Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By A. R. Vander Vegt
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Ongoing problems with hydrants in Willow River


January 17, 2019

Water and sewer worker John Mikrot spoke to the Willow River City Council at its regular meeting Monday, January 7, about an “ongoing problem” with the city’s hydrants.

Mikrot recapped an incident within the last couple weeks of a valve breaking on a hydrant and misuse. While Mikrot with help from the Minnesota Rural Water Association was able to remedy the situation, the incident brings up an expensive possibility.

“Worst scenario: they’re going to contaminate your system,” Mikrot said, referring to a valve break.

Councilor Vickie Whitehouse asked Mikrot how to best proceed — should the city put up trail cameras?

Trail cameras would be an option, Mikrot said. Locks are available for hydrants, though they are expensive.

Fire Chief Gerard Bennett commented that locks may not be compliant with the League of Minnesota Cities. Putting locks on the hydrants could pose a problem for the fire department during an emergency.

No doubt, though, Bennett said, “If they’re (hydrants) used by people who don’t know what they’re doing, they can cause a lot of harm.”

That harm would mostly come with an expensive price tag to fix any damage and potential water contamination.

In the end, Mikrot urged the council to “do something about it.” The price was not so steep this time to replace broken couplings, but they may not be so lucky in the future.

Fire department update

The council approved an increase of 3 percent on fire contracts with local townships, as presented by Bennett.

Bennett shared it would not be unprecedented to up the contracts by 5 percent. When considering a percentage increase, “I look at taxpayers and the fire department side,” and came up with 3 percent.

“I can rationalize 3 percent, and I can sleep at night,” Bennett said. “Our fire contracts are very reasonable.”

The Willow River Fire Department conducted 134 runs in 2018 — a number that is “pretty huge for a little town like us,” Bennett said.

He also reported donations that have been received by the department. The Sturgeon Lake Lions Club donated $10,000 recently, along with a donation from Mayor Brent Switzer in the amount of $1,100. Denham Run also contributed cans they had collected, which when turned in came to an amount of about $770.

The donations “could not have been at a better time,” Bennett said. The money went towards a compressor for the department and will also go towards the purchase of radios and pagers. A grant from Pine County should also be coming the department’s way.

Other business

Whitehouse, Councilor Sheldon Johnson and Switzer were all sworn in to serve another term as part of the Willow River City Council. Meeting times will remain the same in 2019.

Treasurer Diane Nelson will select two election judges for the upcoming special election, to be held at Rutledge. A primary is to take place Tuesday, January 22, with the special election to be held Tuesday, February 5.


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