Scandia council approves bonds for equipment

Mary Bailey
Community Editor

To pay for the new fire truck that’s coming this year, and a new snowplow/dump truck in a future year, Scandia will borrow $570,000 in general obligation bonds. The council made the decision in a 3-2 vote at the June 18 meeting. The city plans to retire the fire hall debt early to offset some of the bond expense.

Council members Jim Schneider and Dan Lee voted against buying the bonds in that amount.

“I’m all for retiring the fire hall debt, but I’m opposed to borrowing just because it’s cheap, and I’m opposed to buying another truck,” Schneider said. Lee agreed.

City Administrator Kristina Handt said the truck is in the five-year capital improvement plan that was passed last year and is a planned purchase in 2014.

Mayor Randall Simonson, who last fall ran unopposed for a second two-year term, said that in his first term the main feedback he received from residents was complaints about how long it takes for city roads to be cleared after a snowfall.

“Now this year, I got calls saying ‘My roads are cleared!’” he said.

The mayor said this change came about because after the city bought a new snowplow, instead of getting rid of the old one, Maintenance Superintendent Tim Kieffer kept it going so that the 90 miles of city streets had three trucks plowing at once.

Simonson was joined by council members Sally Swanson and Chris Ness in voting for the bond.

Monte Eastvold of Northland Securities said borrowing to cover the $345,000 fire truck and $200,000 dump truck would cost $570,000 after adding fees and capitalized interest.

The city will use tax levies to repay the money over 10 years, at an average interest rate of about 2.5 percent. Each year from 2014 to 2023 the total debt payment will be between $60,000 and $70,000.

A $220,000 home will see an average tax increase of $24.04 per year to cover the debt.

The resolution names the fire truck and dump truck as reasons for selling the bonds, but the city can change its mind about the truck. Within the next 18 months, the council could vote not to buy the truck, but it would have to spend the money on other equipment.

Schneider would have decreased the bond by $200,000 and spent that money on road improvements.

Eastvold said interest rates were rising rapidly. Since December 2012, the low point, rates have increased by about 1 percent, and since April, when Scandia contacted him, rates have gone up a half percent.  “Historically, these are still very low rates,” he said after the meeting.

Northland Securities sells the tax-exempt municipal bonds to individuals, banks, mutual funds and insurance companies. They went on sale June 19 and are probably all sold, Eastvold said.

Variance

The council voted to approve the variance request of Thomas and Angeline Conley, new owners of a two-bedroom home on the St. Croix River at 16963 197th St.

The  seasonal home has a composting toilet and spring box, and the Conleys need setback variances to install an on-site septic system and well.

After the Planning Commission added conditions to address a neighbor’s concerns that the site could not support a septic system, City Planner Sherri Buss held a conference call with Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District Administrator Jim Shaver, Washington County Health Department Environmental Specialist Pete Ganzel and the septic contractor.

All three agreed, she said, that getting new soil borings and a percolation test would be a waste of time. The site has been drained for long enough that it’s not a wetland anymore, the wetland boundaries are stable, and the proposed system exceeds the minimum standards for mound systems of 12 inches of underlying soil (this has 18 inches) and 1 foot of sand (this has 3 feet).

Instead of new soil borings and a percolation test, Ganzel recommended requiring biannual monitoring of the system to ensure it is working.

Shaver requested that the property owners participate in an experiment. Iron filings would be added to the sand filtration system to adsorb phosphorus (similar to the filtering system he proposed for Goose Lake, based on University of Minnesota research). Shaver said he would volunteer to monitor the system.

The council added the iron sand filter and monitoring plans to the conditions.

The Conleys indicated their willingness to cooperate. “We’re trying to make it a safe, good system,” Thomas Conley said.

Two council members, Schneider and Ness, said they would also like to see the drain tile removed.

The vote to approve was unanimous.

Neighboring landowners Will Eginton and Don Wheatlake had raised concerns about the small lot, with its high water table and large wetland. Several previous owners had been denied permission to install a septic system, they said.

In a phone conversation after the meeting, Eginton said he was glad that technology could be used to solve this problem. The iron sand filter “sounds like wonderful solution,” Eginton said. “The whole idea was to ensure that the discharge is safe.”

EDA

Scandia residents Tom Triplett, Greg Isaacson and Bruce Swenson were appointed to Scandia’s new Economic Development Authority.

The council interviewed the three candidates before the council meeting. “Three excellent choices. They all bring something different to the table,” Chris Ness said.

Triplett is president of Triplett Consulting, which helps nonprofits find revenue streams. His past experience in business and government includes serving as the state commissioner of finance, executive director of the Minnesota Business Partnership, and president of the College of Visual Arts.

Isaacson is president of Security State Bank of Marine, which also has offices in Scandia, Lindstrom and Forest Lake.

Swenson was the longtime owner of Swenson’s grocery store and has a catering business.

Sally Swanson and Dan Lee were appointed to be the council members on the EDA.

Both votes were unanimous.

New fire chief

Assistant Chief Mike Hinz was appointed fire chief effective July 1, for a term ending Dec. 31, 2016. Hinz was recommended by the firefighters and interviewed for the position on June 11. The vote was unanimous.

“Every chief tries to raise the bar a little bit. He’ll take the department to the next level,” outgoing chief Jim Finnegan said.

Hinz is the general manager at Peter Nora’s Pn Products, a custom plastic manufacturing company located in Scandia.

Other business

The council also took the following actions:

–Accepted the $26,893 bid from Dresel Contracting for gravel on Old Marine Trail and Parade Avenue. The council approved spending $1,200 over budget to put down 4 inches as planned.

Last month the council rejected a $24,253 bid from a Stillwater company and instructed staff to re-solicit gravel quotes to find a more local source. Three local contractors submitted bids; others were too busy or not interested. Tiller Corporation, which operates sand and gravel mines in Scandia, said the Class 5 gravel they produce does not conform to the specifications.

–Heard a report from Forest Lake Building Official Keith Wille, who said year-to-date permits total $1,010,079, compared to $163,129 for the same period in 2012. Wille said he plans to retire and introduced Tim Okan, senior building inspector for Forest Lake. Scandia contracts with Forest Lake for building inspections.

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