Hiawatha Broadband Communications shares future plans for Chatfield with City Council

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS The former Chatfield salt and sand sheds now stand empty, as the city is seeking the means to build a new salt and sand shed before the winter's salt is delivered.
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Chatfield city councilors had plenty to discuss last Monday, Sept. 9, during the first regular meeting of the month. The council meeting began with a presentation by Dan Pecarina from Hiawatha Broadband Communication (HBC), the company that has been working to establish broadband access to homes and businesses in Chatfield over the past year and which purchased the fiber optic cable that connects the high school and elementary.

Pecarina shared with the councilors that HBC has been building network connections in Chatfield, has leased space on the water tower for some time and has served the school district for the past four or five years. He also noted the company eventually plans to open a small office downtown to provide a place for customers to bring their concerns and handle transactions.

HBC, headquartered in Winona, plans to install only fiber optic cable in the area it has chosen to serve, but at present, the service is mostly aerial.

“We’re bringing in service that will be able to reach garages and barns, residential and business, and we will be providing services by October to about a third of the town. We’d like to have a community event sometime, too,” he added.

Mayor Russ Smith welcomed Pecarina and thanked him for the highlights of the company’s intended projects, noting that the city is glad to have more than one telecommunications company from which residents and business owners may choose.

City maintenance

Next, City Maintenance Supervisor Brian Burkholder asked that the councilors approve the hire of Steven Schlichter as the city’s new wastewater treatment plant operator – effective Sept. 23 – to replace Chris Daniels, who resigned in August.

He then went on to ask that the council approve the repairs to areas damaged by storms at the end of June, with reported damages in Olmsted County totaling approximately $112,000, and Fillmore County, significantly less with some washed out roadways. Together, the sum submitted to the state stood at $127,177, for which the city is responsible for a quarter. Burkholder asked for the city’s contribution of $31,794.37, which the council granted after Councilor Josh Broadwater asked questions about the timeline and to which Burkholder answered that hopes are that the work is done yet this fall.

Installation of streetlights on the intersections of Enterprise and Vindmoll came up next, and Broadwater and Councilor Pam Bluhm gave the initial motions for the work to be done, followed by the council’s approval.

A public works report given by Councilor Mike Urban encompassed the storm damage repairs, the new operator being hired for the wastewater treatment plant and the one-month extension of the city’s contract with WHKS for operator services to give Schlichter time to familiarize himself with the wastewater plant’s workings. He also discussed the need for a new salt and sand storage facility because the sheds the city crew has used have served their purpose. “There’s no place to store salt and sand, so we might explore another option for the year. The option we have for new salt storage is $10,000,” he noted.

Burkholder added that the order for sand has to be put in this week and that storage must be identified as soon as possible. “We need someplace to protect the salt – that needs to be undercover. Pickup plows…we discussed more money for those, and a new blower on the front loader, because the one we have has been in use since 1979.”

Speed limit on Burr Oak

Conversation about the speed limit on Burr Oak surfaced again during the public services report, as Councilor John McBroom said he had received phone calls from residents of James and Margaret streets and Burr Oak who did not want to see the speed limit increased.

“One resident had a child who ran out…forgot what he was doing, and he was lucky,” McBroom said. “I think it’s just a bad idea.”

Smith interjected, “When Burr Oak goes out to County 136, everything from Union will go north, so most days, it will be a ghost town from Burr Oak…a good start would be thinking about that and what you really want.”

McBroom registered that no parking on the west side of Burr Oak has been made well known, but when people park on the east side of the street, residents backing out of their driveways cannot see people getting out of their cars to cross the street.

“A lot of different people don’t like people parking in front of their houses,” he added.

The matter was tabled for further review.

Zoning issues

In updates for zoning, Kristi Trisko informed the council that Derek and Elizabeth Fuglestad, who live on Amco Drive, would like to combine their two lots to build a detached garage, “allowing for the potential to sell the lot in the future, leaving adequate space for an additional home site.”

Other projects on her plate included determining whether townhomes may be built in R-1 residential zones as there has been interest in developing residential properties for duplex-type dwellings. She noted the definitions regarding those types of homes required some clarification. She pointed out that a public hearing on townhomes and duplexes in R-1 zones had been held but was not attended by any members of the public.

Also, a memo submitted by Trisko stated Mike and Judy Sogla have purchased approximately ten acres of land along Division Street Northwest and Mill Creek Road Northwest that they intend to develop into residential homes in two phases of construction. The Soglas call this the “Gjere Addition Project” and it will require improvements to the gravel portion of Division and the extension of public utilities that will benefit future adjacent developments.

The memo stated, “Because of the benefit these improvements provide to future adjacent developments, Division Street’s current condition, the topography of the site which restricts plans, and the city’s position encouraging affordable housing development in Chatfield, the Soglas have requested that the city utilize tax increment financing (TIF) to assist with a portion of the costs to improve Division Street.”

A joint public hearing with Chatfield’s economic development authority (EDA) was recommended to take place on Oct. 28, at which time the council will take final action.

Economic development report

 EDA Director Chris Giesen approached the council with figures for the installation of utilities – phone, gas and electrical service — on Enterprise Drive because one of the industrial park’s lots has been sold, meaning that service to that lot and surrounding will become necessary soon.

Basic electrical service as quoted by MiEnergy stood at $25,000 and gas line installation from Minnesota Energy Resources was $24,704.

Giesen remarked that the installation will serve the nine lots between Hillside and Vindmoll and that the quote can be extended beyond 30 days. Mediacom is installing services at their own cost right now.

The director shared with the council that the sale of the first lot provides approximately $73,000 for the utility installation expenses that the city has elected to take on. He recommended that the council accept the quote from Minnesota Energy Resources, and councilors decided to move forward with utilities installation.

Other business

The council approved a $45,306.35 sales tax payment to Ricchio for construction work done on the swimming pool.

The city welcomed Chris Barber as the new WSB contracted engineer to replace Matt Mohs, who had served Chatfield for a couple of years.

City Clerk Joel Young gave his report that encompassed the 2020 budget proposals, the city’s willingness to assist the school district as it holds a special election to fill a School Board seat and find the answer to an operating levy referendum, adding that the League of Minnesota Cities will hold its Oct. 30 meeting in Spring Valley and that councilors are welcome to attend.

Finally, the consent agenda included accepting the Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) program grant. Police chief Shane Fox outlined in a memo that the Chatfield Police Department has a partnership with Fillmore County to participate in the federally funded traffic enforcement program that targets offenses such as impaired driving, speeding and distracted driving. The funds from the TZD grant provide the means to pay for enforcement officers’ extra shifts.