting this location.

Council felt there’s no option, saying an operational lift station is necessary.  The city has submitted a claim to its insurance provider and should hear later if it’s covered or not.

Another seasonal issue was related to the Taylors Falls School construction project.  Heavy equipment access to West Street is being impacted by a five ton limit per axle. A Weber Construction manager requested the city lift that to seven tons, allowing heavy equipment to get into and out of the site for soils corrections.  He said the work would have gotten started a week ago if it hadn’t been for seeking this special permission on the street weight limit.

Council unanimously denied the request.  The mayor said the city spent $130,000 on West Street not long ago and he won’t allow lifting weight limits.  Larry Julik Heine said this can  not be the first time the hauler has encountered weight restrictions and there are ways around this, such as more trucks at lighter loads.

Council also reviewed an agreement with Chisago County to grant access to the city hall-fire department area to build a small parking area for the Swedish Immigrant Regional Trail and to work with the county on a trailhead.  The next leg of trail construction will bring it east from where it terminates not far away in the wooded area, to city hall.

Audit accepted
The city audit was presented for year-end December 2018.

Abdo, Eick & Meyers Auditor Brian Kahl said the city has fairly consistent expenses and income.  The tax receipts have gone up from $334,292 in 2017 to $338,761 for 2018 due to increasing valuations.

The tax rate is still dipping as it has the last few years.  Mayor Buchite said it’s been as high as 102 percent. In 2015 it was 75 percent-- so the 68 percent in 2018 is heading in the right direction.

Buchite also pointed out that there’s just nine years remaining on the city hall-fire department building and “...once we pay off that we should be in pretty good shape.”

There was a lengthy discussion on council opinion regarding a list of fees needing to be established for the fire department.  The city desires to put medical runs onto the list and the proposal includes increasing fire run fees and “rockfall” rescue surcharges.

The council explained that residents who pay taxes to support the firefighters and capital needs shouldn’t be charged as much as non-residents.  The justifications for some of the proposed fees was debated as well. Charging Xcel a fee for powerline fire cal-outs was not something Council member Ross Rivard supported. He said the Xcel Payments in Lieu of Taxes are substantial and “It’s not worth the upset for as much as they pay in (PILT.)”

The mayor said he would like to look over the list and wait to act.  “I’m not a definite no but I am not a definite yes,” he stated.

The fees will be on a future agenda.

New city clerk/treasurer Elizabeth Nealley was okayed to attend a multi-day conference in St. Cloud MN at a cost of $1,365.

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