The Spring Grove City Council voted to increase utility rates for water and sewer at its Nov. 7 meeting. Beginning Jan. 1, 2013, overall water bills will go up approximately 9 percent, while sewer rates will increase by about 12 percent.

The rate changes are the recommendation of public finance advisor Michael Bubany of David Drown Associates.

Last summer, Bubany presented plans to the council that they raise revenues enough to allow the city to move forward with its capital projects plan. That document includes repairs to current infrastructure as well as future improvements.

If the council chooses to stay with Bubany's recommendations, rates will continue to rise each year for the foreseeable future.

VSO funding approved

Michelle Hermann, director of the Houston County Victim's Services Office (VSO), appeared with Assistant County Attorney Sue Bublitz with a request.

With state funds now cut off to continue the VSO for residents, cities are being asked to contribute funds to retain Hermann's position.

City Attorney Joe Hammell introduced Hermann and Bublitz, explaining that the office has assisted victims of crime for many years.

The VSO advises residents on hearings and court dates, seeks reparations from criminals and helps victims with a wide range of issues, Hammell said.

"The grant (that funded VSO) ended in September," Hermann said. "It had been funded for 20 years. They did a competitive process this time, and our agency, as well as many others, were not funded.

"They (county commissioners) wanted us to come before the cities. We are doing work for the city prosecutors as well as the county, so that's why we're here."

"The county will make the biggest contribution," Bublitz said. Using a five-year average on the amount of work that the office does for each city, the $40,000 needed to keep VSO open in 2013 was portioned out among local governments.

Houston County will pay over $29,000. La Crescent has voted to contribute $5,000 (more than the $3,500 requested). Spring Grove was asked to pay $1,500.

Councilmember Steve Kemp immediately moved to fund the program and Rachel Storlie seconded. Discussions with City Administrator Theresa Coleman revealed that the 2012 Spring Grove Police Department Budget has sufficient funds left over to cover the expenditure.

The motion was amended with the caveat that the money would come from that source. The vote to approve was unanimous.

Police & safety matter reviewed

A bid from Heartland Security Services of Melrose, Minn., to replace video surveillance equipment at the Fest Building was approved by unanimous vote.

The total cost, which will allow remote viewing of cameras via the Internet and a DVD recorder, two indoor and one outdoor camera with a power supply transformer, was $2,840.

A policy on "Use of Excessive Force" by the Spring Grove Police Department, which conforms to state and federal guidelines, was formally approved.

Addressing "nonviolent civil rights" demonstrations, acceptance of the policy is a requirement by Spring Grove's Small Cities Development Grant, Coleman reported.

Coleman was asked about the ongoing part-time police officer search process. She told the council that the city will advertise next on the League of Minnesota Cities website.

Pool management plan tabled

The council discussed a proposal from USA Pools of Illinois, Inc. offering to manage the Family SWIM Center for the city. The cost for 2013 would be $57,580, increasing to $59,740 by 2015.

By consensus, members asked Matt Satterly (president of the company) to visit the SWIM Center and provide a sample contract for consideration.

The council also asked if Satterly could come to their Nov. 20 meeting to talk about what his company would do, directing Coleman to contact him on their behalf.

Other items tabled as well

Several other items were also tabled for future consideration. A League of Minnesota Cities guide on "valid public expenditures" was referred to Hammell, and the item will return to a later meeting. Coleman raised the issue over city payments for fire department awards and dinners.

Two samples of deferred assessments for the Main Street Reconstruction Project were also tabled for later consideration.

A "Safe Routes to School" grant proposal was discussed briefly and tabled for further study after Coleman reported that a private grant writer offered to complete the paperwork for $500.

Annexation nearly completed

A two-year ongoing annexation request by Steven Bergrud was placed on the Nov. 20 agenda.

Hammell reported that the process was essentially complete, with the county surveyor helping out on the plan.

"Steve did not want to pay for the survey," Hammell said. "The whole reason for it was the utilities (water and sewer)."

Right-of-way sold to MnDOT

The council approved selling .06 acres of right-of-way near Trollskogen Park to MnDOT, and granting an easement on another .04 acres so that a box culvert can be relined. The city will receive $1,100.

Next meeting set

The next regular meeting of the Spring Grove City Council will be at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 20 at 168 W. Main St.