Following a long discussion on Tuesday, March 20, the Scandia City Council approved the purchase of a skid-steer loader, trailer and attachments for about $45,000.
The vote was divided, with Mayor Randall Simonson, and Council members Chris Ness and Sally Swanson in favor, and Council members Jim Schneider and Connie Amos opposed.
The 2012 budget had set aside $35,000 for this purchase, but because no maintenance superintendent has been hired, public works can handle the higher cost.
Maintenance workers Mike Egelkraut and Jeff Anderson attended the meeting to explain their choice. After narrowing the search, they said, they chose a New Holland 200 Series.
Built in Wichita, KS, the New Holland has a long wheel base and low center of gravity for stability, a wide cab for head and shoulder room, and good visibility. The height and reach let operators load material in trucks.
Most important to the maintenance crew was the ability to lock the arms with a pin from inside the cab, instead of relying on hydraulic hoses, for safe exiting. “Some guys will get out without locking arms, but I never will,” Anderson said, adding that operators have died from this.
Simonson asked why Caterpillar, John Deere and Mustang brands were not on the list, especially given the convenience of a John Deere dealer near Osceola, WI. They replied that John Deere was not available at state contract prices and others did not have the right features.
State contract pricing can mean up to a 33 percent difference, City Administrator Anne Hurlburt explained, and if the state contract is not used, the city must get multiple quotes from multiple dealers.
Schneider said he was not convinced the city needed such a large model, and he is not a fan of New Holland models. “Bobcats are bulletproof,” he said, and also have a better resale value.
Schneider and Amos wanted the city to get a quote from John Deere even if it’s not on the state contract list.
The council also voted 3 to 2 to amend the budget to pay for the loader and accessories.
The council continued its discussion of the Anderson/Erickson sewer serving residents on Big Marine Lake.
To get accurate flow readings, run-time meters have been installed and the drainback valve shut. As soon as the meters are calibrated, the city will start reading them. A major goal is to find out how much usage occurs during the peak time around July 4.
Meter reading must be done manually unless the city purchases more expensive equipment. The city engineer is getting equipment quotes.
Residents will be asked to cooperate with inspections to ensure sump pumps are not discharging to the system.
Work on the monitoring wells will begin this week, so groundwater can be tested for nitrogen.
Between the March 13 and March 20 meetings, the city received from Washington County the 2012 operating permit with conditions, including that any new connections must be approved by the county.
The permit recommends measuring the flow daily. Also, before 2013 the city is to replace lift station pump elapsed time clocks and repair the automatic drainback valve. Before 2014 the city must investigate repair of the electric dosing valves which allow automatic alternation of the drain fields.
Washington County Senior Environmental Specialist Peter Ganzel explained how the valves failed. Because they were in the ground, he said, they stopped working when the valve chambers filled with water, a situation for which they were not designed. The valves were removed and not replaced. Instead, drain fields were alternated manually.
Ganzel said many repairs have been made to the lift station. The system has not been tested for nitrates since 1989, he said.
In 2011 the council discussed sending a staff member to training classes to become a certified wastewater service provider. That option was brought up again March 20, but no maintenance worker on staff has the required prerequisites.
(The council will meet March 27 to choose finalists for maintenance superintendent, and hope to hire someone with sewer qualifications.)
Jim Continenza, whose request to connect to the Anderson/Erickson system started the investigation, said he may decide not to build. He said he spent $20,000 in legal fees, and asked that, if permits are issued, his properties be the first to receive them. And if his variance is approved, he would like it extended beyond the basic one year to build.
Continenza said he could not understand how the house next door to his was allowed to connect in spite of its poor condition. He said he later bought the house and tore it down, and had to pay more because of the connection.
Schneider pointed that Continenza already has received a permit to build a mound septic system and could start his house without waiting for a 201 connection. Continenza rejected that idea, saying if the mound leaked into the lake, he would be liable.
Work will soon begin on another city sewer, the Uptown System, as the council accepted a quote for electrical work from Web Electric for $4,800, plus $1,500 if existing conduit cannot be reused.
Pump tank controls and a new control panel will be installed by April 30. The city received only one quote.
The council approved the appointments of Christine Maefsky as chair and Tom Krinke as vice chair of the planning commission. This will be their third year in those positions.
The council voted unanimously to amend the city’s development code regarding variances. Instead of “undue hardship,” a standard so strict that a variance cannot be granted unless no other use of the property could be made, the new code refers to “practical difficulties.”
The new language was drafted by City Administrator Hurlburt, reviewed by the city attorney and planner, and recommended by the planning commission.
Washington County property tax bills for 2012 were mailed last week. For residents wanting to appeal their assessments, the annual Board of Appeals and Equalization meeting will begin at 5 p.m., Monday, April 9 at the Scandia Community Center.