When does the 5% increase on the fire fees end in the contract with Sturgeon Lake Fire Department? 

This was the main question from multiple township representatives at the August Sturgeon Lake regular City Council meeting. Townships made clear that they were aware of the increasing cost of equipment, training, gear and recruitment but they were not clear on if the budget increase was necessarily an across the board increase to contracts of 5% every year. Council members suggested that it might be possible to adjust this increase for the upcoming year of 2022. An increase of 3% was decided on by those present. 

Robert Greenly, the owner of Timberline Recreational Vehicle Park in Sturgeon Lake was present to discuss large scale water leaks that had been discovered at the park. Since early May lines in the RV park have used an extra 1 million gallons of water each month. The occupancy of the park is nearly identical to that of last year, and usage prior to the discovery of the leak was off the charts. Approximately six major leaks were found. These have since been repaired, but usage within the park is still increased and leaks are still being found. 

Greenly was present to ask the council if they would be willing to waive the sewer usage portion of his bill for these extra gallons. The leaking water was not going into the sewer system. Bills for the water and sewer were paid by Timberline up to June, Greenly requested that historical data for sewer fees be used instead of present meter usage. May and June of 2020 would not be available for this plan as they had no historical data to be used for billing, the meter was installed in Timberline in June of 2020. 

The council agreed that they would use historical data to assess sewer fees to the Timberline RV bill. Average sewer fees for these months were approximately $1,500. Bills with the additional water were about $5,000.

Two previous unknown water meters were discovered by Water/Sewer Operator Mark Noyes at Timberline RV Park. The park offices and upper level campsites are thought to be on this metered line. These meters have not been calibrated, or read by the city.  Now that the city is aware of these meters they will be read for 30 days to determine if they need to be calibrated. Water run through these meters could also be part of the missing estimated 16 million gallons of water discovered in annual water treatment report filing with the state of Minnesota in May. 

Conversations about the appropriate billing of multiple water line hookups on city lots continued. Previously discussed before COVID-19 stopped in person meetings in March, Council member Rick Lewis raised the issue of appropriate billing for multiple hook up buildings on single lots in the city. Lewis owns a triplex within the city and received a bill for each hookup on this property, but other residents have multiple residences or users on lines and are not necessarily billed for multiple users. “I just want to be treated fairly,” said Lewis. 

Billing proceeded according to a vote by the council to charge a fee for each person with a hook up as was voted by the council according to City Administrator Loralea Beede-Slocum. 

Council member Adam Langhorst pointed out that the council had previously determined to bill by hookup and not by usage. More discussion is anticipated on this topic at the September council meeting, the council hopes to compile a list of known or potentially known multiple use sites within the city prepared for that meeting.

Jerry Young approached the council in July for a solution to connecting his property and planned building to the city sewer line. The council determined that it would be in their best interest to consult with the city attorney prior to making a formal decision on how they would be involved with the connection of the property on Cedar Lane. Consideration was being given due to part of the property being turned over to the city because it is part of Cemetery Road  in Sturgeon Lake that was adjoining, but owned by Young. 

Recommendation from the city attorney advised against the city allowing private persons to own and operate the sewer main. Connection to Young’s property on the proposed route would be considered an extension of the city sewer main; this extension would involve the city needing to receive a permit from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency as well as involvement in the project by and a survey from the city engineer. 

According to ordinance the property in question would be able to have a mound or private sewer system because it is more than 200 feet away from a sewer main. There is also a city sewer main available at a different location on the property in question on Deer Drive, but the distance and land type does not make this an ideal solution for Young. Council member Jessica Langhorst asked for clarification, “ Maybe I am not understanding, but with the guidance that we have in front of us  it seems like there are two options. One the ordinance is followed and a mound system is put into the facility, but if we have to extend the sewer line it is basically a capital improvement project.” Mayor Tod Danelski agreed and added that the third option would be for Young to connect to the sewer line on Deer Drive. 

Council member Lewis told Young that he would be willing to talk with the city engineer Tim Corby to see what they could figure out about the situation. When asked if the conversation with Corby about Young’s sewer line would be billed to the city. Is Tim going to bill the city hours for that?” asked City Clerk Beede Slocum. Lewis responded that, “I am going to see if I can talk to him off the record.”

The much anticipated Zoning Map of Sturgeon Lake is estimated to be hours away from completion. Council members had not all been presented with a copy of the draft version of the map at the meeting. After the full council had a chance to review the draft and make changes it was determined that these updates would be sent to Corby for incorporation into the final design. 

Other news

A PDF version of the Minnesota Basic Code was approved for purchase by the council. This version of the Basic Code will be included on the city website. 

The council was asked to brainstorm ideas to use American Rescue Plan Act funds that need to be used by 2026. 

The drought has prompted the council to ask that citizens do their best to conserve water. 

Pine County will be receiving a letter from the council addressing concerns about a county employee issuing addresses within the city of Sturgeon Lake. The letter was prompted by a property in town having a structure that appears to be a well house constructed without the required permits for water hook up and land use from the city. Council member Lewis and Water/Sewer Operator Mark Noyes will also be going to examine the buildings on the property in question. 

Fencing and signage for the city forest in Cathedral Pines is in the process of installation. 

April 2022 has been decided on as a sunset date for water and sewer hook ups on two properties in town. One property was sold to new owners during the hook up process. The other property had the hook up fee waived because the house was being torn down. The property is working to systematically create a list and notify similar properties of the need to complete or finalize their water hook ups based on land use permits issued by the city.

A closed session after the regular council meeting was held. The session was closed to discuss staff and council performance and security issues. No other information on the closed session held after the regular council meeting was provided.

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