REGULAR MEETING MINUTES
Monday, September 20, 2021
CALL TO ORDER AND DETERMINATION OF A QUORUM
The Regular Meeting of the City Council of the City of Olivia, Minnesota, was called to order by Mayor Hawkinson at 7:00 P.M.
Council Members Present: Jon Hawkinson, Tom Kalahar, Blanca Ferguson, and Landon Padrnos.
Council Members Absent: George Ebbers
Others present: Dan Coughlin, City Administrator; Aaron Walton, City Attorney; Jason Krumheuer, Police Chief; Amber Dale, Utility Director; Officer Pieper, OPD; Nikki Pregler, Deputy Clerk; and Todd Howard, resident.
Motion by Ferguson, second by Padrnos: to approve the agenda as amended. Motion passed unanimously.
Motion by Kalahar, second by Ferguson: to approve the presented Consent Agenda items:
- Regular Meeting Minutes of September 7, 2021
- Resolution 2021-79, Acknowledgement End of Probation & Authorization of Scheduled Step Increase for Jess Balderston
- Resolution 2021-80, Declaring the End of Water Restrictions
- Madison National Life Insurance company Renewal Rate Agreement
- Empower Retirement Deferred Compensation Plan Agreement
- Pay Request #1 – Kuechle Underground, Inc for TH 71 Utility Improvement Project Work
- Resolution 2021-83, Authorization of Step Increase for Susie Lang
- September Payables #2
Motion passed unanimously.
Public Hearing – Assessment of Past Due Utility Accounts to Property Taxes
At 7:01 p.m. Mayor Hawkinson temporarily recessed the regular meeting and opened a public hearing on the proposed assessment of past due utility accounts to property taxes.
Utility Coordinator Dale referenced a handout she provided in the packet and explained the notification and assessment process and schedule with the Council.
Mayor Hawkinson asked if the presented list of past due accounts is typical. Dale shared that this list is quite short in comparison to years past. Coughlin shared that prior to changes the Council made to the city codes related to utility billing, the past due amounts that were either written off or sent to a collections agency oftentimes exceeded $30,000 per year. He said bad debts end up being paid by all other utility customers in the form of increased rate pressures, so the significant drop in past due amounts in recent years has been a welcome trend.
No public comments were offered. Mayor Hawkinson closed the hearing at 7:04 p.m. and reopened the regular meeting.
Resolution 2021-81, Temporary Step Increases for Nikki Pregler and Jess Balderston
Mayor Hawkinson shared some background information regarding the Resolution. Considering the recent loss of the City Finance Director and the temporary service provided by Abdo, Eich and Meyer; some accounting duties cannot be performed by them due to accounting rules & regulations. Those tasks have been taken on by Pregler and Balderston.
Kalahar said that it is important to compensate staff when they are asked to complete additional responsibilities, although the additions will be temporary, until the date job assignment levels return to normal.
Motion by Ferguson, second by Padrnos: to approve Resolution 2021-81, the temporary step increases for Nikki Pregler and Jess Balderston. Motion passed unanimously.
Resolution 2021-82, Temporary Personnel Policies for Olivia Police Department Officers
Mayor Hawkinson shared some background information regarding the Resolution. Currently the OPD is short staff, therefore the resolution proposes a $50 per shift (retroactive to July 4, 2021) to compensate/incentivize Officers to ensure the needed coverage of community public safety needs.
Kalahar reiterated his previous statements about the importance to compensate staff in extraordinary times; and in this particular case when they are willing to take on extra shifts or adjust their schedules.
Motion by Kalahar, second by Ferguson: to Approve Resolution 2021-82, the temporary personnel policies for Olivia Police Department Officers. Motion passed unanimously.
Review and Approval of Airport Land Lease Process
Coughlin referenced the proposed Land Lease process document included in the packet. He shared that the current lessee has stated that he is not interested in renewing this lease, so Coughlin advised opening this opportunity to applicants. The City staff will work with Walton to update all notices and documents.
Kalahar shared an idea to ask for half of the rent up front and the other half after harvest, if that seemed realistic.
Padrnos stated that half payment up front and half payment before or after harvest was quite generous, to which the Council was in agreement. He also stated that he would not be in support of any agreement without the fifty percent up front requirement, based upon past leasing experience.
Coughlin and Walton agreed that the request was reasonable and something Walton has seen in the past. Coughlin stated that those additions can be made to the notices put in the paper and otherwise distributed to interested parties.
Mayor Hawkinson read aloud the proposed process and dates from the packet document.
Walton clarified the options before the Council and suggested that a formal notice be mailed to the current lessee as notification of the decision made.
Motion by Padrnos, second by Kalahar: to approve the steps and timeline as presented as they relate to the airport land lease process. Motion passed unanimously.
Schedule City Council Work Session/Special Meeting the Week of September 27, 2021
Mayor Hawkinson asked the Council about their availability on September 27, 2021. Consensus was to begin the meeting at 6:00 p.m. on the 27th of September. Coughlin shared that the budget will be the primary discussion but some general conversations about personnel might also be on the agenda.
The Council approved the scheduling of the City Council work session/special meeting for September 27, 2021 starting at 6:00 p.m. Motion passed unanimously.
Chief Krumheuer shared that it has been a challenge to fill the needed shifts and thanked the Council for recognizing the Officer’s efforts.
He shared that Public Works staff and State Patrol have been helping re-route traffic around the construction zone and off of roads that are not truck routes. They will continue to monitor it.
Krumheuer stated that the garage on 212 has been removed, which was appreciated.
He shared that Christi Weidemann has been doing very well in her new role, which he was glad to report.
The Chief mentioned that he had spoken recently with Sheriff Hable regarding body camera vendor options and WatchGuard is looking to be the frontrunner when considering all factors. They will continue to work together and present some numbers and options to the Council soon.
Kalahar asked if there might be grants available for financial assistance to purchase the needed body camera products. He suggested talking with our legislators about the need for financial assistance for smaller communities and encourage such legislation. He also suggested that if an opportunity to testify presents itself, City staff should consider participating in that process.
Coughlin shared that he spoken with Representative Miller about funding and support from the State especially if body camera equipment is eventually mandated.
Mayor Hawkinson asked if Watchguard is the same system that is currently used in the squads. Krumheuer confirmed it is, but they will require additional updates. Mayor Hawkinson observed that the Officers seem to embrace this progress, as a whole.
The Chief mentioned that the new squad after market parts are still delayed with no estimated date of arrival at this time.
Krumheuer noted that Officer Pieper has been working on two grants and she will share that progress another evening. He reported that she has been doing well in her role.
Krumheuer provided notice that Assistant Chief Sandgren has given notice of retirement as of November 15 of this year. He added that it is a sad day for the department to have arrived at this moment, however it was nevertheless a good and well-deserved moment for Sandgren. The Chief recognized and thanked Sandgren for his many years of service to this community and department.
Kalahar shared that Sandgren has been an appreciated calm voice in every situation. Coughlin agreed and recognized Sandgren’s contributions above and beyond his role including serving for over 2 years as acting chief. Kalahar asked how this notification will impact staffing levels. Krumheuer shared that some conversations have already been taking place at the staff level and he hoped to share more at the special meeting on September 27th. Coughlin said that Tessia Melvin with David Drown and Associates will likely assist with updating the job description and helping us move forward in this search process as soon as possible.
Mayor Hawkinson thanked Sandgren for his 25+ years of dedicated service to this community.
Motion by Ferguson, second by Padrnos: to accept the resignation of Assistant Chief John Sandgren as of November 15, 2021. Motion passed unanimously.
Resolution 2021-84, Hiring of Technical Rescue Team Members
Coughlin shared that earlier that evening he sat in on a TRT hiring committee to help interview new applicants for a couple of open positions. He shared some information about the hiring committee process and the skills that the candidates possess that make them qualified to be TRT members. Pending a successful background check and approval by the City Council, their training could begin as early as next week. The addition of these two members would make a 19-person team; nearly the full roster of 20 maximum team members.
Kalahar shared that the TRT will be a valued resource in the area, not just in Renville County. Coughlin agreed that not only can the TRT save lives but their presence can positively impact industries and insurance rates for those industries.
Motion by Padrnos, second by Kalahar: to approve the hiring of technical rescue team members Wyatt Hatch and Josh Dahl. Motion passed unanimously.
At 7:33 p.m. Mayor Hawkinson temporarily recessed the regular meeting and opened the public forum.
Todd Howard, community member, shared his concern about the proposed LED sign at the High School. He has shared with the Appeals Board his consideration of noise and light discipline when purchasing his home. As a veteran, he is aware of the potential trigger for people with PTSD by flashing lights. Mr. Howard stated that he is not against the sign, he is against the placement of the sign. He said that he and his neighbors offered compromises and suggestions to come to an agreement on this sign but felt that they were ignored. He asked the Council to overturn the Board’s decision.
Mayor Hawkinson thanked Mr. Howard for sharing his comments and information with the Council.
No further public comments were offered. Mayor Hawkinson closed the public forum at 7:41 p.m. and reopened the regular meeting.
Coughlin shared that weather is impacting progress currently, but hopefully paving can be placed later in the week, making next week when the roadway-infringing elements of the project would come to an end. Coughlin noted that the only concern raised to him throughout the span of this project was in regards to a tree that had to be trimmed and whose roots were also trimmed back. The property owner was worried about the long-term viability of the tree so Coughlin assured him that if next summer the tree shows sign of significant stress or problems, the City would work with the property owner to remove and replace the tree in question.
Parks and Trails Report
Coughlin shared that MNDOT and the Utilities Department have been working together regarding the rerouting of some cables and other utility assets that intersect the proposed trail locations.
Other Reports of Council / Staff
Coughlin shared information about a pending $600,000 grant for the airport to make upgrades to the existing lighting for safety purposes. MNDOT Aeronautics have been and will continue to work with City staff on this effort, which will fund approximately 95% of the upgrade project. It will be a great benefit to the safety of our airport. Coughlin said the 5% local funds have already been budgeted so accepting this grant award will not have an adverse impact on the budget.
BOLD Community Pool Report
Mayor Hawkinson shared the September Pool Report.
Kalahar added that the next Pool Board meeting will be the first meeting with their new superintendent. He said he was looking forward to forging a good working relationship with him.
Mayor Hawkinson announced the Highway 71 South Utility Project Assessment Hearing scheduled for October 4, 2021.
Mayor Hawkinson shared that the howitzer at Flag Memorial Park will be restored at Camp Ripley and returned to its place soon. He expressed a thank you to the volunteers that have raised the flags in the past, as the National Guard will soon be taking over that responsibility from now on.
Kalahar mentioned the new power pedestals at Memorial Park, which have been a positive addition. Coughlin explained a bit about their functionality. They are currently first-come-first-serve, as no reservations are available at this time. Patrons are not charged a fee, however there is a suggested amount for free will donations which many of individuals donate.
Motion by Kalahar, second by Padrnos: to adjourn the meeting at 7:53 p.m. Motion passed unanimously.