Osseo council considers options for North Water Tower

BY SUE WEBBER

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

 

The fate of Osseo’s North Water Tower remained undecided after the Oct. 28 City Council meeting.

After a public hearing Oct. 14 to gain citizen input on the North Water Tower, the Council directed staff to get bids to remove the tower, but also to determine the availability of grants to repair the tank in order to keep it if it were designated on the Historic Register.

City Administrator Douglas Reeder told the council Oct. 28 that KLM Engineering, Inc. has submitted a proposal that would provide all the services needed to have the tank properly and safely removed for $10,000.

Since no funds are budgeted to repair the tank or remove it, Reeder said funding would have to come from the general fund balance, the water fund, be budgeted in some future year or be placed in a future Capital Improvement Program.

“It would take three weeks to prepare materials for the bid and another month to do the bids,” Reeder said.

In the meantime, however, Reeder said he and City Planner Riley Grams met with Becca Johnson, preservation specialist at the Minnesota Historical Society and Kelly Gregg-Johnson, review and compliance specialist at the state Historical Society “to go over potential problems and opportunities to get a grant to put the tower on the National Historic Register.

Reeder said several million dollars is available to cities each year from funds the State Historical Society receives from Minnesota’s Legacy Fund.

“These funds are available to fund studies to put places on the Historic Register and to pay for ‘bricks and mortar’ improvements to the designated places,” Reeder said.

He told the Council that Osseo could apply for funding to hire a consultant to determine if the water tower is eligible to be listed on the National Historic Register.  The application would be due in January 2014 and a decision would be made by March 2014, according to Reeder.

“The representatives we met with felt that we would be likely to receive the grant,” Reeder said, adding that there are no city obligations in receiving the grant.

If the grant were received, the city could then hire a consultant to prepare the necessary determination of whether the water tower is eligible. The consultant’s report could be completed by May 2014, Reeder said.

“We were told that the consultant’s report would most likely determine that the water tower is eligible,” he said.

The report then would be sent to the State Historical Society for their approval, likely within 30 days.

If the State Historical Society found that the water tower is eligible for inclusion on the Historic Register, the city then could apply for a grant by either July or October of 2014 to have a consultant prepare the necessary application to have the water tower listed.

“If the grant application is submitted in July, the funding could be available in September,” Reeder said. “We apparently have a good chance of getting a grant.”

Approval, if granted, would come at the end of 2014, Reeder said.

Even if the water tower is listed on the National Historic Register, the city is not obligated to take any action, Reeder said, though the city could apply for a grant to make improvements to keep the water tower in a safe condition.

If a grant were awarded, the water tower could be repaired in 2016, according to Reeder. Accepting a grant would obligate the city to maintain the water tower for at least 20 years if the grant were for more than $200,000.

Reeder said a group of citizens who are interested in preserving the tower would be asked to work on the initial grant application, if the council chooses to pursue keeping the tower.

“The thing that bothers me now is the lead paint on the water tower,” Councilmember Bonnie Heinen said. “Will it flake off? In 20 years, we will go through this whole thing again. It will cost a lot of money, no matter what we do.”

Councilmember Allan Hartkopf said, “My idea is to go with KLM to get bids out and remove it [the tower].”

“I personally am in favor of at least completing the first part to get the grant,” Councilmember Mark Schulz said. “We should go down the first couple of steps. It’s prudent. [The tower] is a viable structure for at least two years.”

The council agreed to direct staff to talk to the citizens group about their interest in working on the initial application, and report back at the Nov. 12 Council meeting. In the meantime, the KLM proposal will be put on hold until after Nov. 25, when representatives from the state Historical Society will appear before the Council to address questions and present more information.

In an earlier written report to the Council on the tower, Reeder said the tower “is no longer used as part of the water system and is in need of some repairs which could cost as much as $300,000 in the near future in order to preserve it in a safe manner.”

The tank also would require repainting every 15-25 years, Reeder said.

“Therefore, the 100-year cost of retaining the water tower could exceed $1 million,” Reeder said then.

Repairs will be required if the tower is not demolished within three to five years, Shawn Mulhern, marketing manager with KLM Engineering, Inc., told the council earlier.

In other action, the Council appointed Sandra L. Woessner to be interim city attorney “for an indefinite time” during the absence of the city attorney.

In a Sept. 5 letter to Reeder, City Attorney Loren Magsam said he has health issues that will require extended medical treatment over the next several months.

“I hope to have a full recovery and continue as the Osseo city attorney for the remainder of 2013, 2014, and perhaps beyond,” Magsam’s letter said.

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