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BE puts ward question on ballot

By Staff | Aug 9, 2010

Kathy Bailey

The Blue Earth City Council meeting on Tuesday night lasted only 17 minutes, but they proved to be productive ones.

After failing to be able to meet on Monday night due to lack of a quorum, the council learned the same situation could happen again on Tuesday.

City Councilman Les Wiborg said he would not be able to stay long on Tuesday, due to his work schedule.

With Councilmen Dan Brod and John Huisman on vacation, and former Councilman Dick Maher’s seat still vacant, that meant a quorum was again in jeopardy.

Mayor Rob Hammond suggested only four items on the lengthy agenda needed immediate attention, and the rest could be postponed to the second meeting in August.

The council members present agreed.

One of the items was the sale of $2.1 million in general obligation bonds for the city.

Doug Green of Springsted, Inc., had been at Monday’s postponed meeting and returned from St. Paul for the Tuesday meeting.

He reported that there had been seven bidders, making for a very successful bond sale for the city.

The low bidder was United Bankers Bank, with a true interest rate of 2.8 percent.

Two months ago, Green expected the bid would be approximately 3.3 percent.

He said it will take about a month before the city will see the funds.

Some of the bond sale will be used for financing three street projects, on Eighth, Tenth and Fourth Streets.

The rest of the bonds will be used to pay off previous bonds which were at a higher interest rate.

“The present value savings of paying off the bonds early means the city will save $44,000,” Green says. “And these days every dollar counts.”

The second item on the shortened agenda called for the council to accept a petition from citizens which called for the question of eliminating the city’s three wards be placed on the November ballot.Council member Paula Kelly questioned if the appropriate steps had been taken, as far as the legality of the petition.

City Attorney David Frundt assured the council the steps had been properly followed.

“It has been submitted to the city clerk and she has determined, with the county auditor, that 99 of the signatures are valid,” Frundt says. “Only 76 were necessary.”

A motion to accept the petition and place the question on the ballot was passed, with one nay vote cast by Kelly.

She asked Frundt if there was a procedure for public hearings on the question, and he responded there was not, as it was not brought forward by the council, but by citizens.

“I am sure there will be some campaigning by the group who brought it forward,” Frundt says. “Or those in opposition.”

At Monday’s work session, council members present heard a report from Kelly Yahnke of Bolton and Menk concerning problems at the sanitary sewage plant.

Specifically, Yahnke told the council the covers on both the primary and secondary digesters need to be replaced.

The cost of the new lids, along with engineering fees, comes to $550,000.

Yahnke had told the council that the problem with not replacing the covers is that there will be an odor.

Plus, the lids help the city recover methane gas which is burned to help heat the sludge to a proper temperature.

Not capturing the methane and purchasing natural gas instead could cost the city $12,000 a month.

“I don’t like having to spend this kind of money, but I don’t see any other option,” Councilman Gaylord said, and made the motion to purchase the lids.

City Administrator Kathy Bailey says there will be very little impact on city taxpayers because the cost of the covers will come from funds the city has from sewer fees already in place.

Because they are special orders, the new covers will not be installed until next spring.

The last item handled by the council in the short meeting was accepting the bills for the month.