The process of recommissioning the Randall water treatment plant will begin as early as next week.
On Wednesday, Randall City Council approved a request from City Manager Matt Pantzke to hire Rice Lake Construction to work on the project. The plant has not operated since it was damaged in the June 24 flood, when more than 12 inches of rain in a matter of hours submerged the Little Elk River, causing extensive flooding in the city.
“Rice Lake Construction was the original contractor for this work,” Pantzke said. “They were the lowest bidder for this job when it was built. They have all the construction records and they know every contractor who handled every process, so they’re the most logical choice to get this fixed in no time.
Council was able to nominate Rice Lake, rather than go through the bidding process, because a local emergency is still in effect in the town, following the flooding.
As part of the agreement, Rice Lake will act as the general contractor on site. The company has already contacted all of the contractors who carried out the initial work on the plant when it was built in 2018, with each of them submitting an independent proposal for the fees.
Most of the estimated $340,000 damage to public infrastructure related to the flooding occurred at the water treatment plant, according to Pantzke.
“They’re doing this job now, we have to pay them,” Mayor Danny L. Noss said. “Where is that from ?”
Pantzke said that given the disaster declaration the city received from the state, 75% of the cost will be paid for by the state through Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM). The city will be responsible for approximately $80,000, or 25% of the total cost.
He said the city had almost enough money to cover all of that cost in its infrastructure fund.
“When we shut down our police department and started contracting with the sheriff, almost all of the difference between what we paid to have one and what we pay the sheriff went into that infrastructure fund,” said said Pantzke. “This savings account has almost enough money to cover any flood damage the city will be responsible for.”
As things progress, he said the city will have to submit bills to the state to be reimbursed for costs over $80,000.
As for the start of work on the water plant, Pantzke said he expects contractors to be on site on or around September 22. They will begin with the review process, which will include a pump test on the well to determine if it was compromised. Once the project plan is completed, it will need to be submitted to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) for approval.
Pantzke added that other provisions, such as raising the generator “a few feet” and putting in a sump basement to pump out the water, will be included in the work.
“There are things that are going to be done to help prevent that level of damage if we get a significant amount of precipitation again,” he said.
Council also unanimously approved the purchase of the former Old Creamery woolen mill building for use as a municipal store at a cost of $145,000.
At his August 10 meeting, Pantzke asked Council if they were interested in purchasing the 40 x 60 building—which he said met the city’s needs almost perfectly in a new store. The sellers were asking $150,000 for the building, and the Council gave Pantzke the go-ahead to explore the purchase further.
On Wednesday, he said, after the August meeting, council members Jim Chyba and Carrie Turner reviewed the building and agreed it would be a good site for a city store. In August, Pantzke said it would be beneficial for the city to own a store on the east side of Highway 10 because his current store is on the west side.
The bid for $145,000 on the building has been accepted and closing is scheduled for September 30.
As for paying for the building, Pantzke said he spoke with city auditor Jon Archer of Schlenner Wenner about his options. After reviewing the town’s finances, Archer suggested using money from the town’s liquor fund—revenues from the Randall Municipal Liquor Store.
“Our liquor fund has been profitable over the past few years,” Pantzke said. “It has grown from $164,443 at the end of 2015. At the end of 2021 the fund was at $359,454, so there is enough money in the liquor fund that we can use it to purchase the building, if the council wishes.
Noss pointed out that the nearly $360,000 figure Pantzke listed in the fund at the end of 2021 wasn’t even the full amount. Between $50,000 and $60,000 have already been transferred from this fund to pay for renovations in recent years.
“My point is, your business acumen to run this business made this possible,” Noss said, speaking to Pantzke.
“It falls on a lot of people, not just me,” Pantzke said.
“It’s nice,” he added. “At the end of 2014, the city lost $4,472. To go from that position to where, a few years later, we can afford to tap into that fund to buy a building is quite remarkable.
Advance levy set at 5%
Prior to Wednesday’s meeting, the Board held a brief public hearing on the preliminary 2023 tax levy. There was no one to comment.
“Normally every year we usually set it at 5% because we know we’re not going to go over that for any reason,” Noss said. “It’s just a standard amount.”
The Board will set the final levy in December, which may be less than the 5% pre-levy, but not more. For example, Randall set the 2022 preliminary levy at 5% and ended up approving a 2% increase in December 2021.
Pantzke said the royalty amount for 2022 is $167,760. Increasing this amount by 5% would increase it to $176,148 in 2023.
“Again, we can reduce this amount in December once the final budget figures are known,” he said. “It doesn’t look like there will be massive needs next year that would require us to go higher than that.”
Briefs from Randall City Council:
In other business Wednesday, Randall City Council:
• Heard an update from City Manager Matt Pantzke that Widseth Smith Nolting will help the city draft an application for $600,000 in Small Town Development Program funding for upcoming public improvement projects;
• Approved a request to renew its contract with the Morrison County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement coverage in 2023;
• Approved six building applications for residents of the city, as approved by the Planning and Zoning Board;
• Discussed the possibility of replacing the flooring at the Randall Municipal Liquor Store and Bingo Park Community Building. These could also be accompanied by a change in prices and rental requirements;
• heard from Pantzke that a public hearing on the final Wellhead Management Plan will be held at the November City Council meeting;
• Discussed the possibility of organizing a National Night Out type event; and
• Mayor Danny L. Noss asked Pantzke if he could include in the 2023 budget an increase in the monthly allowance the city sets aside for its portion of the Camp Ripley Veterans State Trail. He said they were currently saving $25 per month and requested that this amount be increased to $100 per month. The reason for the increase would hopefully be to help the project finish sooner.
The next Randall Town Council meeting will be Wednesday, October 12 at 6 p.m. at Randall Town Hall.