City of Bigfork

City Council Regular Meeting March 9, 2010 6:00 p.m. City Council Chambers

Members Present: Mayor Roger Logdahl, Linda Koppelmann, Amy Pifher and Bob Zimmer

Members Absent: Mike Stevens

Also Present: Caroline Welch, Warren Welch, Howard McKinney, Julie Aakhus, Alan LaTrace, Water and Sewer Commissioner James Manske, Casual Maintenance Laborer Chris Manske, City Engineer Mathew Pellinen, Public Works Superintendent Chuck Almhjeld, Dan Heinecke, Leo Kern, Brian Rauzi, Mike Andrews, Airport Commissioner Richard Salmi, Police Chief Jon Babcock and City Clerk/Treasurer Michael McKinney.

Logdahl called the meeting to order at 6:00 p.m.

Bigfork Valley Hospital

Logdahl noted that there was a change in the agenda to allow representatives of Bigfork Valley to present a development plan for the parcel at the southwest corner of Division Avenue and Highway 14. Mike Andrews from Itasca Economic Development Corporation came forward to outline these plans. Andrews stated that the proposal would be to build an industrial park along Highway 14. He added that this development would include two industrial facilities of approximately 15,000 square feet each, occupying approximately 10 acres of land. He noted that Bigfork Valley’s plan is to develop the property over approximately 20 years with diverse types of development but to have the industrial facilities operational within the next two years.

Andrews added that there was an overall plan for the site and that the comprehensive plan was essential to this process. He also noted that the property would need to be rezoned to accommodate these uses. He added that Bigfork Valley would like to move one of the JOBZ zones to the site, which are set to expire in 2015. He stressed that the City’s current water and sewer infrastructure would not meet the needs of this new development and added that the development could not occur without improvements to the water and sewer system. He added that current projections indicate that each facility would provide employment for 40 to 50 people. He indicated that there were some wetland issues on the south end of the property that would need to be addressed. He also added that Bigfork Valley has met with various entities regarding the project and was pulling together funding sources to help fund the necessary infrastructure improvements,

Zimmer asked if the manufacturing facilities would reuse the same water on-site. Andrews stated that the facilities will use new water rather than reused water.

Howard McKinney asked if there would be any heavy metals released by these facilities. Andrews stated that he did not believe there was any plan to work with heavy metals.

Zimmer asked if the facilities would plan to use the existing well as an emergency water source or if the well would be capped. Andrews stated that he was not sure what the plans were for the well.

Zimmer asked if the site would require three-phase electricity. Andrews stated that this was the case.

Logdahl asked if installation of the water infrastructure could be phased in. Andrews noted that the infrastructure would be installed as its needed on-site.

Logdahl asked if Bigfork Valley was working on an environmental impact statement. Andrews stated that Bigfork Valley was still in the process of working on that with an engineering firm.

Zimmer asked what water and sewer infrastructure was necessary for the site. Andrews stated that he did not know.

Almhjeld asked what the daily water needs were for these facilities. Andrews stated that the estimate was approximately 20,000 to 30,000 gallons per day.

Logdahl asked if this plan would include any development proposed at the hospital. Andrews stated that it would not. He also noted that this plan did not include any proposed work near the airport since they are separate projects. Logdahl added that all of the projects will have a strong impact on the overall needs of the City and that the City needs to focus on the overall picture.

Logdahl stated that the City really needs this development and added that there will need to be a lot of cooperation in order to get this accomplished. Zimmer added that additional housing will also become an issue if this project takes place.

Public Forum

Howard McKinney addressed the Council regarding the budget. He stated that he was researching the budget and found areas of overlap that the City could eliminate. He stressed that the City must identify areas to cut now in case local government aid is cut further this year. He felt that approximately $15,000 could be cut from the budget without a change in services.

Zimmer noted that the Governor has not taken any additional action on local government aid to this point. McKinney added that funding could be cut for cities with less than 1,000 people.

Licke noted that he attended a conference where this issue was discussed. He added that the state made aid projections based on the high point in the business cycle five years ago and are only making the necessary adjustments now. He added that it might take another five years for the state to get its budget back in order.

Richard Salmi addressed the Council regarding the streetlight utility. He felt that since the power rates are increasing and some lights are grouped closer than necessary that the City should consider shutting off some lights to save on electricity.

Pifher noted that there are three lights at the corner of Ottum Avenue and Highway 38 but that state law requires that all lights along a public highway must be in working order and cannot be removed.

Logdahl felt that since the streetlights are shared by the Town of Bigfork in some places that the City should contact the Town to ask if they would be willing to share in the cost of this service.

Zimmer asked if the lights could be removed. Logdahl noted that they are there for traffic and public safety, which are important issues for the community.

As no other individuals wished to address the Council, Logdahl closed the public forum at 6:25 p.m.


City Clerk/Treasurer McKinney summarized the additions to the agenda for the Council.

Motion by Koppelmann, second by Zimmer, to approve the agenda as amended, motion carried unanimously (MCU).

Consent Agenda

Motion by Zimmer to approve the Consent Agenda as follows:

Item #1 approval of the minutes of the January 26, 2010 special City Council meeting and the February 9, 2010 regular City Council meeting Item #2 approval of the Police Report for February 2010, including the following incidents: 1. Follow too closely (1) 2. Hit and run (1) 3. Fire other (1) 4. Intrusion business day (1) 5. Intrusion business night (1) 6. Assault 5th degree (1) 7. Theft from business/yard (1) 8. Property damage/private (1) 9. Property damage/business (2) 10. Misc. officer (2) Item #3 approval of the City Clerk’s Office Report for February 2010 Item #4 approval of the Financial Report for February 2010 Item #5 approval of the Public Works Department Report for February 2010 Item #6 approval of Claims Paid in the amount of $11,246.29 including the February 15th and 28th net payrolls and approval of Claims for Payment in the amount of $39,243.33.

Pifher asked several questions regarding the invoice for the City Attorney, including asking how the City would pay for certain items included on the invoice.

Logdahl asked if the credit card payment made was for the entire balance. City Clerk/Treasurer McKinney stated that this payment was for the full balance.

Zimmer asked about Ken Porter’s claim for reimbursement. City Clerk/Treasurer McKinney stated that this claim was for mileage and a meal for training.

Zimmer asked if the Xerox bill was only for the service contract. City Clerk/Treasurer McKinney stated that this was the case and that usage is billed separately.

Logdahl asked about the service connection fee collected by the Department of Health. City Clerk/Treasurer McKinney stated that this fee is collected for every water connection in the City.

Pifher asked if the City will continue to need legal services for parcel acquisition at the airport. Pellinen noted that the case is not closed. Licke added that the case is still in arbitration.

Motion seconded by Koppelmann, MCU.

Liaison’s Reports

Airport Liaison Richard Salmi provided his report. He noted that the bathroom and pilot’s building were both in good condition. He added that the pilots must remember to sign in when they use the building. He noted that the runway lights were on when he went to the airport today. He added that those lights can sometimes be activated by arriving or departing planes. He also added that the beacon and windsock lights were off.

He noted that there were still snow piles in the turnaround area at the north end of the runway. He added that the snow should be moved to the sides of the runway and back at least twenty feet from the edge of the pavement. He added that snow should be moved at least ten feet beyond the lights. He also felt that the runway should be closed at night.

He noted that the wind has been blowing the gate open since ice prevents the gate from being fully closed. He added that the snowmobilers should be required to stop in both directions when they reach the entrance to the airport. He also noted that he spoke to Congressman Oberstar, who expressed interest in moving forward on the airport authority.

Water and Sewer Liaison James Manske provided his report. He noted that the locks at the water treatment plant were replaced. He stated that the water quality at the treatment plant was improving, although chlorine was still an issue. He also noted that the water pressure at the hospital was back to where it should be. He added that City employees were prepared for problems related to the snowmelt and clogged culverts. Logdahl asked if the County had a steamer that the City could borrow. Manske noted that they do not have a steamer.

Parks and Recreation Liaison Amy Pifher did not provide a report.

Engineering Updates

City Engineer Mathew Pellinen provided his report. Beyond the items covered in his monthly report, he felt that the City should attain a developer’s agreement from Bigfork Valley before making any commitment to expand its water and sewer system to accommodate the proposed development. He added that the City will be responsible for any work done up to the right-of-way line and that the City must focus on what has already been planned. Logdahl added that this development could lead to expanded water and sewer treatment plants as well as a larger water tower, which would benefit the entire city.

Pellinen noted that the Minnesota Department of Transportation only approved funding for the apron and the taxiway at the airport. He added that upgrades to the entrance road and installation of jet fuel and AVGAS facilities are still planned but will likely not receive funding this year. Pifher asked if the need for emergency medical access to the airport would improve the chances of getting those remaining projects funded yet this year.

Pellinen noted that he spoke to Tim Johnson regarding a proposal to install a pedestrian trail route along the Bigfork and Rice Rivers. He added that SEH was contacted to assist with design and that the project is only in its conceptual stage.

Unfinished Business

Personnel Harassment

Licke came forward to present the results of a meeting held with City employees and a union representative to discuss employee harassment. He summarized the contents of a memo provided to the Council addressing the types of harassment taking place, the results of that harassment and what can be done to resolve it.

Licke noted that the computer is being used far too much as responding to emails regarding complaints is a very time consuming process for employees. He also noted that the Council should always avoid communication via email since that can violate open meeting laws. He added that anything on City-owned computers can become a matter of public record. He noted that many cities adopt rules regarding computer usage and records retention. He felt that only one employee should be responsible for answering emails on behalf of the City Council to maintain appropriate control over public records. He also added that social media such as Facebook and Twitter are also becoming hot topics for municipalities since there is even less control of what is considered a public record on those sites. He felt that the City should have a strong computer use policy and should set rules governing computer use and enforce them.

Licke felt that the root issue is that everyone is reacting to everyone else and that there should be a concerted effort to calm the situation and move the City forward.

Pifher questioned whether the Personnel Committee was really necessary. She noted that some cities do not have personnel committees and that it is excessive for Bigfork to have a personnel committee for four employees. Zimmer agreed that the Personnel Committee is unnecessary. Koppelmann believed that the Personnel Committee did provide some benefit by addressing routine issues. Pifher felt that the committee should be comprised of the mayor and one councilperson or should be abolished entirely. Logdahl added that personnel management is the most difficult task for an employer.

Motion by Pifher to eliminate the Personnel Committee.

Logdahl noted that the Personnel Committee can investigate issues without a lot of involvement from the City Council.

Koppelmann added that her desire was to have things run more smoothly and noted that having a personnel committee has not improved things in the City.

Zimmer added that the committee can always be reinstated if necessary.

Licke noted that a good reason to have a personnel committee is for negotiations. He also felt that the committee was beneficial for general supervision of the workforce. He added that a personnel committee should not comprise more than two Council members to avoid violations of the open meetings law. He also felt that labor negotiations could be managed by two members of the Council or the entire Council.

Motion seconded by Zimmer, MCU.

Licke also added that if someone makes an accusation against an employee that the Council should either require that the individual provide some evidence that can be addressed or drop the issue entirely. He added that the Council must receive clear and convincing evidence or a preponderance of evidence to consider a charge against an employee.

Zimmer asked who would be responsible for paying for a court-issued harassment order. Licke noted that the City Council can move forward on a harassment order on behalf of City employees and can pay for such an order if it wishes. He added that employees can file a harassment order without City Council approval if they are willing to pay for the order themselves. Licke also noted that he represents the City Council and not the employees.

Babcock stated that any citizen can file a harassment order. He added that the City should be responsible for paying this fee if the harassment is related directly to the individuals’ employment with the City.

Koppelmann asked if the employees could file a harassment order as a group or individually. Licke noted that this order could be filed either way. He also added that the legal system was often too expensive for any one individual to take action against another.

Licke stated that the City should attempt to find if people can get along first without resorting to a harassment order, adding that there seems to be an interest in resolving the situation without resorting to legal action.

Licke noted that just because City employees receive an email regarding allegations of misconduct that there is no reason why the employee should be required to respond to that email unless those allegations provide some evidence supporting the allegation. He also added that employees should not be required to spend a lot of time on complaints.

Almhjeld noted that these issues must still be addressed, especially when a complaint is made to a state agency or some other entity that feels it necessary to investigate.

Pifher added that the City has already exhausted 35% of its legal budget in the first two months of the year.

Logdahl noted that the City should draft an IT policy for issues such as email and computer use.

Licke felt that the City should hold people accountable for misconduct but must also determine whether allegations are true. He stressed the importance of having one person that responds to issues and complaints and addresses them appropriately.

Resolution 2010-06 Establishing 2010 Appointments

Motion by Pifher, second by Zimmer, to approve Resolution 2010-06 as amended, including the abolition of the Personnel Committee, MCU.

Sanitary Sewer Cleaning Proposal

City Clerk/Treasurer McKinney summarized the updates to the sanitary sewer cleaning proposal from Ritter and Ritter, noting that the length of sewer pipe was updated and added that the costs will remain the same from the previous proposal. He added that past meeting minutes indicated that this work was necessary for maintenance of sewer backup insurance coverage. Logdahl noted that money was set aside in the budget for this work.

Motion by Zimmer, second by Koppelmann, to approve the sanitary sewer cleaning contract proposal from Ritter and Ritter, MCU.

New Business

Ordinance #160 Updating Water, Sewer and Streetlight Delinquent Charge Certification and Service Disconnection Process

Zimmer asked if any of the customers subject to disconnection have made payments. City Clerk/Treasurer McKinney noted that one person has paid a portion of their bill and one person has paid their account in full.

City Clerk/Treasurer McKinney noted that these changes provide an opportunity for customers to come to the City Council to appeal their pending water disconnection. Zimmer was concerned that some of these properties have children while another might house someone with a medical condition. Almhjeld noted that the insurance company made a recommendation that the City not disconnect anyone’s water service. Licke noted that the insurance company was addressing this issue conservatively since the City can disconnect water service. He added that you need to provide an opportunity for a public hearing for customers to plead their case before the Council before moving forward with disconnections.

Pifher noted that the City should send these letters via certified mail to ensure delivery.

Zimmer noted that the City can start shutting off water service as of April 15.

Motion by Pifher, second by Zimmer, to approve Ordinance #160 as amended, with language added to require that letters be sent registered return receipt requested, motion later withdrawn.

Licke added that the City should avoid raising the standard beyond what is legally required regarding mailing of letters, which is currently sending notices via first class mail.

Motion by Pifher, second by Zimmer, to approve Ordinance #160 as submitted, MCU.

2010-2011 Itasca County Grading and Snow Removal Contract

Logdahl noted that the new contract for snowplowing and grading services is set to begin on May 1. City Clerk/Treasurer McKinney read the quotes provided for those services and noted that they did not change from 2009.

Logdahl noted that there are some issues with dust on Ottum Avenue.

Pifher felt that the frequency of grading of some roads was insufficient since those roads are used more frequently and are damaged quickly.

Motion by Koppelmann, second by Pifher, to approve the 2010-2011 Itasca County snow removal and grading contract, MCU.

Resolution 2010-07 Supporting Funding Application for Comprehensive Plan

City Clerk/Treasurer McKinney noted that Tim Johnson asked that the Council approve this resolution for the purposes of seeking funding from the Minnesota Housing Partnership for the Bigfork Comprehensive Plan.

Logdahl suggested that the resolution be amended to remove language suggesting that the City will pay for $9,000 of the comprehensive plan.

Motion by Zimmer, second by Pifher, to approve Resolution 2010-07 as submitted, motion later withdrawn.

Logdahl felt that the resolution should include language to show that funding for the plan will be provided by external funding sources.

Motion by Zimmer, second by Pifher, to approve Resolution 2010-07 as amended, with language added regarding receiving funding from external funding sources, MCU.

Resolution 2010-08 Accepting Donation of Land

City Clerk/Treasurer McKinney noted that he was contacted by Shaw and Shaw regarding donation of a parcel of land to the City. He noted that the land does not appear to have a great deal of development potential.

Logdahl asked if there were any development fees involved. Licke noted that fees might amount to a few hundred dollars, including a title examination fee, if necessary. Logdahl felt that it would be a good idea to accept the property if the cost of acquiring it is less than $500. Licke added that the County would still expect full payment on the taxes for the property for 2010.

Motion by Zimmer, second by Pifher, to approve Resolution 2010-08 as submitted, MCU.

Potential Rezoning Request

City Clerk/Treasurer McKinney noted that he spoke to a realtor representing a party interested in purchasing the church property on Highway 38 and rezoning it to accommodate a commercial use. He also outlined the rezoning process for the Council.

Pifher felt that it was important to process this request quickly. City Clerk/Treasurer McKinney added that the interested parties have not filed an application to this point.

Zimmer stated that it would be a benefit to get this property back on the tax rolls and to provide an opportunity for another business to open here in town.

The Council discussed holding a special session of the Planning & Zoning Commission on Monday, March 15, 2010 to accommodate this request with a special session of the City Council to follow immediately afterwards.

No formal action was taken on this agenda item.

Other Business

Pifher asked if the City had established a standard operating procedure protocol for the airport. Logdahl noted that it has not been addressed yet but should be on the next Council agenda.

City Clerk/Treasurer McKinney noted that he did receive a donation request for school-related activities from Andrea Hovila but informed her that due to budgetary constraints that the Council was unlikely to approve the release of funds for that purpose.

Closed Session for Discussion of Personnel Harassment Charges

Closed Session for City Clerk/Treasurer Performance Review

The City Council conducted its probationary performance review of City Clerk/Treasurer Michael McKinney. The Council deemed the City Clerk/Treasurer as satisfactory for all points of review.


Motion by Koppelmann, second by Logdahl, to adjourn, MCU. The meeting was adjourned at 10:04 p.m. The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 6:00 p.m.

Michael McKinney City Clerk/Treasurer