Cologne discusses field lights, fire truck restoration

By Paul Downer
Community Editor

Baseball lights and historic fire trucks were among the items discussed at the Cologne City Council meeting on Monday, Nov. 19.        A group of visitors representing the Cologne Hollanders baseball club shared information related to their efforts to install lights at Fritz Field, and John Hendel of the Cologne Fire Department provided an update on the department’s restoration plans for the city’s first motorized fire truck.

Fritz Field lights
Members of the Cologne baseball club had good news for the council regarding efforts to fundraise for the eventual installation of lights at Fritz Field. The club hopes to raise $76,000 toward the project by 2016, and is on track to reach that number. A total of $23,000 has already been raised, and the club expects to have near $40,000 by the end of 2013.

If fundraising efforts continue to go as planned, the club could begin the project in 2015. The total cost to install lights is expected to be around $150,000, but the club plans to reduce that number substantially with volunteer labor.

Club members also emphasized the importance of the field, noting that it was used on 66 dates this past year by the town team and youth and high school teams. It also was the site of the annual Fill The Hill Day and wood bat tournaments.

Cologne representatives have also visited Veteran’s Field in Chaska, which has roughly the same dimensions, to evaluate the lighting system there. That field has six light towers, and light deflectors are used to minimize the impact on a nearby residential area.

Craig Pexa, Darrin Good and Jason Kuerschner also shared some of the positive feedback about Fritz Field they have received from visiting teams over the past year.

“We’re very fortunate to have a ballpark this nice,” said Pexa.

Mayor Bernie Shambour Jr. agreed, and commended the group for its hard work and for keeping lines of communication open with the city council.

“The field is beautiful,” he said. “It is a real source of pride for the town.”

Fire truck restoration
Hendel’s presentation regarded a source of pride for the Cologne Fire Department — its 1920s American LaFrance fire truck.

Hendel said that the fire department expects full restoration to cost around $40,000, but about half of that has already been raised through fundraisers like the annual Firehouse Drive-In. Fire department members haven’t been limiting themselves to local fundraising either. They made a proposal to have the truck put on the History Channel’s “American Restoration” show, and were told by show producers that the truck was possibly a good candidate.

However, the producers did not want to guarantee the truck’s inclusion in the show without personally inspecting it, and fire department members did not want to risk the expense of bringing the truck to Las Vegas, Nev. for a “maybe,” as Hendel put it.

Still, “we almost got our truck on national TV,” he said.

After some additional research on the truck turned up some new information on its origins, Hendel also shared those findings with the council. The truck is a 1924 American LaFrance Brockway model rather than a 1923 American LaFrance as previously believed. The truck was originally built as an exhibit vehicle for display in New York, but was eventually sold to a different town in Minnesota. Cologne acquired the truck in 1925 for $3,400, and it served the city until 1948.

The fire department hopes to finish restoring the truck in 2014, in time for the department’s 125th anniversary. Once restored to its original condition, Hendel said the truck could be worth upwards of $70,000.

Hendel also made three requests of the council, all of which were approved. The first was to go ahead with the restoration project, since the city technically owns the truck. The second was to give the truck historical protection status so that it can never be sold by future city officials. And the third was to allow the fire department relief association to have control over the restoration project.

Shambour said he was impressed that the fire department has already raised half the funds needed.

“That speaks volumes,” he said.

Hendel agreed.

“We’re committed to getting this truck restored,” he said.

In other business, the council:
• Heard a presentation from Terry Heaton of Springsted Inc. on potential bond refunding, which Heaton estimated could save the city $947,424.

It was the second presentation on bond refunding the council has entertained in the past two meetings (the first was by Steve Mattson of Northland Securities, who estimated savings of over $1 million). Councilors asked why Heaton’s savings estimate was lower than that given by the previous company. Heaton replied that both numbers were estimates, but that the Springsted number was on the conservative side.

The city has been working with Springsted in the effort to hire a new city administrator since an individual with a strong financial background is desired, and council members looked favorably on Springsted’s proposal since it would give the city some more control in the process than what had been previously proposed.

The council approved a motion to allow Springsted to continue working on refunding possibilities following Heaton’s address. As for timing, a refunding sale could be authorized in January after a new city administrator is in place.

• Regarding the administrator search, Shambour said the city has over 20 candidates, and the city had planned a workshop to narrow down that list.

• Approved a contract with the Carver County Sheriff’s Office for police services in 2013 at a total cost of $35,984. Council members were not certain whether that price was an increase over the 2012 rate, but seemed relatively certain that the rates were similar. Shambour noted that the price was significantly lower than in previous years when the economy was strong.

• Approved the sale of additional land to Troy Eiden of Modern Design to facilitate the expansion of the business by approximately 1,350 square feet. The purpose was to meet state building code requirements for fire wall ratings and property separation.

• Approved a snow removal agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation for Highway 284.