The Spring Grove City Council discussed the Highway 44/Main Street project on Nov. 5.

Mayor Bruce Poole reported that the asphalt plant will probably shut down for the year by Thanksgiving. That had council members and city staff worried, since Main Street was scheduled to be open to traffic before winter put an end to roadwork.

"I don't think we can afford to go into the winter with a detour," Poole said, "so if they don't get it done in the next couple of weeks and they shut down the asphalt plant, then I just think we've got to open it, even if we have to go do all the stuff ourselves.

That could mean setting up barricades around protruding manhole covers and some tricky snow plowing, Public Utilities Director Paul Morken said.

The Herald contacted Minnesota Department of Transportation Project Engineer Jeffrey Bunch on the Main Street opening date and the penalty clause that could cost the contractor if the road isn't ready for use by the agreed upon date.

Bunch replied on Nov. 7, stating: "The original completion date was October 31st, but that was based on a start date of May 20th. The contract was not executed in time to make that date, so our new start date was June 3rd. With that in mind, a new completion date would be November 14th. On top of that, there were some weather delays that occurred during the summer. The most significant delays occurred back in June when all the water and sewer work was beginning. We are currently having discussions with the contractor about these weather delays and what is a fair amount of time contractually."

"The liquidated damages for this contract will be $3,000 per calendar day. Once we determine what a new completion date would be, any days after that would incur the $3,000 charge. By MnDOT Spec., no working day charges can be imposed between November 15th and April 15th. This money would be held back from payments due the contractor, essentially lowering the final price tag of the project. MnDOT's contribution to the project is capped at $1.5 million dollars. I believe any damages charged on this contract would lower the city's cost for the project."

Bunch added that on Nov. 6, there appeared to be "...approximately 10 days of work left before work will end this year. This is for the concrete work on the east end of Spring Grove and the remaining asphalt paving. Once the final lift of pavement is placed, the detour will be lifted. The ten-day forecast I am looking at has some rain and snow in it... My guess is the road will be open sometime (during) the week of Nov. 18 to 22."

Next spring, permanent painting striping of the roadway and some additional tree planting will take place.

On a related note, members voted 4 to 1 not to allow signage (such as "no parking") on the new streetlight poles. Councilmember Nancy Nelson cast the lone "no" vote.

Liquor store debated

The council discussed making changes to business hours at city-owned Corner Store, but didn't reach a consensus. Finally, Councilman Robert Vogel made a motion to "Put the facility on the market for sale and keep it open until it sells."

"Maybe someone will come in and put us out of our misery..." he added. "Cities own liquor store so they can make money they don't have to tax for. That's why cities got into the business and that's the primary reason they stay in the business. This establishment doesn't make significant money, but it certainly takes an awful lot of time.

The motion failed, 3 to 2. Only Vogel and Councilmember Lorilyn Dehning voted "aye."

EDA/Council meeting

Members are still slated to meet with the Spring Grove EDA to hear that organization's 2014 budget proposal on Nov. 19. Nelson made a motion to set a "protocol" for the session, which stated that the EDA chair will present between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m., after which the council will "take the organization's 2014 budget request under advisement." The council would make their decision when the city budget is finalized.

Former mayor Saundra Solum asked, "Don't you want to have some discussion? They came to you and said they wanted to have a joint meeting, and now you're going to basically say 'give it to us,' and that's it? I'd think you'd want a dialog."

Nelson said there will still be room for dialog, but "This will be much easier to manage than trying to have two chairs."

The motion passed 4 to 1, with Vogel voting "no."

Building permits approved

The council took the recommendations of their planning commission, approving permits for a three-car garage and two home additions. One of the permits already had "Zoning Administrator approval" from Poole. Councilmembers backed the continued use of those decisions, and asked City Clerk/Treasurer Erin Konkel to include a synopsis of administrative approvals in a monthly report.

Vogel reported that the Verizon Wireless tower permit should be on the next city council agenda. That document was not yet complete.

Other news:

Members approved up to $11,000 for last-minute city paving projects (while asphalt is available). Morken brought a quote for $10,200 from Klaetch Paving of Onalaska, which included mill and patch on 2nd Avenue West, patch on 3rd Avenue West, sewer plant road repairs, and "mill and patch in front of the hospital.

Members tabled a request for a donation to the 2017 homecoming celebration.

Morken reported that when treated discharge from the wastewater treatment plant was found to "disappear" into a dry wash in August, the MPCA (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency) was notified. Their inspection resulted in an order for additional sampling by the city, which represents an added cost.

"It's a wait and see kind of thing," Morken said, "but I expect that the state will require us to add dechlorination"

Added testing and procedures may require the city to review wastewater rate schedules in 2014, he stated.