Budget, solar garden among Scandia council topics

Terry Traver
Scandia Reporter

Several items were discussed during Scandia City Council’s work session Dec. 7, including the 2017 budget, approval of an agreement to operate a solar garden and the annual cost of the Scandia Fire Department Dive Team.

Levy and budget

The work session sufficed as the truth-in-taxation public hearing on the 2017 city budget and tax levy. The City Council will approve the final budget and levy number at its Dec. 20 meeting.

The council was advised that the tax levy will be the same in 2017 as it was in 2016 at approximately $2.26 million. Generally speaking, this means that most residents will likely not see a property tax increase in 2017. The vast majority of the general fund will go to public works, with finance, administration and fire all getting significant levels of funding as well.

At the November work session, during discussion of the Fire Department budget, the topic of the Fire Department dive team came up. Concern about the cost of the team was expressed by Councilman Dan Lee. Lee is against spending money for the dive team because he believes “it can be spent better elsewhere.” Information was requested by the council regarding the costs incurred by the city for the team. Scandia Fire Chief Mike Hinz provided a summary report for the council at the December work session, defining the expense of the dive team in the years 2008 through 2016.

Hinz’s report shows that training hours have gone down substantially in the last few years, which has lowered the cost of providing training for the team from $2,922 in 2008 to $455 this year, when the department provided only 35 hours in training for the dive team.

“The training is decreasing because we have reduced the size of the team from eight people to four or five,” Hinz explained.

The major concern by Lee was the cost of the training necessary for the team and that the team had not made any recoveries, causing him to question the team’s usefulness. Hinz agreed that the team hasn’t made a recovery, but he said that the Scandia dive team works with other jurisdictions like Washington County and Forest Lake and often assists their efforts.

“I am all for the Fire Department; I just don’t want to waste money,” Lee said.

Councilman Chris Ness took the middle ground, proposing keeping the team’s training hours around 35. The council agreed, and so did Hinz.

Public works director

Adam Hawkinson, Scandia’s new public works director, was introduced to the council at the Dec. 7 work session and was scheduled to begin his new position on Monday, Dec. 12. Hawkinson’s previous work experience includes 17 years in public works with the cities of Monticello and Minnetonka, eight years of ground maintenance with the University of Minnesota and most recently working as a grounds supervisor at Ecumen in Chisago City.

New solar garden

The council unanimously approved a development agreement between Novel Energy Solutions and Donald H. Hogle and Marilyn D. Hogle for a community solar garden to be located on a half-acre of land at 21509 Lofton Ave. N. in Scandia. The city imposed 17 conditions on the project via City Attorney Andy Pratt, some of which include fencing, screening and landscaping, an interconnection agreement with Xcel Energy, a lack of wetland infringement, height, signage and some engineering requirements. A conditional use permit had previously been approved by the council at its Nov. 15 meeting.

Frontier cable TV

At its October meeting, the council agreed to seek applications for competitive cable franchises for Scandia. The city received an application from one company, the Citizen’s Telecommunications of Minnesota, LLC, or Frontier, on Nov. 3. A presentation led by Frontier’s Jack Phillips was shown to the council at its Nov. 15 meeting. Phillips said that Frontier operates in 29 states and its product, Vantage TV, works on high-speed internet. Later in the meeting, the council unanimously approved Frontier’s application and authorized negotiation on a final franchise.

“For a better high-speed internet, this is a step in the right direction,” Ness said.