Airport, sewer projects are hot topics at City meeting

Posted August 14, 2013 at 12:00 am

The Miller City Council met August 5, and discussed utility rates and upcoming projects.

Fire chief Steve Resel gave the fire department report. He said the department had responded to only one sizable fire, near Ree Heights, since his last report to the council.

He reported several Miller firefighters are prepared to respond to West River fires through the Coyote 1 Wildland Association, created by fire departments in eastern South Dakota. Resel said if there is a call to respond, firefighters must have a team on the road within two hours.

Cory Helms of Helms & Associates discussed the upcoming airport project. He said this year the company will prepare the design of the project, and then will redo the runway in 2014. He said $90,000 of federal dollars has been allotted; with the City of Miller and the State to each contribute another $5,000 for the design phase. During the construction phase in 2014, which will include the runway, apron, hanger, access way and taxiway, the amount could reach $2 million. The 2014 work will deal with runway line-of-sight issues. All must meet FAA requirements.

Looking ahead, Helms said no project is being considered for 2015, but the next year would include environmental expansion and land acquisition.

Helms acknowledged airport users will be impacted by the 2014 work, but consideration will be given to make the impact as trouble-free as possible for the users.

The council approved the contract with Helms & Associates, and authorized Mayor Ron Blachford to sign the application for funding.

A building permit request from Gary Russell was approved, to build an addition to a garage.

Discussion was held about utility deposits, and the cost of connection/reconnection fees. Presently the deposit fee is $120. The reconnection fee for utilities has been $10 for daytime connection and $20 for after-hour connection. It was suggested the reconnection amount be raised to $50 daytime/$100 after hours. The utility questions were referred to the council’s utility committee, to bring back their recommendation at the August 19 meeting. The committee was also asked to study intercity electric and water rates (City electric rates compared to Heartland; City water rates compared to Mid-Dakota).

Finance officer Sheila Coss told the council that presently the City is not covered by insurance for boilers and machinery at the lift station and pump house. There are boilers at the swimming pool, and at the fire hall. Jim Bonebright, water/sewer/airport, recommended the coverage, which is provided through the South Dakota Public Assurance Alliance. The council voted to approve purchasing the insurance, with the annual premium being $2,385.

Bonebright also discussed the upcoming sewer project. He told the council the Number 1 problem in the U.S. in cities is the aging infrastructure, and Miller is no exception. The first phase of the project, to be done in spring 2014, will be scanning the sanitary and storm sewer with camera and GIS (geographic information system). Bonebright said cost of that phase of the project would be $243,000. No federal funding is available, so the City will have to have a Rural Development loan.

Bonebright said, to be considered for a federal loan, Miller must increase its sewer charge rates to show the City is doing all it can to “help itself.” City sewer rates are now $22 per month, and Bonebright said the rates need to be increased substantially, and he recommended to raise the rates $5.00 at a time. A $1.60 surcharge is required in order to have funding for the first phase, he said.

Councilwoman Mary Johnson noted, “We have to do something,” starting with a $5.00 rate increase. From that increase, $1.60 will be applied for the surcharge, and the remaining will be held. Action on a resolution will be taken at the August 19 meeting.

Finance officer Coss went over the budget with the council. “There is still work to do,” she told them. The budget must be finalized at the August 19 meeting, and has to be approved by the first meeting in September.

Many of the items addressed at the August 5 meeting, will be again addressed at the August 19 meeting, to be held at City Hall at 7 p.m.

Airport, sewer projects are hot topics at City meeting