A $219,000 investment will create an estimated 14 percent increase in energy generation.

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Granite Falls City Council members voted unanimously Monday evening to move ahead with a $219,000 investment into the hydro electric turbines at the Granite Falls Dam that is expected to allow the city-owned utility to realize an estimated 14 percent increase in energy generation.
The proposal by Piedmont Hydro Technologies, a subcontractor to James Leffel and Co. on the larger hydro turbine replacement project, would involve the modification of the hydro turbine control systems to allow for more efficient energy production at the plant through mechanization.
"The way I think of it in my head is it's like a programmable thermostat in our house," said Cordelle Thomasma, a Piedmont engineer in attendance. "It maximizes water level available across all three turbines."
Turbine project engineer Barr Engineering reviewed the proposal and also recommended that the city accept the move forward. Costs of the project are broken down to $176,715 for the control system and then $42,918 to integrate it into the city's existing SCADA system, which will be performed by city engineers HDR and CG Automations.
The increased efficiency in operation is expected to net the city an annual $35,000 in income, thereby paying for itself in an estimated six years and three months, according to Barr. In addition, Thomasma said  the city could realize a significant decrease in maintenance expenses by what should be an altogether smoother functioning system.

In other news:
• Following a public hearing in which no public was in attendance, council approved a tax abatement that will allow for the city to issue a 15-year $625,000 bond needed to cover $400,000 in costs in excess of the original, roughly 5-year-old, $1.024 million engineering estimates for the pedestrian bridge renovation.
Included in the $625,000 sum are additional expenses for the pedestrian bridge construction, interest and $75,000 in contingency costs. In addition, another $70,000 from unrelated Street/Utility improvements will also be incorporated into the bond.
• At the recommendation of EDA Director Justin Bentaas, council members approved the modification of a loan to Cutting Edge Industrial Technologies (CEIT). The original loan required a monthly repayment of $1,955.64 but was reduced by council approval to $750 for a 12-month period in July of 2013. New terms okayed by council will raise payments to $1,300 for the course of the next twelve months, after which, according to EDA information, CEIT owner Jeff Muhl said he plans to return to a monthly payment equal to the full, originally agreed upon terms.
• Following the recommendation of the City Planning Commission, council members approved a Special Use Permit that will allow the Granite Falls Municipal Hospital and Manor to construct a new nursing home in a residentially zoned district located at 250 Jordan Drive, adjacent to Granite Ridge Place. Two individuals in attendance at the Planning Commission meeting, Ronald and Marty Bergman, expressed opposition to the plan citing issues of tax increases, cropland loss and inconveniences to future Manor residents as reasons for concern.
    • A leaking sewer line that is directly below the stairway leading to the Minnesota River in Sorlien Park will need to be replaced. The project, which is scheduled to be done this fall will require that the stairway be removed in order to access the leaking sewer line. Rather than spend $30,000 to $35,000 to re-construct the stairway, which leads down to the west bank of the river below the city-owned dam, the council elected to remove the stairs and instead landscape the area. The stairway has been gated off for several years and there was no perceived need for it given the nearby river access  at the canoe portage  just a short distance downstream. Furthermore, the turbulent water immediately below the dam is not a particularly safe place  for the city to allow river access. Given that, the council felt that it would be hard to justify the cost of replacing the stairway and the future maintenance and liability that it involved.