New member takes seat briefly as council discusses sledding hill, taxes

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The Spring Valley City Council meeting of Monday, Nov. 26, started with swearing in new member John Dols, who was appointed to the council at the previous regular council meeting.

Dols, who took the place of Jessy Betts because he resigned due to moving outside the city limits, took his seat for his first council meeting. However, he only remained seated for 10 minutes as the council had a brief meeting with few items of action.

At the end of the meeting when asked for his first council report, Dols said “thanks for the opportunity and I look forward to working with everybody.”

Sledding hill gets OK

The only council action, besides routine matters, was to approve a request to allow snow sledding on the hill of South Broadway Avenue during Christmas on Historic Broadway Saturday, Dec. 8. Provided there is enough snow, the event would be held on Broadway with a sled run starting at the top of the hill near Franklin Street to the bottom near the south edge of downtown, similar to what was done during January’s Sleds at the Cinema event.

Christmas on Historic Broadway is sponsored by the Spring Valley Chamber of Commerce and Brave Community Theatre. Joe O’Connell, who attended the council meeting, would be in charge of setting up the activity and trucking in snow if needed or if any is available.

Councilor Todd Jones made a motion to approve the request, provided there is snow on the ground, and the council unanimously approved his motion.

Tax inquiries

In the city administrator’s report, Deb Zimmer noted that City Hall has had several inquiries after property tax statements arrived at residents’ homes the previous week. Some of the statements had shown increases in the 30 percent range.

She provided the council a chart showing the levy amounts over the past few years.

The main reason for the steep increase this year is debt, which is set to increase from $371,212 in 2018 to $671,202 in 2019. The reason for the $300,000 increase is the massive 2018 street improvement project on South Washington Avenue and High Street, which is the city’s largest street construction project in the past 20 years.

Zimmer said that the project was included in the 2006 capital improvement plan, so during the 12 years of planning by the council there was the realization that there would be a tax increase when it was done.

While the debt levy climbed, the proposed 2019 levy has a $150,000 decrease in general operation, going from $628,986 in 2018 to $478,986 in 2019. The city purchased a snowplow the previous year, which is why the general operation levy was higher, but the 2019 figure is also lower than the general operation amount in 2017.

Zimmer pointed out that many people who called had property valuation increases, which would also increase taxes on an individual piece of property. If other people have questions, Zimmer told the council to make sure they give her a call.

Pool almost ready

During department head reports, Park and Rec director John Fenske told the council that repair work on the swimming pool is complete, although pouring concrete in the spring remains to be done.

The pool was losing a lot of water last year, so the lines were tested and found to have issues with cracks and breaks along the north and east side of the pool, said Zimmer after the meeting. The city wanted to wait until after the season to dig up the pool.

During the fall, new pipes were installed by Thatcher Pools and Spas after the city’s street department and Sentence to Serve crews removed concrete and sand to expose the broken pipes for repair.

Sand was hauled in to cover it for the winter with more sand scheduled to be brought in before concrete is poured.

“We pressure tested it and everything, so there are no more leaks, which is a good thing,” said Fenske.

A clean-out valve was also put in, making it easier if there is a problem in the future because a camera could be used to see what is underneath, something that couldn’t be done before due to 90-degree angles. Fenske said that would allow them to spot potential problems without digging it up.

When Mayor Jim Struzyk asked him if it would be ready for the next summer season, Fenske said “we should be set to go.”

Fenske added that a donation from Doris Henderson to the city, a portion that went to the Community Center, was much appreciated as the money was used to upgrade the front entry and some interior upgrades still to be finished. He also noted that Park and Rec’s fifth and sixth grade basketball is up and running.

New ambulance

Ambulance co-director Mike Zimmer parked the new ambulance in front of City Hall to show the council members. In his department report, he told the council that the service has had 426 calls this year, which are about 80 more than last year at this point.

He added that a new Lucas chest compression system arrived, so the service will have one in both trucks. The pump, which is used for sudden cardiac arrest patients, was purchased with the aid of the Henderson donation to the city and from individual donations at the annual pancake breakfast, noted Zimmer.

He also pointed out that the equipment on the two trucks are the same now, so staff will have the same tools no matter which ambulance is taken on a run. He added that the staff has been doing a good job keeping shifts covered. It had been tough for a while with some members out for health reasons, said Zimmer, but he is looking forward to a full staff for the holidays and beyond.

Other reports

• In council reports, Jones thanked Public Utilities for preparing the Christmas tree for Love Lights a Tree. “The tree is pretty awesome,” he said. “The tree is one of the nicest trees in southeast Minnesota.”

• Library director Jenny Simon told the council that the World War I historic re-enactment presented by Arn Kind drew more than 80 people. “Attendance was good,” said Simon, and “we had numerous requests to have him back,” something she said the Library Board will look into.

• Fire Chief Troy Lange told the council it was a fairly busy month for the Fire Department with three almost fires at houses, an accident, a couple carbon monoxide calls and a response to something burning on a stove.

• Wastewater treatment plant director Aaron Hamersma reported that the plant is going well with just one sewer call. All updates for pumps, mixers and other equipment are in.

• In the administrator’s report, Zimmer reminded the council of a work session Wednesday, Jan. 2, 5:30 p.m. at the ambulance building. She also noted the city audit will be starting Dec. 18 with the final audit paperwork on Jan. 22 and 23.

• Deputy coordinator Tim Rasmussen submitted a written report on police activity during October.