Water treatment part of maintaining the historic Mille Lacs courthouse

Joel Stottrup / Union-Eagle Mille Lacs County government center maintenance worker Joe Ahner in the historic courthouse boiler room July 18.
Joel Stottrup / Union-Eagle
Mille Lacs County government center maintenance worker Joe Ahner in the historic courthouse boiler room July 18.

A project will soon begin to soften the water in the closed-loop, radiant heating system in the Mille Lacs County Courthouse and adjoining justice center.
Mechanical contractor, Carl E. Johnson, Milaca, will install the water softener, to be located inside the historic courthouse boiler room, at a cost of $3,620.  The work was approved at the July 16 meeting of the Mille Lacs County Board.
“My biggest problem (with the request) is it seems like a lot of money,” said Commissioner Roger Tellinghuisen. “Maybe it (the proposed water softening system) has something special.”
Joe Ahner, county maintenance director, explained that the project will benefit the heating systems in both the old courthouse and the adjoining justice center.
The water that comes from the city into the water pipes is hard, and so the water softening would maintain the water in the closed loop at the correct PH (acidity-alkaline balance), Ahner said. If the water isn’t treated properly, it will corrode the pipes and equipment that the water goes through and cause the pipes to build up sweat, and the county has a large investment in its heating system to protect, Ahner added.
Commissioner Tim Wilhelm asked if just filling the loop system with distilled water wouldn’t be a cheaper alternative.
Ahner said that would have a cost because of the large amount needed and explained how the project, as outlined in his request, is needed. After about 15 minutes of the discussion, the board approved the project expenditure.
The project will include adding a water softener, some piping and insulation.
The water softener request was originally on the board’s consent agenda and was removed for discussion along with three other consent agenda items, of which two were also maintenance-related. The board action on those two were to approve a $22,427 bid from Titan Energy Systems, of Minnetonka, to upgrade the county’s 300 kW diesel generator to bring it into EPA nonemergency compliance. The board also approved a Carl E. Johnson bid of $17,325 to replace two water heaters in the basement of the county jail.
The jail water heater project includes removing the existing two water heaters and replacing them with two 95 percent efficient, natural gas, 100 gallon water heaters with sealed venting.
Late tax payment fee
The fourth item the board pulled from the consent agenda involved a late payment of property taxes. Mille Lacs County resident Guy Batement requested in a letter that the county refund him the $54.16 late fee he incurred for his not meeting the May 15, 2013, first-half property tax deadline. The taxes were for property he had at 10111 160th Ave., in Foreston.
Bateman’s letter stated that he had called the Mille Lacs Auditor-Treasurer’s office prior to May 15 asking if it would be all right to pay the taxes after the May 15 deadline and pay them as part of the imminent closing of the house sale (which was June 7). Bateman said in the letter that a woman at the auditor-treasurer’s office had told him that paying past the May 15 deadline would be OK and didn’t mention a late fee penalty.
Bateman said in the letter that he was surprised to later be charged $1,408.16 for the first half of the property tax, which was $54.16 more than what the first half bill was originally supposed to be. He said he then called the auditor-treasurer’s office to ask about a refund of the $54.16 late fee and was informed that the request would have to go to the county board.
Bateman maintained in the letter that he had made a good faith effort to pay the taxes in full and didn’t feel he should be penalized under the circumstances.
The county board received a recommendation by courthouse staff members to deny the late fee refund request, based on county’s past practice of enforcing late tax-payment fees.
Tellinghuisen said the board has no choice but to deny Bateman’s request because of no proof exists of what exactly took place in the conversations that Bateman described.
Commissioner Genny Reynolds disagreed that the board had no choice and made a motion to refund the late fee for Bateman, but her motion failed for a lack of a second. Another commissioner then made a motion to deny Bateman’s request, and the motion was seconded and passed, with Reynolds casting a lone no vote.
The deadlines for paying real estate property taxes are May 15 for the first half and October 15 for the last half. According to the Mille Lacs Auditor-Treasurer’s office, if the mailed envelope containing the payment is postmarked with the deadline date, it will meet the deadline.

  • While softening the water may ensure the pipes endure for many more years, it really depends on what type of water softening system they are using. The older salt version water softeners help in a way, but aren’t as effective at preserving the pipes as the newer non salt systems. And for the amount of money being spent, they could have installed a water purification or filtration system which would remove everything from the water and provide great drinking water as well. Both water softeners will do their part, but still don’t filter the water in a way a water filtration system can.