Harmony, county agree to delay street improvements
Cost sharing discussion, project coordination issues lead to postponing project
Tuesday, March 19, 2013 11:19 AM
The Harmony City Council spent a great deal of its meeting last Tuesday night discussing the upcoming improvement project on First Avenue SW, a county road that runs behind Fillmore Central High School, from Center Street West south to Highway 44.
Because it is a county road, the city and the county were to share equally the costs of certain parts of the project, including curb and gutter removal and restoration, sidewalk removal and replacement and driveway removal and restoration as affected by the road construction. These items were outlined in the Fillmore County Highway Department's "Projects Within Incorporated Cities" policy.
The county assumes 100 percent of the costs for pavement removal, an "appropriate" share of the storm sewer, new bituminous pavement, turf establishment, non-ornamental street lighting and centerline painting.
The city of Harmony would be responsible for the replacement of city utilities, such as sewer and water mains.
Because the county had planned to redo this street this summer, Harmony had decided to update the city utilities on this street while it was torn up.
Jerome Illg, city administrator, explained that the storm sewer along this stretch is in poor condition. Because the policy from the county stated it would share an "appropriate" portion of the cost, he told the council he was going to meet with representatives from the county to pin-point what that "appropriate" share might be.
"There are 13 structures along there and every one of them is bad and needs to be rebuilt," he stated. "If the county is not going to assist with them, it will add a significant cost to the city's share of this project."
Mayor Steve Donney also asked for clarification on the cost sharing for turf establishment - such as lawn restoration - as the cost sharing was not listed as a certain percentage in the policy.
"I assume they will pay for what they tear up and we will pay for what we tear up," said Councilor Jim Bakken.
The council agreed that Illg should discuss those issues with county representatives for clarification. Illg had already planned to meet with the county the morning after the meeting to discuss the coordination of the project and told the council he would bring the cost-sharing matters to their attention as well.
The council continued to discuss assessment issues, sidewalk replacement policies and the scope of the project. However, as a result of Illg's meeting on Wednesday, the county has decided to postpone the project a year and these discussions have now become irrelevant.
Illg explained in a phone interview on Tuesday afternoon that the city's portion of the project must be included within the county's design plan due to the use of state aid dollars. Because the process to do so would be time consuming and delay the bidding of the project significantly, the city and the county have agreed to delay the project until the spring and summer of 2014.
Illg did say that the discussions held during the council meeting on Tuesday, March 12, did reinforce the need for a stronger assessment policy as well as a new sidewalk maintenance ordinance, which the council may continue to address in the coming months.
Building and maintenance report
Chris Johnson, the city's maintenance director, reported that the snowfall on Sunday and Monday, March 10 and 11, resulted in what could be the city's highest snow removal costs in many years. He noted that 64 loads of snow were removed from Main Street and two side streets adjacent to Main Street.
He also noted that an air compressor at the wastewater treatment plant is not functioning properly. There are two compressors that are supposed to alternate, but the one does not shut off without someone turning it off. "I've been running the second one during the day to take the pressure off," Johnson said.
It was noted that these compressors were put in when the plant was built in 1993, so they are 20 years old.
"(The compressor) is shaking so badly, there are stress fractures in the tubing," Johnson explained. "We have to look at doing some work on the compressors. They've been running 24/7 for 20 years. I guess it's time for some work to be done."
Johnson requested that the city allow him to contact Todd from Stantec, the city's engineering firm, to come down and put a plan together for the improvements.
It was noted that all of the new park equipment has arrived in Harmony and is ready to be installed during the third weekend in April.
Bakken noted that approximately $3,000 in donations has come in. That leaves about $10,000 that still needs to be raised to pay for the new structures.
He also explained that the park board has agreed to use engineered wood fibers as a base instead of pea rock, which was originally chosen, due to a discount they are able to get through the Southeast Minnesota Initiative Fund.
These wood fibers provide better handicapped accessibility as well as provide a better fall barrier.
In another matter, Bakken reported that several citizens have requested that the park board create a skating rink next winter. While the committee will look at the matter more closely next fall, he said possible locations included the hard surface at the community center or the lot behind Main Street where the bus garage used to be located. He noted the second location would provide better lighting and easier access to the local businesses.
The council handled several smaller issues during its meeting last Tuesday night, including the following matters.
It was noted that Terry Bigalk had completed the classes and taken the tests necessary to obtain his Class D water license.
It was reported that $94,000 had been returned to Fillmore County from the TIF fund, which was the balance of funds when the district expired at the end of 2012. Illg explained, however, that the city should get around $67,000 back after the county and Fillmore Central got its share of those tax dollars. The returned money would go in the general fund.
The council agreed to once again offer the shade tree program in which the city will pay 50 percent of the cost of a tree to be planted in the street boulevards. Information on the program will be sent out in city bills.
It was noted that the library and Harmony Arts Board would be hosting a book signing on Saturday, April 6, at 10 a.m. The featured author, Julie Kramer, has written a book that is set in Harmony. "Shunning Sarah" is also the featured book in the first all-community read.
The council reviewed a draft of a new ordinance addressing the use of motorized golf carts, ATVs and mini trucks on the streets of Harmony. Look in next week's News-Record for more on that issue.
The council approved the purchase of a new copier/scanner/printer/fax from Metro Sales for $6,272.
The council approved a liquor license renewal for QUARTER/quarter.