Watershed board approves upgrades to booster pumps

Published 7:52 pm Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Now that the dredge is in the water and J.F. Brennan is on the scene, the Watershed District will be repairing equipment whose use was previously uncertain.

At Tuesday’s board meeting, the Shell Rock River Watershed District board of managers approved purchase of a suction liner for one of the three booster pumps owned by the Watershed District. Brennan, the dredging and marine construction company responsible for operating the Fountain Lake dredge, will be using one of the district’s booster pumps, and it has requested for that one to be repaired, said Watershed District Administrator Andy Henschel.

Henschel said the cost would only include purchase, as Brennan has agreed to be responsible for installation. To date, the Watershed District has spent $4,300 on pump repair, he said. This update will add $10,373 to that number.

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The board of managers also passed a motion to put up to $40,000 into Shell Rock River Watershed District office updates after also passing a motion to continue into a long-term lease with Earl and Gayle Neist for their current office space, located at 214 W. Main St. The new lease covers 10 years with the option for an additional five years, Henschel said, and starts July 1.

Henschel said the long-term lease allowed for both a cost reduction in lease and the option to put money into the office space in the form of upgrades. According to the lease agreement, those alterations include furnace and air conditioning replacement, expansion of the present conference room, carpet replacement, painting, lighting upgrades and replacements and replacement of a garage door and seal. The budget for these improvements would come out of a facility fund Henschel said has not been dipped into since roughly 2009.

“I think our staff needs a nice, professional place to work out of considering the caliber of people we have down there working, and also a lot of these upgrades will improve the energy efficiency, so I think that’s very much needed,” board manager Brad Kramer said.

The lease agreement shows rent for the property starting at $1,766 a month including property taxes and increases every other year by $150 a month.

Additionally, the Lakes Foundation got the go-ahead for a $10,000 grant application to be submitted by the Watershed District on the Foundation’s behalf. Lakes Foundation President Brian Hensley said the foundation would use the grant to “add another avenue of recreation for Fountain Lake” by putting out a public use boat dock along Bridge Avenue.

Hensley said the Lakes Foundation is not eligible for the Freeborn County Communities Foundation grant because the foundation is not a 501(c)(3) organization. Hensley said in addition to the grant money, the Lakes Foundation intends to fundraise an additional $15,000 from private donations and to hand the money over to the city to purchase and maintain the dock.

In other action:

Hayward community member Dan Johnson addressed Watershed District board members, asking why members of the community of Hayward should pay to dredge Fountain Lake, what their received benefits would be, how much they paid for the dredge the district owns and why they received an offer from construction company Ulland Brothers to use the district’s dredge.

“The district’s goal is to clean water, and clean water is everybody’s issue, or everybody’s responsibility,” Henschel said. He also said money used to fund the dredging project came from state bonding dollars and the sales tax passed in the city of Albert Lea. He also noted a county tax. Ulland Brothers were denied in their request to use the dredge because their goal was to dredge sand and rock, Henschel said, and that kind of dredging creates the most wear and tear and necessity for dredge updates.

“We act on the best interests of the public in these situations,” board manager Gary Pestorious said in response. “…I think it should help people be assured that their funds are being handled correctly and we’re doing the right thing here.”

Henschel said the district is looking around for other insurance options after an intended approximately $13,000 increase was temporarily resolved following an audit by Cincinnati Insurance. Henschel said the increase was a “sticker shock” for staff. According to the district administrator, reasoning for the increase was due to the district’s ownership of Albert Lea Lake and Pickerel Lake dams — Henschel said these dams are owned by county and Department of Natural Resources, respectively, not the Watershed District — and their use of subcontractors, increasing risk for the district. Although the insurance company agreed to remove the added $13,000, Henschel said he asked Andrew Petersen with Security Insurance to shop around.

The Watershed District approved purchasing eight refurbished iPads for use by managers. Henschel said the move is intended to cut down on paper packets printed and copied for meetings as well as to save staff time. According to a quotation, the eight refurbished iPads would cost the district $2,667 after tax.

The storage lease for the Shell Rock River Watershed District’s dredge was extended as a month-by-month agreement through Nov. 30. According to Henschel, the new lease means the dredge will continue to be stored at Albert Lea Diesel and Chrome for $250 a month.

If the district does not make a decision about the future of its dredge, it would have to look at a new lease agreement in November, Henschel said.

About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

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