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City of Willmar will again trade phosphorus credits with Mankato after City Council OKs agreement

WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council approved an agreement Monday to again trade phosphorus credits with the city of Mankato to reduce Minnesota River pollution until Willmar's new wastewater treatment plant begins operation.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency requires Willmar to reduce phosphorus at the old plant through 2010 to comply with a Minnesota River Basin national discharge permit.

An alternative to spending thousands to reduce phosphorus at the old plant is to buy phosphorus credits from another wastewater treatment plant operator in the Minnesota River Basin. Willmar bought phosphorus credits from Mankato in 2008.

The agreement was recommended by the council's Public Works/Safety Committee. Committee Chairman Doug Reese said the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency accepts this type of credit purchase. The city budgeted $30,000 to buy credits in 2008 and the actual cost was $28,406, he reported.

City Administrator Michael Schmit thinks the 2009 cost will be about the same.

According to experts, phosphorus is a nutrient essential to both plant and animal life. Aquatic plants require less phosphorus than terrestrial plants to grow. Excess amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen cause rapid growth of algae, creating dense populations, or blooms.

These blooms become so dense that the blooms reduce the amount of sunlight available to submerged aquatic vegetation. Without sufficient light, plants cannot produce the food they need to survive. Also, the loss of sunlight can kill aquatic grasses.

In other business, the council increased the city's maximum allowable state aid street mileage by 1.50 miles. The increase was recommended by Public Works Director Mel Odens because the city has grown and added streets.

Odens said cities are allowed to have 20 percent of street mileage in the state aid system. He said credits drawn on those streets can help pay for improvements over the entire street system. The revision adds 15th Street Southwest from 19th Avenue Southwest to 28th Avenue Southwest (0.50 mile) and 28th Avenue Southwest from First Street to 15th Street Southwest (1 mile).

In other action, the council directed staff to reduce the city's insurance liability limit from $1.2 million to $1 million for holders of city permits and licenses for events held on city property such as the Civic Center and for leases at city facilities such as the airport.

Holders of such permits, licenses and leases are required to name the city as an additional insured party. The Legislature increased the limit from $1 million to $1.2 million in January and approved an increase to $1.5 million on July 1.

The higher limit has increased the cost of insurance for airport hangar renters, said City Clerk-Treasurer Kevin Halliday. He said renters are unable to obtain reasonably priced insurance because the insurance industry offers coverage only in $1 million increments.

The council also:

- Approved the final payment of $40,809 on the $853,297 contract to Duininck Bros. of Prinsburg for improvements on 19th Avenue Southeast as part of the Water View Business Park development. The final payment represents the 5 percent retained by the city until all work is completed.

- Approved the low bid of $16,393 from Willmar Electric Service for providing and installing street lights in 2009. The bid was below the engineer's estimate of $17,634.