On Feb. 18, the Spring Grove City Council voted to take USA Pools to court.

"At this point, we haven't actually sued them," city attorney Joe Hammell said prior to the action. We've made a demand, but now I think we should just go ahead and do it, and do it here, because they came here to do business...."

Hammell asked staff to provide an exact accounting on how much money the city feels that it is owed from the pool management firm.

"If we get the judgment, which I expect we will, we will transfer it to wherever they might have any assets," he said.

"Just how much are we trying to recover?" Councilman Robert Vogel asked. Hammell stated that the total will be "substantial... in excess of $55,000.

Hired last year to run the Spring Grove SWIM Center, the company fell into a contentious relationship with the city almost from the start, primarily over alleged failures to pay employees. The amount which the city will sue to collect will include all costs incurred during previous attempts to serve claims, plus court costs. The venue will be a Houston County courtroom.

Departments report on 2013

Several city departments reported on 2013 activities.

"For the most part we did quite well," library director Dawn Johnson said. Reading programs for children and adults, a wide variety of special events, and thanks to the over 400 Friends of the Spring Grove Public Library were featured in her report.

Police Chief Paul Folz said that there were 736 calls for service during the year. Criminal case investigations numbered 197. Department members logged 4119 hours. Budgeted at $167,013, the department had expenses of $147,877, but generated income of $16,398. The City of Spring Grove provided $131,479 in support.

Members tabled a financial report from The Corner liquor store, citing the need for a better format to provide more specifics to the city. Council member Nancy Nelson said she would work with staff to provide that information.

The SWIM Center only spent $133,000 of its $137,000 budget, Council Member Lorilyn Dehning said. "Attendance was good, and the only problem we had was paying the staff," she said. "They were phenomenal, they kept showing up. Most adults would not have done that...."

Councilman Robert Vogel reported on Spring Grove's government access cable television. "It's working in large part thanks to the generosity of other cities which give us their equipment when they change theirs out," he said.

SGTV originates from City Hall, and has an annual budget of $8,000. The channel is entirely paid for by 3 percent franchise fees charged to cable operators, Vogel noted.

The Spring Grove Fire Department Relief Association got permission from the council to raise the yearly retirement benefit for members from $700 to $800 per year of service. The association is not actually part of the SGFD, fire chief Shaun Hansen said, so it receives no support from the city. Hansen added that the council still had to OK the change, according to state statutes.

EDA openings will be advertised

The council also voted to advertise two openings on the Spring Grove Economic Development Authority. Nelson stated that Roger Bender's term had expired on Dec. 31, and Howard Deters' term would be complete on March 31.

City clerk/treasurer Erin Konkel offered to run the ad and bring a list of applicants to the next meeting. Nelson stated that the mayor has the sole responsibility to appoint EDA members, while the council has to ratify the postings.

On a related note, EDA member JC Nerstad addressed the council. "We are trying to put together a quorum... and we need support from the council," he said. As an example, Nerstad said that he had asked Mayor Bruce Poole to attend meetings more often. Poole said he'd missed some meetings "for several reasons," but offered to attend in the future. Other members have had conflicts in getting to meetings as well.

There was a difference of opinion on whether applicants should appear before the EDA prior to joining. Poole and Vogel said it was a reasonable expectation, while Nelson objected to the notion, stating that it could promote a "good old boys" type of organization.

Bids opened for new boiler

Two sealed quotes to provide and install a new boiler at the city's sewer plant were opened. The lower offer was submitted by Newgaard Plumbing, at $4135. The council did not vote to accept the offer, since there appeared to be more installed parts listed on the second quote. Members decided to refer the matter to Hammell, who was no longer present. A special session was later called where members accepted the Newgaard offer.

Pay off bond early?

Nelson suggested that the city may want to pay off the bond for Four Seasons/Nerstad subdivision infrastructure early, in order to save on interest and bring in property tax monies in which currently go toward that bond. By consensus, the council gave her permission to meet with Konkel and financial adviser Michael Bubany to look into the idea.

Shade trees to be offered

The council approved a plan to again offer shade trees to residents at wholesale prices. The "Arbor month yard tree sale" will provide bare root nursery stock of seven varieties at $25 per tree. Order forms need to be filled out by March 14, and the trees are expected to be planted within the city limits (and follow city ordinances for placement). Delivery is expected in the middle of May.

Other news

The council voted to not waive the monetary limits on tort liability for the city, as established by state statutes.

Members passed a resolution of support for the Viking Ridge Riders Snowmobile Club. Even though no funds will be provided to the group from city coffers, the endorsement is intended to help the group apply for a Federal Recreation Trail Program grant.

Nelson also brought a variety of issues before the council, which were either for "information-only" or for future consideration. Those included developing solar power in Spring Grove, keeping files on employee injuries so future councils have a better grasp on how to handle those situations, looking into insurance requirements for event of city property, and establishing a scenic byway in conjunction with the cities of Caledonia and Houston.