The Mabel City Council swiftly discussed and approved several important items during its meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 12. Council members Susan Amunrud and Terry Trokelson were not in attendance.

Standpipe/water tower bid

Mark Davy of Davy Engineering told the council that two bids were received earlier in the day for the replacement of the Mabel water tower. This was the second time the city held bids for the project, and is a part of the city's sewer renovation project.

"I'm happy to tell you (that) you made the right decision in re-bidding this...," Davy said. Davy continued to say the original bidder from Engineering America, Inc., of Oakdale lowered its bid nearly $50,000 to $323,800. That bid was still beat by a second bidder, American Structures of Menomonee, Wis., which bid the project at $272,822.63.

"That just tells you the difference between having that competition and not having that competition - essentially saved (the city) $100,000," he said.

Bids for the bulk of the sewer rehabilitation project, including the sanitary sewer and water rehabilitation will come before the council next month.

The council voted unanimously to tentatively award the bid for the water tower construction to American Structures, contingent on Rural Development's agreement.

The council also approved a change order on the wastewater portion of the project.

Downtown building demolition

The council approved a resolution that finds several deficient downtown buildings to be a public hazard and declares the city's intention to demolish the buildings.

The resolution then states the city will create a Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) district of the razed properties. The four properties include the former Booman Chiropractic, Mabel Record, Susie's Roadhouse and Cruisers Restaurant buildings.

The demolition of the buildings will make way for a planned grocery coop store to be built on the property.

Recreational vehicle ordinance

City Clerk Karen Larson asked the council if it wanted to look into updating the city's current ordinance regulating the use of recreation vehicles in the city.

"The way our ordinance reads now, the only way you can drive a golf cart around town is if you have a medical reason," Larson said. "I don't see harm in the way some people drive up to get their mail...I mean, they're not driving crazy, (and) they're not under 16. We talked about updating it (the ordinance) last year...and it would be recreational vehicles, so it is not just golf carts..."

The city currently distributes permits for recreational vehicles at a cost of $15, but Larson said the permits are rarely enforced.

Larson also mentioned the city of Harmony's ordinance on recreational vehicles and suggested that she, along with a couple council members, could meet to discuss the ordinance along with what Harmony has done on the issue outside of a regular council meeting.

"I'm just asking, do you want to look into it?," Larson asked. "I just kind of want it done before the summer because I don't want it to look like we are singling anybody out."

The council decided to look into the options and to discuss the topic again at its meeting in March.

Fire department

The council discussed a letter from Mabel Fire Chief Tim Mengis, who requested the city to double the current salaries for the positions of fire chief, assistant chief (Mabel has two assistant chiefs), secretary/treasurer and training officer.

In the letter, the current salaries of the positions were compared with other surrounding cities, including Harmony, Lanesboro, Chatfield and Canton. It states the requests for the raise in salaries are given to "bring them more in line with other area departments."

The current salary of the positions in Mabel (for a full year) is $400 for the chief, $150 for the assistant chief(s), $400 for the secretary/treasurer and $150 for the training officer.

"I know when we talked about this last time one thing we talked about was the number of calls, and then how much they get paid per meeting - 'cause ours is a little higher than what some of them (others) are," Larson said.

"If they want double I would meet them three quarters...and meet the middle ground between what they are paid (now) and the doubling," said council member Laura St. Mary.

"When you look at the amount of calls that they have and the amount of money they get per meeting versus (the other departments), that is (also) a factor," said council member Kirsten Wyffels.

After discussion, the council went the direction of meeting the fire department's request part way. Wyffels made a motion to raise the salaries of the chief to $900, assistant chiefs to $250 each, secretary/treasurer to $600 and training officer to $250.

The motion passed unanimously, and Larson said she would speak with Chief Mengis about the council's decision.

Cherrywood Drive

Larson reported to the council that she has all the easements signed from homeowners who live on Cherrywood Drive - but is waiting to be notarized. The easements will allow the road to be paved by the city.

Public works director Bob Mierau reported he is working out some issues regarding the water and sewer lines with the residents who live on Cherrywood Drive.

"Hopefully by the next meeting, we can get more worked out here," he said.

Public works report

Mierau gave the council an update on several items during his monthly report.

Mierau asked if the council was interested in offering a "tree program" again in 2014. Council members gave a resounding "yes." Mierau said he would check on other options and the cost of implementing the program, which promotes residents planting trees on their property.

Mierau said the city is starting to look at the water meter portion of the sewer renovation project. "Karen (Larson) and I have met with a couple different vendors, just kinda looking at some different meter options, and want to be able to offer some usage data in there...that way people can somewhat monitor what they're usage is."

The city is looking to apply for an environmental grant that would provide between $500 and $2,500 for the city to use to purchase environmentally-friendly items. Mierau said they intend to apply for the grant with the proposal of changing the streetlights on Main Street to LED light bulbs.

Mierau asked the council if it would like to have a hazardous materials clean-up day again this spring. "People use it, there's no doubt," he said. The council did not set a date, but expressed interest in having the clean-up day again.

Other items

The council approved the 2014 ambulance subsidy contract, in which the city will received a proposed $4,500 from Fillmore County toward Mabel's ambulance service - depending on the Fillmore County Board's approval.

The council also approved the appointment of Sue Morken to serve on the Mabel EDA (Economic Development Authority). The appointment was approved unanimously.

Finally, the council supported a request to place an ad to seek applications for a part-time lawn mowing position for the summer months.