The council heard an update from Bollig, Inc, an environmental and engineering firm based out of Willmar. The company is helping the city update their plumbing and sewer system as part of their wider infrastructure project. There are several pipes which will either need to be replaced or rerouted in the city in order to compensate for additional rain and pond water run-off. The company says that the total project will cost around $214,000, however, they are still making final surveys and price estimates.

The city currently has several different grant applications to help pay for their infrastructure project and will move ahead with the project once they receive final regulatory approval and the city is able to acquire the necessary funding (which they expect to buffer with future grant money).

Additionally, the city will submit a final RDC grant application on February 22 after they finalize project details. The grant application has been characterized as ‘strong,’ but a lot still depends on the State Legislature’s ability to appropriate funds in 2018.

After discussion, the council voted unanimously to approve the sewer changes to the infrastructure plan. Council members thanked Bollig representatives for providing them with the update, and expressed their enthusiasm at the progress. “It’s encouraging news to hear we’re moving forward,” said council member Sue Fritz.

In other news:

The city council held a public hearing to allow residents the opportunity to weigh in on the proposal to adopt the Minnesota Basic Code. The council will review and adopt the new fee schedule during their January 2 meeting.

City Administrator Amanda Luepke submitted city employee evaluations, which they hope to have reviewed by next week before the next council meeting during a closed session.

The city will address two additional items on their grant application with the Bush Foundation before resubmitting their application. The city run non-profit helping establish the daycare center was also recently certified as a charity, which Luepke says will help make their application stringer.

The city received 93 returned school redevelopment surveys. In the final tally, 37 were against saving any portion of the school and 55 were in favor of saving some portion of the school. Of those 55, 30 would like to save more than just the west gym. The city will now have to wait to hear back from the State Legislature to see where their funding is at. The school task force will meet again in May to continue strategizing about what to do next.

The council debated a request from a private resident to install several beehives on his residential property. According to research done by councilmember Fritz, “the bees are endangered, and we need bees. I don’t believe that hives, if they’re properly maintained, induce a lot of stress in a residential area.” While the council was favorably disposed to the idea, Luepke said that if they approved the request, they should also update city ordinances to accommodate residential beehives. The council will return to the subject during their next meeting to make a final decision.

The council also approved new rules and orders for the city council meetings. The council hopes that the new rules will allow for smoother meetings in the future.

The council passed a motion acknowledging their certification of payment from the bondholder for the Clarkfield Care Center. The city has payed back $1.96 million from the original bonds, which the city believes will free up $80,000 per year for cash flow at the Care Center.

After some final debate, the council passed their budget for 2018. The new budget will lower the levy by 1.6%, the first such reduction in 6 years. A point of contention on the council was proposed reductions in the library budget. Mayor Dale Stringer III called for deeper cuts for their budget, citing a declining circulation. Council member Sue Fritz pushed back, arguing that “with the daycare, and more people coming into town, I think you’ll see circulation go up, not down.”