On Tuesday, Jan. 17, the Blue Earth City Council reviewed the progress of Blue Earth Light and Water (BELW)’s ongoing water plant improvement project, which has been under discussion for several years now.
BELW is proposing to improve its existing Drinking Water Treatment Facility in part to comply with new Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) requirements for reducing chloride discharge into the Blue Earth River.
The MPCA is instating chloride limits on treatment facilities to address water quality issues which are caused by excessive chloride discharge.
In light of the MPCA’s requirements for reducing chloride discharge, BELW manager Tim Stoner said, “We have a couple of different options. We could rebuild a new plant, or, our goal is to build a future RO (reverse osmosis) plant to allow us to have RO water instead of hard water.”
Stoner explained adding a centralized RO softening system at the treatment facility will significantly reduce the hardness of the treated water, and minimize the community’s need for water softeners and its salt usage.
In addition, Stoner observed this is a good time for BELW to update the water plant, which was built in 1985.
“It needed upgrades,” Stoner said. “With compliance issues, and the current funding we would use, it’s a great time to do this project.”
The estimated total cost of the project is $13,860,000, but it is eligible for funding through the state, including low-interest loans and grant opportunities.
For example, the project qualifies for the Point Source Implementation Grant (PSIG) program, which provides grant dollars for water infrastructure projects that address the new regulatory requirements for improving water quality.
The city and BELW are also seeking direct bond appropriations from the state to help finance project costs which are not covered by the PSIG or low-interest loans.
Stoner estimated construction could begin as soon as 2024 if BELW is able to secure funding from the state as anticipated.
Council member Ann Hanna moved to authorize Stoner to continue pursuing funding for the project. The council approved the motion unanimously.
In other business, the Blue Earth City Council:
• Attended a 3:30 p.m. investigation training session led by Faribault County Chief Deputy Scott Adams.
Adams explained how to navigate internal investigations, noting the importance of treating all employees equally, maintaining clear documentation and communication between departments and following the proper procedures should internal investigations or arbitrations be conducted.
• Heard a summary of the 2022 Deer Hunt from archery hunt coordinator Tharen Haugh. He said the 20 hunters who participated in this year’s hunt harvested 16 deer and reported 307 total deer sightings.
“We had our best year so far,” Haugh said.
He also said there was an issue late in the season when a few deer stands were tampered with. As such, he recommended setting up cameras next season to monitor deer hunting sites.
The council voted to continue the deer hunt in 2023 and order several cameras to monitor the operation.
• Heard an update from city attorney David Frundt, who said the city was able to inspect a property at 517 E Sixth Street which is currently under violation of several city ordinances.
The city intends to coordinate a date with Sentence to Serve to clean up the property, or contract a separate agency if Sentence to Serve is unavailable for the job.
• Heard an update from Bolton & Menk engineer Ben Rosol, who said Bolton & Menk is currently working on the design for the upcoming 2023 Street Improvement Project.
• Approved Resolution 23-02 appointing Gary Armon, Michael McNerney, Ken Skaare, Wendy Cole, Travis Fenske, Frankie Bly and Tim Juba to the Charter Commission.
• Approved Resolution 23-01 allowing the city to join the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC), which works to protect cities’ LGA funding and aids cities with economic development, environment, transportation and annexation issues.
The city has already budgeted for the CGMC’s membership dues, which will be phased in gradually over the next three years.
• Approved an amendment to the 2023 Fee Schedule, setting the fee for an on-sale wine license at $200 and the fee for a temporary on-sale liquor license at $36.
• Approved the Blue Earth Kiwanis Club’s application to hold a raffle on March 14, which will offer an estimated cumulative total of $1,500 in cash prizes.
• Approved Dulas Disposal Garbage Haulers’ application to collect refuse within the city of Blue Earth.