9/13/2012 9:15:00 AM Fuel tanks discovered under Center City street
BY COLLEEN KASTANEK
Work on the Center City downtown improvement came to a halt on August 30 with the discovery of three underground petrol tanks on the east end of Summit Avenue. Several business owners attended the council’s September 4 meeting with questions about the work stoppage and remediation procedures. Meetings at other municipalities, rescheduled due to the Labor Day holiday, delayed arrival of City Attorney Peter Grundhoefer and the absence of a representative of the city’s engineering firm, but by the end of the meeting, most questions were addressed, and concerned attendees were assured that Dresel Contracting would be back on the job in a couple days. Mayor Jill Behnke read correspondence from the MPCA and the city’s engineering firm, Mateffy Engineering, that explained the procedure to remove the contents and three 500 gallon tanks that were exposed during excavation of the roadway in the vicinity of 336 Summit Avenue. MPCA requires the city to have an environmental consultant oversee the work performed in the contaminated area. Center city has been working with Nova Environmental, Inc. The contents (fuel and diesel oil) have been pumped and the tanks removed. The owners associated with the tanks are responsible for those charges, approximately $1400 per tank plus gallonage, but the city will pick up all the other charges.
The city will be reimbursed for cleanup expenses under the Petrol Fund, the mayor explained. These costs include consulting fees, removal of contaminated soil, analyses and the costs associated with reuse or disposal of an estimated 70 cubic yards (about six dump trucks full) of soil around the tanks. According to the Minnesota Department of Commerce website, the Petro Fund was established by the state legislature in 1987, is managed by the Department of Commerce, and is financed through fees paid by petroleum retailers. Its purpose is to financially assist storage tank owners in the cleanup of environmentally hazardous petrol tanks. Barry Moe, one of the business owners at 136 Summit, said he has already received tank removal bills and more. He expressed frustrated concern, because the bills, totaling over $2000, with promise of more to come, have a 30 day billing cycle and include consulting and call-out fees. He wondered if he was responsible for any of the charges because the tank in question was originally a gas pump tank for the neighboring building. The only association his building had with the tank he is receiving bills for was for a heating fuel hookup decades ago.
The heating equipment and fittings were removed and cemented over long before he purchased the building, he said. Moe maintained that unearthing this tank in the middle of the street in front of his business was a total surprise. Attorney Grundhoefer explained that ownership and responsibility generally goes from each lot to the middle of the street, and the financial responsibility for the tank removal has nothing to do with usage. The Mayor and city attorney advised that property owners, while they had to give approval to remove the tanks so the city could apply to the Petro Fund for reimbursement for cleanup, they will not be liable for any charges other than tank and content removal. Owners should pay the removal charges and submit copies of all other bills to the city. The city will sort out the consulting and call-out fees to avoid double billing, and bid the excavation and remediation. Council took official action on the matter by approving a motion to continue using Nova Environmental, Inc. as the consulting firm for the remediation.
The council listened to reports of minor damage to private property and complaints of parking, sidewalk and road closings that are hurting businesses during construction. Barry Moe and Mike Fleischhacker also expressed discontent regarding the cost for flagpoles along Summit Avenue. Al Hohn, owner of Al’s Bar, asked that the city install inserts when the sidewalk is poured between his and Mike Fleischhacker’s buildings. He would like to install a wrought iron fence between the buildings that would be an aesthetically appealing pedestrian safety measure. Hohn also asked if he could blacktop property behind the bar. City staff told him that, with a permit, property in the business district can be blacktopped up to the city property line. Fleischhacker also requested payment plus interest for the retaining wall and fill he installed between those buildings early this spring. The council postponed payment for a second time at last month’s meeting because it was waiting for compaction test results. After Mayor Behnke read the city engineer’s email stating that the retaining wall and fill passed his inspection, the council unanimously approved reimbursement for $2740, but denied Fleischhacker’s request for $82.82 for carrying charges. Later in the meeting, after discussing the bill with the city attorney, the council unanimously approved that amount as well. The council addressed some non-construction agenda items.
The council unanimously approved Ordinance 2012-09-04-A, an ordinance adopting a new chapter 114 of the city code to define and regulate adult establishments. The ordinance is lengthy so in the same motion and vote, the council approved summary publication. The ordinance is available at city hall and will be posted with city code on the city’s website. The council approved the citizen complaint form and data practices policy. Council member Mark Wolcott reported on the budget committee meetings. He asked for certification of a 4.35 percent levy increase, the increase due mostly to the new bonding debt for improvements. Last year’s CR9 Improvement bonding of $13,500 will be rolled into new bonding of $30,200.
Center City will tighten its belt on operating expenses under this preliminary 2013 levy, lowering the General Fund from $185,000 to $175,000, and the EDA goes from $1000 to $500. The Capital Improvement Fund will be increased from $500 to $3000 for a budget of $208,700, or $8,700 more than last year. The council unanimously approved the proposed increase for certification at the county, but it can reduce the final levy. The council set the Set the first Truth in Taxation hearing for 7 p.m. December 4 and the December 4 monthly meeting starts at 7:15 p.m. The city attorney advised that the AT&T proposal to make a $120,000 one-time payment for perpetual use of the water tower for communications equipment is not in the best interest of the city. He suggested that the council form an ad hoc committee to negotiate with AT&T for a more fair agreement. Council members Kristopher Jensen and Lloyd Vetter volunteered for the duty. Center City currently receives $1,437 a month in lease payments for antennae on top of the tower. See CENTER CITY/10. The council moved to accept payment plans for eight delinquent sewer and water accounts, as discussed at last month’s meeting. The payment plans are designed to bring the customers’ balances to zero within the year.
The council tabled certifying the remaining two overdue accounts to taxes until the October meeting. Clerk Trudeau gave some background on the history of water and sewer rates before the council made a decision on raising those rates. She reported that the base rate has not been increased in 15 years and the water rate has been increased only twice in 20 years. The water fund needs to provide $28,400 towards the new pump house bond, and there is not enough income to do that without increasing either the water or base rate, or a combination, or adding a pump house fee. The council unanimously approved Wolcott’s motion to add a $5 pump house fee to the quarterly bill for the duration of the 15 year bond, and to increase the base rate $5. In new business, Barry Moe submitted two plans for a sign to inform motorists on Highway 8 of Center City’s downtown commercial offerings. The general design is blue and white aluminum and vinyl panels with business names on both sides, posted four feet above the ground and visible to motorists travelling both directions. A local company quoted $1948 for ten eight-foot panels, approximately a foot wide, with 10-inch lettering. Reflective coating adds $1500, Moe reported. City Clerk Trudeau suggested presenting the idea to the EDA for possible funding assistance and the council added that the underground locate could be combined with the Highway 8 rain garden installation in October. The EDA meets at 6:30 before the regular monthly meeting Tuesday, October 2. Moe felt the sign could be installed before winter, considering the two-week manufacturing estimate. The Park Committee is participating in a fundraiser serving food at Pleasant Valley Orchard Sunday, October 7.