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City addresses flooding concerns

ABOVE: A look at the public dock in Amber Lake in Fairmont. It is one of many public and private docks that have gone underwater in recent heavy rainfalls.

FAIRMONT– At the Fairmont City Council meeting on Monday, Public Works Director Matthew York provided a flood and storm update. York said that since Friday, the city had spent over 150 hours working on high water and storm activities.

“Streets and park teams were out through the weekend dealing with high water in parks and roadways, mainly outside of town. Some of our gravel roads were inundated,” York said.

He said that the wastewater team also had a lot of action and between Friday and Sunday it had 30.6 million gallons through the treatment plant. For reference,

he said it did 36.79 million gallos in the month of February.

York acknowledged that there were several areas that were bypassed outside of the plant and pointed out that it’s allowed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency any time that heavy rains, rapid snowmelt or flooding happens so that the sanitary sewer system is at capacity.

“In a perfect world, when it rains, the treatment plant will stay at the same rate… and not see any fluctuation with any rain event. The next step is to try to find where some of those infiltration points are and rectify those to stop rain water and ground water from coming into our sanitary sewer system,” York said.

Council Member Britney Kawecki asked about the no wake zone and whether opening the dam sooner would have made a difference.

“It’s unknown. When you get 10 inches of rain in an eight day period you’re going to have this,” York said.

He said the city is planning on reaching out to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on the matter.

“If we were to go out and open the dam right now, what would that do to downstream?” York said.

He shared that he has talked to people who have lived in the area for more than 50 years who have never seen the water this high and want to make sure the city is not making any knee jerk reactions when dealing with this rare matter.

Council Member Randy Lubenow told York that he has heard compliments from several residents who were impressed with city staff on the grounds over the weekend who were out and helping.

In other business the council considered potential restoration of city owned farmland and changes to future farmland lease agreements. The council first discussed the matter in a special meeting in early June with other staff members and members of Martin Soil and Water Conservation District.

On Monday water resource technician Hannah Neusch was present to answer additional questions.

“Overall the citizens of Fairmont want to see us protecting our water resources…I think we have this grant available and…we are the city of lakes. we need to lead by example,” said Council Member Britney Kawecki.

She said she didn’t think the council had taken enough steps to protect the water resources for the city and its residents.

At the special work session the council had mainly talked about making changes to Cedar Creek Park and a portion of the Day Farm. On Monday it discussed whether changes should be made to only those properties or all city owned ag and farmland, which includes 480 acres.

Council Member Michele Miller said she was okay with moving forward with making changes to just those two pieces of land and bringing the other portion of city owned ag and farm land back to another work session.

“We have brought ag leases up every year…,” Miller said.

After some discussion the council approved three recommended changes to move forward with the full restoration of the Cedar Creek Farm to native prairie habitat, the installation of native prairie strips on the east side of the Day Farm and to incorporate the use of cover crops and reduced tillage into the city of Fairmont’s agricultural lease agreements.

The council also considered an amendment to the task order between the city of Fairmont and Bolton and Menk for design services for the Gomsrud Park phase one project.

York said that due to the number of changes that have been made to the design of the project, a task order change needed to be approved by the council.

Kawecki expressed dissatisfaction with the changes and the increase in cost. She said she has talked to many people who ere still unhappy with the design.

“I feel like we should have been looking into other options but council wasn’t approached with other options,” she said.

The council approved an amendment to the task order in a 3-1 vote with Kawecki opposed.

In other action:

— The council accepted the 2023 audit report.

— Economic Development Coordinator Ned Koppen provided an Economic Development authority (EDA) report.

— The council considered amending city code of ordinance to allow for the keeping of honeybees in city limits.

— The council approved a task order for the Lake Avenue LRIP Design and Bidding Services.

— The council approved the community development director job description and advertisement for the position.

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