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Thumbs up, Thumbs down

Thank goodness for people willing to run for elected office, especially at the local level.
Unlike those elected to represent us at the state and, worse yet, federal levels of government, the votes city councilors and school board directors make are too close to home to go unnoticed. Sometimes, they make decisions worthy of a thumbs-up. Other times, they make decisions that make you wonder what it is the average person is missing.
The Glencoe City Council is worthy of both. The city deserves credit for approving the development of land making it possible for Kwik Trip to come to Glencoe. Some might see Kwik Trip as just another convenience store in an area that has its share of gas and convenience services. But the approval of Kwik Trip signals a desire to expand the city’s commercial tax base and make good use of available land.
As presented, the Harpel’s development proposal makes sense. It makes good use of available land with good highway access. The proposal will prompt the city to make needed improvements to East 11th Street. It also saves land for a future hotel the city badly wants to attract.
Kwik Trip is known for hiring local residents and paying a respectable wage. The store, once built and operating, will be a welcome addition to the community.
On the flip side, the council recently tabled a decision on whether it should OK a survey of businesses and multi-family housing buildings to make certain the appropriate equipment is in place to prevent back flow of possible contaminants into the city drinking water system. The council tabled a decision to allow staff to determine what other cities are doing.
A report containing information the city council requested should come back this fall. Unless it contains information so dramatic as to demand an immediate unanimous decision against the survey, one has to wonder what the delay was for. What could possibly prompt the city council to conduct a survey intended to assure itself, and the public, the city’s municipal drinking water system is, as the public has a right to demand – secure.
The back flow equipment the city will be looking for is required in state statute and the plumbing code. It is, therefore, required in city ordinance. City Attorney Mark Ostlund said the council is obliged to enforce the code as it is written. If the council is not willing to enforce the code as written – regardless of whether the issue is as important as the security of municipal drinking water or as comparatively trivial as the permitted length of grass on a residential property — the ordinance should be eliminated from city code.
What value is an ordinance the city council won’t enforce, or worse yet, selectively enforces?
Gary Schreifels, Glencoe’s public works/wastewater treatment plant director, was questioned at the Sept. 4 meeting about the appropriateness of the city checking on whether businesses have the appropriate equipment. He correctly said if the community’s schools didn’t have the proper equipment to protect the integrity of the drinking water, the city would most definitely be involved.
Based on the quotes the city received, the survey would cost between $26,500 and $32,500.
Nobody wants to spend money unnecessarily. But as Schreifels noted, the money for the survey is in the 2018 budget the council approved late last year.
We understand and appreciate the concern about government overreach, but the security of Glencoe’s municipal drinking water is basic. Residents have a right to expect and trust their drinking water is safe. It’s more important than most any other service the city offers, arguably more so than police and fire protection.
Unless there is some reason to not survey commercial water users not included in the council’s discussion Sept. 4, the survey should be addressed right away.