Sub-contractor’s failure to complete project creates uncertainty for Mabel City Council

By : 
Melissa Vander Plas

Curt Marx of Davy Engineering brought some disturbing news to the Mabel City Council on Wednesday, June 13. He informed the council members that Municipal Pipe and Tool, the general contractor for the sanitary sewer project, will likely fail to complete the project by the deadline of June 29 due to its subcontractor refusing to return to the city to complete the manhole replacements as contracted.

Marx noted that this part of the project is being totally funded by grant dollars from Minnesota Rural Development. If the project is not finished, those funds may be lost. He also told the council that Rural Development is aware of the situation.

Marx proposed that the city consider a change in the project, lining the manholes instead of replacing them.

“The industry is doing more of this, but we haven’t done much of it,” Marx said. “I just don’t feel the subcontractor is going to come in and do the work.”

Rural Development did grant an extension to the city until September of this year but Marx noted that another extension would be unlikely. He said he would be meeting with Municipal Pipe and Tool and would return to the council with more information on its options at the July meeting.

Councilmember Gary Morken told Marx, “I don’t think the city should have to cut corners just because the subcontractor failed to meet his responsibility.”

Public Works Director Bob Mierau told the council that once the manhole inspections have been done, the city would know more as to which manholes would still need to be replaced and which would be sufficiently improved by the lining.

Filling swimming pools

The city and the Mabel Fire Department have had a past practice of helping residents fill swimming pools, however, nothing formal has ever been in place.

During the council meeting last week, councilmembers discussed possible policy and charges associated with the service.

City Clerk Karen Larson noted that residents requesting assistance with the pools have been paying $50, however, sometimes that money comes to the city and sometimes it has stayed with the fire department.

The council also decided that the fire department should not fill pools outside the city limits, which could make fire fighting equipment unavailable at the time of a call.

In response to a suggestion that the city discontinue offering this service, Terry Torkelson replied, “I don’t want to be the kind of town that doesn’t do anything for its residents. We do not want to be a cold city.”

The council agreed that the city needs to be the entity billing the residents for the water as the wells and water system require maintenance.

Residents will need to sign a waiver prior to the city filling the pools and will be charged a combined sewer and water rate of $12.24 per thousand gallons used plus a $25 delivery fee.

Public works report

Maintenance employee Jeff Rein presented information regarding mosquito spraying within the city. He said Rick Melter of northern Iowa “fogs” Harmony and the residents and city administration have been pleased with the results. The cost for three to four sprays over the summer would cost about $3,000. No action was taken.

Rein also discussed a possible grant for cities dealing with Emerald Ash Boer, but noted the city’s tree program probably “trumps this.”

“We have cut down the majority of the city-owned ash trees,” he added.

Mierau added, “The disease is very prominent in town now.”

The city crew also urged residents to get zoning permits prior to starting any project at their homes or on their property. Recently, a project began with failure to locate underground lines and this could have created a major issue.

“Residents need to plan accordingly,” Mierau said.

Finally, Mierau noted that the heavy rains of late have created a few issues in residents’ basements and higher volumes of water passing through the wastewater treatment plant. He reminded residents again to keep sump pumps away from sanitary sewer systems, and to pump excess water out their basements away from the drains. “Pumping water into sanitary sewer systems is a big liability,” he added, “especially if people start experiencing backups in basements.”

In other business, the council discussed the following issues.

• Mayor Jim Westby noted that there has been a problem with dogs running free throughout the city and added the sheriff’s deputies would be following up on several complaints.

• A preliminary solar ordinance was presented for the council review. Members were asked to send comments, questions or suggestions to the committee members before the next council meeting.

• A pay request from Tollefson Construction for the incubator building was approved.

• The council opted to take no action regarding a tax-forfeiture property within the city, allowing the county to sell the parcel at auction.

• Several zoning permits were approved for Donna Johnson, demolition of a small building; Tony Beneke, building a new structure; Gary Folstad, shingling; David Amunrud, shingling; and David Raaen, addition, roof and patio.

• Heidi Bly Jones, candidate for the auditor/treasurer position at Fillmore County, stopped by the council meeting to introduce herself to the council. She highlighted her qualifications, including her 11 years as an employee in the auditor/treasurer’s office. She noted two other candidates, Marc Prestby and Brian Hoff, also filed for the office, creating the need for a primary election in August.

• Jean Ingvalson appeared before the council to request a partial closure of Main Street on July 9, beginning at 3:30 p.m., for an auction at the former furniture store. The council approved her request.