Ostrander Council reviews fire truck purchase, utility rates

Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Ostrander’s City Council had plenty to discuss — ranging from a fire truck to utility rates — during its first meeting of the year held last Tuesday, Jan. 7, at the Ostrander Community Center.

Ostrander’s new fire chief, Jason Rice, reported that he had reviewed the information about a fire truck that the city is considering purchasing and that the price offered is $55,000 to be split between the city and the rural fire board – with the city paying $30,000 and the fire board putting up $25,000. 

Councilors posed questions about the truck and whether it had been inspected to be serviceable for the Ostrander fire department. 

He related that if the truck doesn’t have its pump certified for use, the city that currently owns it would not allow its sale.  It will need new hoses and a few other items, but the chief stated that some of the equipment can be taken off from the pumper that the department is trying to replace. 

Councilor Vernon Thompson commented that the truck that the city is looking at is 22 years old, but Rice explained that if the Fire Department and city were to look for anything newer, it would find that the available trucks are more expensive.  Grant funding will be used to buy some of the necessary equipment.

City clerk Wendy Brincks spoke about water and sewer rates as related to commercial establishments.  She highlighted for the council that there had been a complaint from a resident who owns a business and who felt that the commercial base rate for water and sewer is too high.  She listed the number of commercial hookups that are on file with the city, including two bars, the nursing home and several other establishments in town that have multiple connections. 

Brincks shared that she had spoken with Mike Bubany, of David Drown & Associates, about what could happen if the base rates were to be redistributed, and the findings were that residential rates would have to be raised 16 to 25 percent to recoup revenue to keep the infrastructure properly maintained. 

Questions arose as to how many hookups were designated for the nursing home, because the assumption is that that would be a business that would use lots of water for cooking and bathing, and Mayor Pam Kunert’s guess at how many beds — in comparison to how many hookups – seemed to conflict with the number that Brincks had on file, bringing the council to estimate that there is one connection for every two beds, plus those for apartments and the kitchen. 

Brincks remarked that the files she had available to her date only to 2005 because anything before that had been shredded or deleted in compliance with document retainage guidelines, so she’d do what she could to find records that could help educate the council on why the commercial entities in town have been charged what they are charged for their water and sewer base rates and justify leaving it as is or making changes. 

In other business, councilors voted on a resolution to acknowledge that if fellow councilor DJ Start is working on contract for snow removal as a representative of his father’s farm, Start Farms, he is not being chosen to do so because he is a councilor but because Start Farms has the necessary equipment to carry out the work. 

Also, the city acknowledged that if the amount that Start earns is more than $10,000, the work would have to be put out for bids the next year, as required.  Another action provided permission for the city to employ Start Farms and use its snowblower and skid loader.  Councilors Dan Hellerud and Stephanie Start made the motions in favor.    

Brincks spoke about the second phase of street construction in town, specifically related to the request for an easement on the former school property to allow infrastructure to be installed there.  The owner has denied the easement on the grounds that an easement is perpetual and that it may devalue the property at time of sale.  The city now has to pursue a different route that will be found by city engineer Brian Malm and engineering company WSB. 

Brincks expressed her concern that it is January and that the city should be advertising for bids for the construction projects but is still discussing how to pilot easements and lay out where improvements will be made. 

The council chose to retain Jennifer Gumbel as the city’s attorney, Lee Novotny as its prosecuting attorney, and to name the Bluff Country Reader as the city’s official newspaper.  

Just before adjournment, Rice asked Brincks if there were plans underway to hold Uffda Days this year, as Ostrander’s annual town celebration hasn’t been as annual as some would like it to be, due to street construction or organizational difficulties.  Rice noted that he was inquiring about Uffda Days, specifically for the mud bog event.  Brincks noted that the committee would keep him apprised of plans.