City Council to decide if it will treat Fountain Lake

Published 4:29 pm Saturday, August 9, 2008

After receiving a formal request from the Albert Lea Convention & Visitors Bureau to chemically treat Fountain Lake, the Albert Lea City Council will decide Monday whether to approve that request or to go forward as is for the remainder of the year.

Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Susie Petersen made the request July 31 when she asked, “Please address this issue as soon as possible, before our image is changed and pride for our city fades.”

The letter came after much controversy as to whether the lake should be treated with copper sulfate to reduce the lake’s green hue. The copper sulfate treatment would cost $12,000.

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During the Thursday preagenda meeting, City Manager Victoria Simonsen said city staff met with Petersen, members of the Shell Rock River Watershed District, the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Association and Destination Albert Lea to discuss the issue during a Land Between the Lakes meeting.

Because of the short-term benefit of chemically treating the lake, the scientific evidence of negative long-term effects, and the cost of the copper sulfate treatment, city staff are not recommending to treat the lake for algae, Simonsen said.

She noted that several communities, including Minneapolis and St. Paul, use a different chemical called alum — instead of copper sulfate — to reduce the algae in lakes.

At first the idea sounded good, she said, but then she read an article that said both alum and copper sulfate have the same long-term effects.

Councilor Larry Baker asked how long it would take to get the copper sulfate once it was ordered, if the council decided to move forward with the treatment.

Simonsen responded it would take a few weeks.

After hearing this answer, Baker said he thought it would be a waste of money. Several other councilors agreed, especially with the short amount of summer that is left.

Baker pointed out that a lot of what has happened to the lakes is a byproduct of the community’s way of life.

Even though the lake has gotten more green, he hasn’t noticed any less traffic on it, he said.

On Monday, the council will also:

– Vote on whether to enter into an agreement with Alliant Energy to use funds through their shared savings program to complete a geothermal project at City Arena.

The proposed project would convert the refrigeration and heating systems from gas and electric sources to geothermal energy. It would create an annual net savings of nearly $45,000 per year in utility costs and a reduction of more than 300,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.

The cost of the project is anticipated to be $950,000, with about $310,000 available through the shared savings program and the remainder being a city cost.

– Vote on whether to accept bids and award the contract for the 2008, 2009 and 2010 biosolids hauling contract.

Three bids have been received for the project, ranging from about $239,000 to $900,000. The city engineer’s estimate was $252,200.

City staff are recommending the low bid of about $239,000 from Oyer Trucking out of Hayward for the contract.

– Vote on whether to accept bids and award the contract for the street reconstruction and watermain replacement on Ridge Road.

Four bids have been received for the project, ranging from about $184,000 to about $239,000. The engineer’s estimate was about $209,000.

City staff are recommending the low bid of about $184,000 from Sorenson Bros. Inc.

– Vote on whether to approve a Youth First Athletic Program agreement with the Albert Lea School District and Community Education.

The program involves multiple sports designed for seventh- and eighth-grade boys and girls during the 2008-09 school year.

The cost will be split equally between the city, the school district and Community Education, not to exceed $13,000 each.