City of Bigfork
Regular Meeting October 13, 2009 City Council Chambers
Members Present: Mayor Roger Logdahl, Linda Koppelmann, Amy Pifher, Mike Stevens, and Bob Zimmer
Members Absent: None
Also Present: Jim Manske, Matt Pellinen – SEH, Gene Rajala, Warren Welch, Julie Aakhus, Caroline Welch, Farrell Gunelius, Judy Gunelius, Al LaTrace, Public Works Superintendent Chuck Almhjeld, Carol Pifher, Richard Salmi, Gene Ward, and City Clerk/Treasurer Mike McKinney
Mayor Logdahl called the meeting to order at 6:00 p.m.
Gene Rajala addressed the Council regarding the Police Chief position. He stated that due to the new agreement between the school district and the City, the Chief has worked 403 hours, while the current job description for the position requires 620 hours of work. He stated that he does not believe that the City should provide benefits and pay for the Police Chief position since the City appears to gain very little from that arrangement. He stated that the job description for the position should be reviewed and rewritten. He stated that it would be beneficial for the City to save money wherever possible. He stated that previous administrations had let things completely get out of hand and that something should be done to resolve it. He also expressed concern over the Chief’s usage of the City’s police vehicle for responding to ambulance calls, since it is not part of the Chief’s responsibilities. He stated that he supports the efforts of the ambulance service and the Fire Department but believes the Chief should use his own vehicle to respond to service calls.
Warren Welch addressed the vacant Cedar Street lots that the City is trying to sell. He stated that the City should consider giving the property to someone who wants to build on them and pay property taxes.
As no other individuals wished to address the Council, Logdahl closed the public forum at 6:05 p.m.
Logdahl noted that the discipline issue on the agenda would be moved to a closed session at the end of the meeting.
Logdahl stated that he would like issues relating to the Police Chief moved to the next Personnel Committee meeting in December. Zimmer asked if the issue was discussed at the previous Personnel Committee meeting. Logdahl stated that the issue was discussed but had not been acted upon.
Zimmer noted that the agenda has been updated since the agenda packets were sent out to the Council. Stevens asked if the remaining information on the agenda with the exception of the third line item is the same. Zimmer noted that this is the case.
Zimmer motioned to approve the updated agenda, seconded by Stevens, motion carried unanimously (MCU).
Logdahl asked if the invoice for work done by Braun Pump & Controls included the cost of parts or only labor. Chuck Almhjeld noted that the invoice did include the cost of parts.
Zimmer asked if Rex Bertram had caught any beaver. Almhjeld noted that he caught four young beavers and one adult with one more left to catch.
Koppelmann noted that the meeting minutes of the September 11, 2009 special City Council meeting erroneously listed her as being absent. She noted that the Council received an email stating that meeting attendance was mandatory. Stevens also directed staff to update the minutes to reflect that the meeting was an emergency meeting. Stevens noted that this was an emergency meeting since the special meeting planned for the day before could not be held.
Stevens motioned to approve the Consent Agenda as follows:
Item #1 approval of the minutes of the September 8, 2009 regular City Council meeting and the amended minutes of the September 11, 2009 emergency City Council meeting Item #2 approval of the Police Report for September 2009 Item #3 approval of the City Clerk’s Office Report for September 2009 Item #4 approval of the Financial Report for September 2009 Item #5 approval of the Public Works Department Report for September 2009 Item #6 approval of the results of the performance review of Public Works Superintendent Chuck Almhjeld Item #7 approval of the results of the performance review of Police Officer Pat Richards Item #8 approval of the Claims Paid in the amount of $18,493.15 including the September 15th and 30th payrolls and approval of the Claims for Payment in the amount of $18,446.85.
Motion seconded by Zimmer, MCU.
Airport Commissioner Dick Salmi provided his report. He noted that the door closer was installed very well. He also noted that the LV covers were installed and should be up to code. He stated that the light on the outside of the pilot’s building needs to be repaired. He stated that the shoulders are not finished yet on the runway but the runway pavement itself is in excellent condition. He noted that more needs to be done with the runway, including painting lines. He also noted that gravel should be placed at both ends of the runway to prevent snow plowing or construction equipment from sinking in the soil surrounding the runway before the ground freezes. He noted that neither the lights nor the electric cables for the lights have been installed. He also noted that the electric lines for the lights cannot be installed until the shoulders of the runway have been completed. He noted that the airport is progressing very well. He stated that the entryway has had a lot of truck traffic and has developed a small pothole. He noted that the lavatory is in good shape. He also noted that the ditch on the west side of the driveway may require attention since he believes water drainage there will be poor. He also noted that since a visit to the airport has been planned for the 20th of October that it might be a good time to consider having representatives from the City and surrounding townships in for a visit. He also noted that it would be beneficial to ensure that fuel purchases could be made via credit card. He also noted that a company was interested in discussing the possibility of installing an LP furnace at the airport and wondered if any future plans were in place to install LP lines near the airport. He believed that this would lead to increased cost savings for fuel. Salmi believed it was a possibility worth investigating.
Street Commissioner Gene Rajala provided his report. He discussed the issues with the Ottum Avenue street washout and noted that as long as the berm remains along the side of the road, water will not drain into the ditch and will cause further washouts. He also discussed the recently installed crosswalk signs throughout Downtown. He noted that he did not like the fact that the signs were placed in the middle of the sidewalk. He noted that the crew installing the sign stated that they simply follow the engineering plan and have no control over where the signs are located. He noted that Chuck would get in touch with MN DOT to see if they could move the signs off of the sidewalk so the snowplows could continue to clear the sidewalk. He also expressed concern over the height of the signs and was afraid that someone may hit their head on the sign if they were not paying attention. He stated that the signs installed on the other side of the street were placed on the light poles and off of the sidewalk. He noted that there was no reason why this could not be done on the west side of the street as well.
Cemetery Commissioner Mike Stevens provided his report. He stated that the City has received complaints regarding glass clippings left behind at the cemetery after it was mowed. He stated that the clippings should be removed after future mowing.
Parks and Recreation Commissioner Amy Pifher provided her report. She noted that summer was winding down and that the City beach is now closed.
Logdahl noted that the Sewer and Water Commissioner was to be discussed during the Council meeting. Logdahl asked Public Works Superintendent Chuck Almhjeld if there were any recent problems with the sewer or water systems. Almhjeld discussed problems with one of the pump stations. He noted that the City may need to purchase a new booster pump for chlorine at the water plant. Logdahl asked what the results were for the recent water quality tests. Almhjeld stated that the tests turned out very well. He also noted that the Public Works department has begun to flush hydrants in the City. He stated that between this and the water usage of construction crews at the airport, the water level in the water tower was very low. Logdahl asked if all the hydrants have been checked. Almhjeld noted that to this point, only the hydrants on the west side of the City have been checked.
Logdahl asked if Ruth Hubbard was available to give a report. Staff noted that she was aware of the meeting but was not in attendance.
Engineering Update: Matt Pellinen of Short Elliott Hendrickson, Inc. (SEH) had a number of updates for the Council. SEH has submitted the Airport’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) to MN DOT based upon the revised recommendations established during the City’s meeting with Mike Ferry in September. He noted that the changes reflect funding availability and project priorities. He noted that the City would need to come up with approximately $140,000 to cover their portion of the costs for proposed projects. He noted that it would be necessary to establish a plan for next year’s projects by February so funding will be in place by July 1. He noted that the 2010 projects will include paving the entrance road and installing AVGAS and jet fuel facilities. Logdahl asked why all of the projects were pushed back to 2011 and beyond. Pellinen noted that the projects were listed by fiscal year rather than the year they were to begin. Logdahl referenced the updated schedule and noted that it seemed to be in order. Stevens asked whether Bergquist used AVGAS or jet fuel for their fleet. Almhjeld noted that Bergquist primarily uses jet fuel for their fleet. Logdahl noted that the Council should make a motion to approve the plan to get the funding process underway quickly. Stevens noted that the City would need to seek grants to cover their portion of funding for the project.
Pellinen discussed the upcoming airport land acquisition issue. He noted that Julie Kennedy will testify on October 19th in this land acquisition case.
Pellinen discussed the progress of construction at the airport. He noted that paving of the runway is complete and that Casper Construction will proceed with runway markings. He stated that the final work on the runway will take place once the land acquisition issue is settled.
Pellinen also wanted to remind the Council that the airport is closed to the public this year. He stated that there have been some inquiries regarding opening the airport this year. He noted that this would require more than one runway restriping, which would result in unnecessary costs for the project. He stated that current costs for restriping are around $4,000. He also noted that, given the temperature requirements for restriping, it will be more difficult to find times where striping is possible yet this year. Stevens asked if SEH felt that Bergquist’s proposed landing on October 20 is a bad idea. Pellinen noted that the City should not allow usage of the airport before it officially opens for liability purposes.
Logdahl stated that, given the original project schedule, the work on the lights should be near completion but noted that the light installation is behind schedule. Pellinen did state that installation was behind schedule. Logdahl asked how far behind schedule the work on the lights was. Pellinen stated that he did not know how far behind it was and that the land acquisition issue had created problems. Logdahl noted the importance of finishing the lights yet this year before the ground freezes and felt that the land acquisition issue should not prevent this from being done. Pellinen stated that he believes the work will be done next week. Zimmer noted that the electric contractor responsible for installing the lights had moved a trenching machine in today.
Stevens stated that as long as the land near the runway is not cleared of debris, the City should not open the airport for any purpose. Logdahl noted that due to safety concerns, the airport would not be opened until all work was completed and equipment was removed from the area. Stevens asked if the work would be completed before the middle of November when the proposed land acquisition would take place. Pellinen stated that this is correct.
Pellinen discussed a pay request submitted by Casper Construction for work at the airport up to September 30, including paving work. The request by Casper is in the amount of $353,891.75. He noted that Benita Crow of SEH has spoken to Casper, who stated that they would accept payment of $100,000 now and $253,891.75 later this year. He noted that the City can file a credit application for reimbursement from MN DOT to recover these expenditures. He noted that once MN DOT reimburses the City for the full amount, the City can send Casper the second check for $253,891.75. He noted that Casper did not object to this payment schedule. He stated that since the next payment will be even larger than this one, SEH will cut the pay request off at the end of this week and submit an earlier reimbursement request to MN DOT. This will allow the City to issue payment for that period by the time the City Council meets in November. Logdahl asked why it seemed to take so long to process these requests. Pellinen stated that the state only issues money for the bonding bill at the first of the month. He noted that the next payment should be sent around November 1st. He noted that they are a little bit behind and would like to submit two pay requests to MN DOT at the same time. Pifher noted that she thought that reimbursements would be sent around the 15th of the month. Stevens agreed with this, noting that the Council meeting times were adjusted to reflect this.
Logdahl asked approximately how far along the project was. Pellinen estimated the first stage of the project was around 80% complete. He noted that the paving portion of the project was the greatest expenditure. He also noted that this pay request comprised approximately 33% of the total project cost.
Pifher motioned to approve the pay request to Casper Construction in two checks in the amounts of $100,000 and $253,891.75, Stevens seconded, MCU.
Logdahl asked about the progress on the water system project. Pellinen noted that SEH is currently working with DEED. He also noted that SEH plans to begin the project design phase around January with a tentative construction date of next spring. Stevens stated that the water project is the City’s greatest concern at this point. Pellinen noted that SEH should have more information for the City by the end of the month. He also stated that SEH would provide a recommendation before the next Council meeting. Logdahl noted that SEH planned to offer a recommendation by the current Council meeting. Pellinen stated that he was still getting caught up on the project. Stevens noted that this issue has been worked on for a long time. Logdahl noted that this has been a problem for two years and needs to get resolved.
Logdahl stated that Jim Manske expressed interest in becoming the City’s Sewer/Water Commissioner. Pifher stated that Manske has prior experience in Sewer and Water issues. Zimmer stated that Manske lives close to the water plant and can respond to problems there quickly. Logdahl noted that no one else expressed interest in the position and that he has no problems with the appointment.
Pifher motioned to appoint Jim Manske to the position of Water/Sewer Commissioner, Stevens seconded, MCU.
Casual Maintenance Laborer Hiring Process
Logdahl stated that allowing the Public Works Superintendent to hire directly for this position would streamline the hiring process. He noted that if any problems developed as a result of this change, the City Council would take back responsibility for the hiring process. He noted that the short-term, part-time nature of this position should not tie up time on the Personnel Committee. He stated that the Superintendent can make that decision since he has a better idea of what he’s looking for. Stevens noted that the City would still need to follow applicable hiring laws but that allowing the Superintendent to make this decision could eliminate the need for any meetings to make a hiring decision. Logdahl instructed staff to work to get notifications for the position out in a timely fashion.
Stevens motioned to transfer hiring responsibility for the Casual Maintenance Laborer from the Personnel Committee and the City Council to the Public Works Superintendent, Pifher seconded, motion carried with Zimmer abstaining.
Request for Bids – Airport Snow Removal
Gene Rajala noted that the County has assisted with snow removal under extreme conditions in the past and the City should allow the current arrangement to remain as-is. Logdahl noted that the work could be done on an on-call, as needed basis and instructed staff to add that language to the request for bids. Pifher noted that the County is currently down two plows. Logdahl was not aware if this was the case. Almhjeld noted that past snow removal activities at the airport stressed the white truck the City currently uses for snow removal. Logdahl noted that the snow removal will be more difficult since the runway is 30 percent longer. He also noted that the request for bids does not mean that the City must automatically grant the contract. Logdahl noted that the bidding process could determine how much the snow removal may cost. Dick Salmi noted that the County would remove the snow at the airport, only not right after the snow event. Logdahl stated that the City should still primarily depend upon the County to remove snow from the airport. Stevens asked how long it would take before a County plow could come to the airport to plow. Almhjeld stated that it would likely be two to three days. Gene Rajala noted that getting this done may simply be an issue of putting pressure on elected officials to get a snowplow to the airport.
No formal action was taken.
Sewer/Water Ordinance Update
Logdahl stated that these recommendations came from the Planning and Zoning Commission to address non-payment of sewer and water bills. Logdahl noted that the assessment date in the ordinance should be changed from November 31 to November 30 and the shut-off date in the ordinance should be changed from April 1 to April 15.
Stevens motioned to approve the water and sewer ordinance changes as amended, Zimmer seconded, MCU.
Hospital Walking Trail
Staff used the City zoning map to show the Council which portion of the trail lies on City property. Staff noted that the Hospital would like to continue to use the existing trail and plans to maintain it. Stevens asked if there were any laws that would prevent this arrangement. Staff noted that the greatest liability would be if someone got hurt while walking on City property. Pifher noted that the same liability issues already exist on City sidewalks. Logdahl asked Chuck Almhjeld if he maintained this trail at all. Almhjeld stated that he does not work on it.
Pifher motioned to continue to allow the Bigfork Valley Hospital to use the portion of their walking trail lying on City property, Koppelmann seconded, MCU.
Centennial Book Funds
Zimmer stated that according to their letter, the Bigfork Community Improvement Club would use the money for landscaping around the lumberjack statue at City Hall.
Zimmer noted that the Wilderness Celebration Committee became a non-profit group and received money formerly held for them by the City.
Pifher noted that the funds discussed tonight were solely from the sale of the centennial book and that the Bigfork Community Improvement Club invested time and money into its research and publishing.
Pifher stated that she would like to see improvements to the landscaping in the City during the summer.
Stevens noted that there are two different groups asking for the money. He stated that he wants to be fair in how the money is distributed to make sure that the group receiving the money was deserving of it.
Zimmer noted that the Wilderness Celebration Committee became a 501(c) (3) non-profit to solicit donations. He noted that he does not know if the Bigfork Community Improvement Club has that capacity or any other form of income.
Pifher noted that the Bigfork Community Improvement Club could get donations but could not solicit them. Stevens noted that this was still a disadvantage since donors could not use those donations as a tax write-off.
Logdahl asked for staff opinion on the matter. Staff noted that he was not sure how the money was raised or how it should be disbursed. He stated that nothing prevented the city from hanging onto the money as a long-term trust fund where the city maintained control and gave out money on an as-needed basis. He also noted that these funds could be reabsorbed into the general fund since they were not allocated for any specific purpose.
Zimmer asked if there was any benefit for the Bigfork Community Improvement Club to establish 501(c) (3) status. Stevens noted that this is a time consuming process and it is probably not beneficial for such a small group to pursue nonprofit status.
Logdahl stated that the City could still maintain control of the money and disburse it on an as-needed basis.
Stevens felt that giving the money to the Bigfork Community Improvement Club would be a better way to disburse it since the other group had already received a disbursement from the City.
Zimmer asked staff about how the fund is currently invested. Staff stated that he does not believe that the money is kept in any type of investment. Logdahl noted that it could be possible to invest the fund to collect some interest on the fund balance. Pifher stated that she felt it was not appropriate for the City to invest those funds to collect interest or to maintain long-term control over it.
Koppelmann stated that the Bigfork Community Improvement Club would use the funds to reinvest in the community.
Logdahl asked if the funds should be disbursed on an as-needed basis or in a lump sum. Logdahl instructed staff to get in touch with the Bigfork Community Improvement Club to find out what they would like to do with the money.
Zimmer noted that the Wilderness Celebration Committee could always ask the Bigfork Community Improvement Club for a donation for community improvements.
Stevens stated that he does not want the Bigfork Community Improvement Club to come to the City every time they want to spend money in their fund.
Stevens asked if any of the city funds were invested in a money market fund or another type of investment instrument. He stated that the city should invest all city funds wisely to maximize their value. Logdahl would like to use an instrument that earns interest but is not tied up for a long time.
Pifher motioned to allow the Bigfork Community Improvement Club to receive the full balance of $6,450.38 remaining in the Centennial Book fund and to have the City Clerk talk to its members to find out if they would prefer the money in a lump sum or would prefer that the City act as a steward of the funds, Koppelmann seconded, MCU.
Cedar Street Lots Property Listing
Rajala stated that he does not understand why there is a big rush to sell the Cedar Street lots. He noted that the lots are not worth that much. He stated that it would be fine to sell the lots but feels that there is no point in advertising them. He also noted that there was some interest in the lots in the past but that fell through because the City was not interested in having modular or trailer homes on the lots.
Stevens asked if the original rationale behind selling the lots was to pay for improvements to the water infrastructure. Zimmer agreed and stated that water and sewer were extended down that road.
Rajala noted that a 50’ wide section of the property in question was sold off to move a neighboring structure off the property line when 10’ would have been sufficient in accomplishing the same goal. He noted that there is not really room for two lots. He also stated that the sale was a bad deal for the City, since the remainder of the lots is largely low-lying land.
Pifher stated that the two lots should be treated as one lot when sold.
Logdahl stated that the City could still put a for sale sign on the lot without taking out an advertisement.
Pifher motioned to not renew the real estate advertisement for the two City-owned lots on Cedar Street, Koppelmann seconded, MCU.
Minnesota Department of Health Letter
Logdahl read a summary of a letter from the Minnesota Department of Health outlining code violations at the Bigfork Fire Hall. Logdahl asked staff if the Fire Chief has been notified. Staff stated that the Fire Chief received a copy of the letter from Jef Fisher. Logdahl asked staff by when the issue must be resolved. Staff noted that the issue must be resolved by October 28th at the latest. Stevens asked staff if the City would need to inspect the Fire Hall to ensure compliance. Staff stated that the City should contact the Department of Health to inform them that the issue has been resolved. Koppelmann noted that she believed that the issue was addressed at the last Fire Department meeting.
No formal action was taken.
Bigfork Fire Relief Association Request
Logdahl noted that he has met with Jef Fisher to discuss providing additional funds for the Fire Relief Association. Stevens asked if this transfer would have any budgetary implications. Logdahl noted that the only implication is that the Fire Department may be forced to delay future expenditures. He stated that this would not have an impact on the City’s budget.
No formal action was taken.
Stevens asked how the City is currently charged for ballots. Pifher noted that she believed there was a flat fee charged for the ballots. Logdahl noted that in the last budget there was approximately $1,500 dedicated towards election expenses. Pifher noted that this seemed expensive for the number of ballots the City needed. Stevens asked staff how much it would cost to hold a polling place election. Staff noted that a representative of Itasca County would be willing to come to present various alternatives. Zimmer instructed staff to invite a representative from the Itasca County Auditor’s Office to the Council meeting in November to discuss this issue.
No formal action was taken.
City of Bigfork Corporate Resolution Update
Staff informed the Council that the Corporate Resolution documents are available at City Hall for Logdahl and Stevens to sign.
No formal action was taken.
Tentative October 20 Airport Visit
Logdahl noted that this topic was addressed during the Engineering Update earlier in the meeting.
No formal action was taken.
Clerk/Treasurer Leave Request
Staff stated that the date in February included in the request may change due to a change in plans.
Logdahl stated that the original intent behind changing the Clerk position from full-time to part-time was to ensure that City Hall was staffed all week. Pifher noted that this would not be an issue if the Clerk had vacation and was a full-time employee.
Logdahl stated that the Clerk is a union employee and that the union is closely watching what happens with the position. He noted that City Attorney John Licke was looking at adding flex time into the union contract but was not aware if it had been done yet. He stated that he wanted to make sure that flex time arrangement was acceptable for the union. Koppelmann asked what actions a union could take to stop a part time employee from taking a day off.
Logdahl stated that he does not want to set a precedent by allowing employees to rearrange their schedules at will.
Pifher stated that she felt the Council should grant the request for the time being and settle the issue of whether to redistribute hours at another time so the Clerk could finalize his plans soon.
Stevens noted that there was some flexibility in work hours for the Clerk since the position would have evening meetings to attend. He stated that it should not be left to Clerk to take time off when he feels like it.
Logdahl noted that the intent was to keep the Clerk in the office 5 days a week. He stated that he did not want such rearrangements to become a common practice.
Pifher stated that she does not want to allow this issue to wait until next month, believing that the attorney has had ample time to address this issue.
Koppelmann noted that City Hall would not be open on Thanksgiving or the day after anyways.
Pifher motioned to grant the Clerk’s requested leave pending approval by City Attorney John Licke and the union, Koppelmann seconded, MCU.
Employee Discipline Issue
Staff informed the Council that during his conversations with City Attorney John Licke, that Licke suggested this issue be rescheduled as a special session to allow for proper notification and so that those involved had the opportunity to attend. Logdahl suggested that the Council address this issue at the end of the next Council meeting in November.
No formal action was taken.
Stevens motioned to adjourn, seconded by Pifher, MCU. The meeting was adjourned at 7:53 p.m. The next City Council meeting is scheduled for November 10, 2009 at 6:00 p.m.
Michael J. McKinney City Clerk/Treasurer