During a city council meeting on March 12 Public Works Officer Eric Harnack shared a grant he plans to submit to the Minnesota Department of Health. The grant funds, if received, would be used to bring rural water to the Rez campground.
The council has been exploring options for this project for several years. They currently have a bid from Leuthold Plumbing and Heating for the work and are hoping to offset some of the cost by collecting grant money.
City Clerk Connie Wiertzema said she recently spoke with an individual who was assisting another town with a grant for building shower and bathroom facilities at their city campground. Wiertzema said she will be getting more information on that process at the end of the month.
Other options for collecting grant money included the Luverne Area Community Foundation and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Foundation. Both groups are currently in the process of accepting grant applications.
Councilman Stacen Burgers, who works for Rock County Rural Water, offered to volunteer his time, along with the volunteer services of engineer Lara Leenderts and Hills resident Mike Spath.
The council agreed to wait on the project until grant requests have been seen.
Seal coating issues
Rock County engineer Mark Sehr informed the council that the county does not plan on seal coating this year but will do so in 2014.
In the past, city seal coating work has been included in the county bid package. This agreement has served to pull down the per yard price of seal coating in Hills.
Harnack reported it would be necessary to seal coat the portion of Seventh Street that was torn up and double coated last summer. He said there were a couple of other areas that would require it as well.
The council asked him to explore possible options for getting a smaller seal coating job completed. This included checking with other neighboring towns in Iowa and exploring the possibility of using county equipment.
Council considers charging for fire calls
The council took a harder look at the legalities of charging for fire calls.
The idea has been discussed between the council, Martin Township and the Hills Fire Department during the past two budget meetings. Currently there is no charge for fire calls.
The council was informed that most home and farm insurance coverage includes a charge to cover fire call bills.
There have been instances in the past where property owners have requested a bill to submit to their insurance agency.
Once the bill is submitted, the insurance agency remits payment to the city, up to the amount noted in the policy.
This year the council followed up the discussion by seeking out legal information and inquiring what other departments are charging.
Legally the council can charge for fire calls if they have an ordinance that specifies such. The ordinance determines what types of calls are charged and how much can be charged.
The council did not want to include rescue calls, false alarms or minor fires.
They were advised by other departments that they charge only when they have to pull a hose off the truck.
Billing amounts of departments ranged from $500 to $1,000. Some cities charged by the hour, others had flat rates. Mayor Keith Elbers polled several communities and they all said they do not actively collect on the bills.
Bills can only be sent when the Hills Fire Department is the primary department on the scene of the fire, not in mutual aid situations.
If such an ordinance were to pass, the funds collected from the bills would be put in the joint savings account for fire equipment. In February the council approved the fire budget for 2014 at just over $38,000.
The council approved creating an ordinance pending approval by Martin Township.
In other council business:
•The council heard a report on the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership project. The grant funds helped rehab 20 homes in Luverne, Hills and Jasper. There were four homes rehabbed in Hills.
There were seven rental rehabs but none were in Hills. Four percent of the project contractors came from the Hills area.
•A temporary liquor license was issued to the Helping Build Communities Stronger group to use on June 9 for a Friendship Days street dance.
•The council formally approved wage increases for city employees. Legion maintenance increased $25 per month, extra help increased 50 cents per hour, treasurer increased $25 per month, clerk wage increased 2.5 percent and the public works officer wage increased 3.54 percent.
The salaries were discussed during a closed session in January.
•The council approved a request from Stacen Burgers to use city equipment to pick up a load of pit gravel to be placed along the path at the Rez.
Around the Clock Fitness and Tanning, owned by Burgers, intends to purchase $100 in gravel for the project.
•A building permit was granted to Josh Rheault of Rheault Ag Service for his property on Highway 270.
Rheault plans to add storage bins and office space to the former Pioneer Seeds Building.
The work will be started this summer.
•Council members shared the need to clean out and inspect many of the culverts in town. They were not flowing properly during a late winter rain storm.