Tricounty News

Watkins council to repair Village Hall, Watkins pool

Sgt. Joel Engler presented the Sheriff’s report at the council’s July 11 meeting. Deputy Josh Case, who usually polices Watkins, is out on two weeks leave after the birth of his baby. Engler and other deputies will patrol Watkins until Case returns. The Sheriff’s office will again host a National Night Out event in August.

The council voted unanimously to have Faber Building Supply install a steel roof on the Village Hall after Kostreba does tuckpointing and other work. Loose brick and cracks in the building will be repaired before putting on the roof. Faber will install a new handicap ramp on the side of the building once the tuckpointing is completed. Waterproofing will include cement work at the base of the building, before the new ramp is installed, to stop the years-long flow of water into the basement. It was mentioned that the siren on the roof of the Village Hall no longer rotates; the Meeker County Sheriff’s Office will have it checked so that it can be repaired.

The council unanimously approved a formal request by Mies Outland for tax abatement on their proposed 3,000-square-foot Indian Motorcycle showroom addition. Mies is working with the city, the Economic Development Authority, and Meeker County on this.

Now that Cosmos has completed its Ag District plan, Watkins will consider one as well. This would allow for land of 25+ acres within city limits to be taxed as agricultural land. The issue will go to Planning & Zoning, then a public meeting must be held. The process would need to be completed before Aug. 1 (which is not possible); once passed, it will not affect taxes until 2015.

Ben Aho presented the Watkins Ambulance report. Kelly Kelley was appointed treasurer after a unexpected resignation. They are working to simplify accounting practices. The city’s auditor requests that all ambulance bills be approved by the city council before they are paid, but a list of routine bills and necessary equipment purchases will be created; those bills can then be paid as they arise, up to approved limits. A credit card/gas card was discussed for the ambulance to have so that it can refuel as needed, at any time of day or night. They currently answer about 350 calls a year, but Aho expects it soon to be 500. They sometimes get back-to-back calls and can be gone for up to six hours at a time. 

Nora Rohrbeck gave her report on the Watkins Pool. Everything is going well, and beyond expectations. They passed their inspection. She’s got a great staff, daily numbers are up, lessons are going great, and there hasn’t been a single complaint this season. Zumba classes began last month, and water aerobics classes are being added. Mayor Dennis Loch plans to pay for a day of swimming for anyone who wants to come, in a “Swim with the Mayor” event. (See the ad on page 3.)

The council discussed plans for pool repairs in the fall. The close date for the pool this year depends, in part, on staffing availability, as many will be headed back to school. The pool may be open Labor Day weekend, regardless of the close date. As soon as the pool is closed for the season, it will be drained. The south wall of the pool needs to be dug up and reinforced so that it no longer shifts, causing cracks. The interior of the pool will be sandblasted. Existing cracks will be patched using a 30-day cure flexible cement. It must then be painted, and then refilled in preparation for winter. This may be a tight schedule if winter comes early. The city will put out an RFP for bids on needed pool repairs now rather than waiting for fall.

Virl Liebrenz was hired part-time in the Public Works Department. He loves his job, and by all accounts is doing great.

Public Works director Steve Geislinger reported that volume is about one-third now that a check valve in the water system had been replaced. Irrigation is
running now, after repairs were made. He is looking into the possibility of cost-sharing with Xcel Energy on roof solar panels for the city. The new snow plow worked great; they can now replace the road grader (which is rarely used) with a loader; the council approved this. At 1st and School, an 11-foot gap will be replaced with a sewer line connection; water has been diverted to the manhole in the grass, but it hasn’t been connected to anything; now it will be connected to the city sewer system.

Watkins Clippers manager Bruce Geislinger asked what will be done about irrigating the ball field, and who will pay for it. The city will install a high/low meter so they can see how much water is actually used by the elementary school versus the ball field irrigation. The city will continue to pay for water used for the ballfield.

In other business, the council accepted the retirement of Joe Kramer from the Fire Department effective July 1, approved the appointment of Michael Knisely to the Fire Department, donated $2,500 to the Kraut ’N Wurst parade (and approved doing so each year, without the committee needing to request it each time), will keep the LMCIT insurance and not waive the statutory tort limits of $500,000, noted that storm damage from June 20 at the ball field will be handled by insurance, declined to donate to the Southwest Initiative Foundation again this year, closed the GO Bond 2009 Fund (that was refinanced earlier this year), agreed to write off approx. $1,700 in remaining uncollectible debt from Stearns
Aggregate, tabled consideration of a Small Cities Development Program grant for housing rehabilitation until next month’s meeting, approved a liquor license for
St. Anthony’s parish picnic Aug. 25, and approved closing streets again for their picnic (to allow workers to come and go with deliveries, etc.).

The next meeting of the Watkins city council will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 8.