Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility Olivia City Council Meeting Minutes - December 20, 2021 - City of Olivia, MN


Monday, December 20, 2021


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, Landon Padrnos and George Ebbers.

Others present: Dan Coughlin, City Administrator; Karen Cavett, SEH; Justin Black, SEH; Liza Donabauer, DDA; Chief Tim Seehusen, OFD; anonymous / unidentified participants (via Zoom); and Nikki Pregler, Deputy Clerk.


Motion by Ebbers, second by Padrnos: to approve the agenda as presented. Motion passed unanimously.


Motion by Padrnos, second by Ferguson: to approve the presented Consent Agenda items:

  1. Regular Meeting Minutes of December 6, 2021
  2. Confirmation to LMC Insurance Trust of the City’s Retaining of its Liability Limit Rights
  3. Resolution 2021-123, Acceptance of Donation to Olivia Fire Department
  4. December Payables #2
  5. November Check Register

Motion passed unanimously.

Chloride Reduction Pilot Project Discussion

Karen Cavett from SEH, provided power point and a refresher to information originally discussed around June or July and additionally share some information from the MN Pollution Control Agency. In October of 2020, the MPCA sent a letter identifying new Water Quality Base Effluent Limits to be placed in the City of Olivia’s wastewater treatment facility’s reissued effluent permit. The limits for two parameters were specifically identified, chloride and phosphorus. Cavett reviewed the past water sampling data with the Council and indicated that while the treatment plant is easily handling the phosphorus limits placed on it, meeting the chloride limits will not be possible with the current facility setup.

With this in mind, Cavett and SEH staff explored numerous potential options to address the new chloride limit. Rerouting the wastewater plant effluent discharge line was considered but determined to be a very complex and costly option due to it needing to be extended nearly a mile in order to discharge into a water body that could handle larger chloride levels. With removal of salt at the wastewater plant being cost prohibitive, the cheapest and most effective option identified was to stop salt from entering the system from the water supply side. The typical source of the salt is from home water softeners.

However, the removal of end-user water softeners is not a viable option unless the city moved to a centralized softening option in order to provide customers with the soft water they need. A reverse osmosis system was recommended as the simplest and most cost-effective way of providing whole-system water softening.

As part of the permit process, the city is required to conduct a pilot study with a portable reverse osmosis system to demonstrate that it would be an effective option for the city’s water system. The results of the pilot study would be due by the end of December 2022. Cavett shared a proposal for service which outlined multiple tasks, a timeline and estimated costs to complete within the first year. The pilot unit would require set up, rental, training costs and weekly data updates on its progress. This data would help to determine the final costs of the RO unit. Kalahar asked if the cost of the study and pilot can be included in the 80/20 grant, which she confirmed. Cavett mentioned that the rental of the pilot typically runs around $50,000 and it does qualify to be part of any grant award.

Ferguson asked about the need for an addition to the current wastewater facility, which Cavett confirmed was necessary as there is no space for the pilot anywhere inside the building. Kalahar asked about the potential for federal funding through the recently passed infrastructure bill. Cavett said there was always the potential for additional grant opportunities but she assumed that the city’s remaining 20% local match would not easily qualify for federal programs. She mentioned that tSEH will keep it top of mind in the case that it would apply.

Mayor Hawkinson asked how the pilot would be kept from freezing. Cavett stated that the manufacturer would provide an insulated and heated enclosure to store it in.

Ebbers shared that the PUC recently met with Karen Cavett to go over this same information. The PUC concluded that the Council should proceed with the chloride reduction pilot project proposal.

Motion by Ebbers, second by Ferguson: to approve the Chloride Reduction Pilot Project proposal, timeline and fee schedule. Motion passed unanimously.

2022 General Engineering Service Agreement with SEH, Inc.

Justin Black shared a bit about the Annual General Services Agreement. It generally outlines the day-to-day services SEH provides to the city, like an extension of City Staff, before and beyond the actual projects. The agreement also included the city’s current seal coat project. He noted that in 2021, SEH again ended finish the year under budget, which is billed at an hourly rate not as a contract.

Ferguson and Mayor Hawkinson shared appreciation for the SEH team as they work with the city staff and explain projects clearly. Kalahar said he greatly appreciated the “not to exceed” pricing element in the agreement which eliminates any surprises when it comes to invoices. Mayor Hawkinson also commended the level of community engagement and information SEH staff bring to our residents and business owners.

Motion by Kalahar, second by Padrnos: to approve the annual 2022 General Engineering Service Agreement with SEH, Inc. Motion passed unanimously.

Finance Director Hiring Process Discussion

Liza Donabauer shared a bit about her visits with Council and staff, and the creation of the promotional materials for the Finance Director position. Several small adjustments were offered regarding the draft materials presented. Donabauer reviewed the job description with the council as well. She noted that the city’s recent compensation study indicated that the pay range was competitive and that there was no need to change anything on that front.

Donabauer asked for suggestions as to how the group wanted to determine finalists to be interviewed. Coughlin recommended that a “committee of the whole” be used to review the application materials submitted and to jointly come to a consensus on the finalist list. February 4, 2022 would be the day for the application reviews.

Hawkinson asked if the interview date could be pushed to February 23rd in order to accommodate other scheduling matters. Donabauer indicated that her schedule was open that day and she could accommodate that small adjustment to the draft schedule.

Donabauer asked for any initial feedback in regards to the interview process itself. Coughlin shared the history of how the previous finance director interview process was handled and noted that he thought it was a good starting point for this current effort. He noted that a key component of the last process was that the financial advisor and the city auditor served as one of the interview groups who were asked to help determine the depth of knowledge each finalist possessed. Coughlin also suggested borrowing from the last police chief interview process where a combination of community tour and city administrator interview session helped provide a more relaxed format for a discussion; while also helping to compress the timeframe for the overall process.

Donabauer shared that she would be taking the feedback she received and finalizing the materials so the position can be posted right away on January 3rd. She stated that she will send weekly updates after the posting goes live; and said she welcomed questions and conversation throughout the process.

Discussion Regarding Fire Department SCBA Lease Option

Fire Chief Seehusen noted that in recent years the fire department would budget for the replacement of 2 to 3 SCBA units each year but a downside to this process is that before all of the gear is replaced with updated versions, the specifications oftentimes end up changing which can result in related gear not being interchangeable over time. Presently the department has three different styles of the same brand equipment and more changes are expected in the future. Recently they received a USDA grant to purchase 7 new units and the Chief suggested that securing financing now to purchase another 8 units from Drager would allow for all 15 SCBAs to be new, matching units. He indicated the estimated cost is approximately $57,000 over 6 years to finance or approximately $10,800 per year.

It was noted that the department has been budgeting $10,000 to $15,000 each year for SCBA replacements so the debt service for this approach would be in keeping with current budgets. Seehusen requested permission to move ahead with securing a formal a lease agreement so the city attorney could review it before proceeding with the process if the Council was open to the idea.

Padrnos asked about the total number of units they have on hand. Seehusen stated that they would keep 5 of the older units for the officers to use after a fire is out for the investigation phase of the process; but the 15 new units would be assigned to the firefighters that constituted the attack team members. Kalahar and Mayor Hawkinson expressed the importance of continuity of equipment as a sensible request and ultimately a safety concern. Mayor Hawkinson asked if additional training time was needed for the differing equipment. Seehusen replied the differences between SCBA units were not significant in terms of firefighter training needs.

Coughlin shared that Financial Advisor Jason Murray and Interim Finance Staffer Vicki Holthaus had reviewed the preliminary documents and determined that the lease option proposal both fit within the current budget assumptions and the financing determined as very competitive to current options. He reiterated that these dollars were already budgeted so no additional funds would be required.

Motion by Ebbers, second by Ferguson: to authorize the Mayor, City Administrator, City Attorney and the Fire Chief to proceed with a SCBA lease agreement on behalf of the city. Motion passed unanimously.

Resolution 2021-119, MN Opioid State-Subdivision Memorandum of Agreement

Coughlin explained that recently the State of Minnesota was part of a settlement agreement with opioid manufacturers and the League of MN Cities in association with the State Attorney General recommended that cities throughout the state consider adopting the provided resolution to show its support for the agreement. It was noted that cities under 30,000 population do not have direct involvement in the settlement agreement but would have input by way of their county governments as to how any distributed settlement funds were spent. It is not a binding agreement, rather participation demonstrates a unified front by many communities.

Kalahar asked what opioid producers were included in the lawsuit. Mayor Hawkinson read from the documentation provided as follows: McKesson, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen and Johnson & Johnson.

Padrnos asked Walton if he had any reservations, to which Walton stated he had not reviewed the materials however he would be inclined to follow the League’s recommendations.

Ferguson reiterated the importance of getting assistance to those who need it in our communities, especially if additional resources are available.

Motion by Kalahar, second by Ferguson: to approve Resolution 2021-119, MN Opioid State-Subdivision Memorandum of Agreement. Motion passed unanimously.

2022 Fine and Fee Schedule

  • Ordinance 2021-04, 2022 Fine and Fee Schedule

Mayor Hawkinson referenced the highlighted updates to the 2022 fine and fee schedule. Coughlin shared the process that staff and department heads use to annually review fine and fee schedule for proposed updates.

Padrnos asked for an example of a temporary electrical service fee. Mayor Hawkinson and Coughlin shared some examples of construction projects and special events that might require temporary electrical connections.

Walton suggested tabling this item as the ordinance document was missing an introduction page.

Motion by Padrnos, second by Kalahar: to table consideration of Ordinance 2021-04, 2022 Fine and Fee Schedule until January 3, 2022. Motion passed unanimously.

  • Resolution 2021-120, Authorization of Summary Publication of Ordinance 2021-04

As Ordinance 2021-04 and Resolution 2021-120 go hand-in-hand, Resolution 2021-120, Authorization of Summary Publication of Ordinance 2021-04 was also considered tabled until next meeting.

Resolution 2021-121, Approval of Final 2022 Property Tax Levy

Mayor Hawkinson summarized the process thus far and referenced the Truth in Taxation presentation by Vicki Holthaus two weeks earlier, in which she spent considerable time explaining the highlights of the proposed 2022 budget. Padrnos acknowledged that things were challenging without having a finance director during this present budget process but said he would personally prefer to have budget documents provided to him sooner during next year’s budget process.

Motion by Kalahar, second by Padrnos: to adopt Resolution 2021-121, Approval of Final 2022 Property Tax Levy. Motion passed unanimously.

Resolution 2021-122, Adoption of 2022 General, Special & Debt Service Fund Budgets and Associated Compensation Schedule

Mayor Hawkinson thanked Vicki Holthaus and the Abdo team for their work on the budgets and documentation before them. He also acknowledged the considerable efforts of the city staff as well.

Motion by Ebbers, second by Padrnos: to approve Resolution 2021-122, Adoption of 2022 General, Special & Debt Service Fund Budgets and Associated Compensation Schedule. Motion passed unanimously.

Review of Draft 2022 Annual Resolution

Mayor Hawkinson shared that this is a document that is reviewed annually which addresses required annual designations, acknowledging some of the general roles of individuals, identified financial institutions, and the meeting dates and holidays in the upcoming year. The Mayor asked for any recommendations for changes to council committee assignments or other elements noted in the draft document. A question was raised about listing three attorneys under the city attorney title. Coughlin stated that in addition to the primary city attorney, two others attorneys had been serving the City in special roles; and it was anticipated that they would continue their work in 2022. For completeness, he said their names were added to the list of individuals providing services to the city.

Walton said disagreed with naming individual attorneys when they were brought in only for specific consultations. He stated that one attorney should be involved in all legal matters for the community. Walton went on to say that the others listed were attorneys that performed targeted, specialty services which were in law practice areas outside of his expertise. He reiterated his view that those other attorneys should not be listed alongside a single, designated city attorney. Walton did acknowledge that the document did include a designation of a bond counsel attorney; but he noted that they performed specific services related to bond issues which were outside of his area of expertise, so it was acceptable to list that individual separately. The consensus of the city council was to have the document list only Walton under the city attorney section.

Discussion took place about including the finance director position under the Human Resources Manager designation. Padrnos asked if it was appropriate to identify that position as serving in that capacity when it might take several months before a new director was hired. Coughlin noted that the annual resolution is a living document that was not set in stone. He suggested that once a new finance director has been hired that the Council consider revisiting the document at that time.

Padrnos offered to take on some appointments if other councilors wanted to take a few off of their plates. Ferguson said that the airport zoning board and the airport zoning board of appeals were two assignments she would be willing to give to Padrnos. She stated that those committees meet rather infrequently.

Kalahar asked for confirmation that the liquor store committee had been disbanded. Coughlin confirmed that the committee was done away with by the City Council last year. Padrnos asked if they should consider reviving that committee due to current discussions about a possible remodeling project at the OLS. Coughlin said that the Council could certainly reinstate that standing committee if they wished, but suggested that if the main focus would be limited to a potential construction project that perhaps an ad hoc committee would be a practical option to consider if or when a project proposal materialized.

Ferguson asked if a community center committee could be created to research community center options. Coughlin mentioned that Olivia Hospital and the Community Education Committee were initiating plans to work with the YMCA to provide recreational and educational programming to the community in the coming year. He said that initially the plan was to utilize existing facilities as programs are first established; but that it was conceivable that the demand for a community center type facility would grow out of those efforts.

Kalahar stated that it was his opinion that if a community center were to become a reality, it would need to be championed by a citizen-led effort and not a committee created by the Council. He went on to say that he would welcome such public participation in such a proposal. Ferguson invited the public to step forward to make a committee happen. Mayor Hawkinson asked if this type of idea could be a discussion item with the upcoming comprehensive plan update process. Coughlin said that such discussions could certainly be part of those community conversations

Ebbers suggested adding a social media coordinator designation. He stated that city staff could be assigned to help to post all pertinent city information on all social media platforms. Coughlin shared that presently Jasmine Miller assists with some website updates; Amber Dale takes point on cable access items and other staff share in other digital communications roles. Kalahar asked if the added redundancy to current efforts was a good use of time. Ebbers said that nobody reads newspapers anymore and people do not go to websites to get information these days because everyone gets their information from social media at present. Padrnos said it is likely a necessary step to have such repetition in order to be relevant and timely. Ferguson stated that none of the posting platforms would have to include public comments, and could exist for informational purposes only. Ebbers said that Jess Balderston could easily handle this added work as it would only take a few minutes of her time.

Recognition of Employee Years of Service

Mayor Hawkinson read the list of city employees and their years of service. Coughlin also mentioned the names of a few newer staff members that the spreadsheet did not contain. Ferguson noted that Assistant Police Chief John Sandgren recently retired just days short of 26 years of service. Coughlin shared that in a couple of cases, current full-time employees began as part-time employees for many years before they moved to full-time status. Kalahar said that he believed the number of long-serving staff in the organization was due to positive work relationships, being staff content in their job positions and that Olivia is a great place to live and work.

Agenda Additions/New Business

Ferguson asked for an update on the storm shelter progress at the trailer park. Walton shared that the June 1 deadline for the park owner to begin construction on the two shelters was delayed due to construction, production and delivery issues. Coughlin acknowledged that in regards to the construction and delivery delays, the park owner was very good about sharing updates about the status of the shelters.

There are two remaining issues: creation of formal access routes to the shelters from the street, and the required electric service connections used to keep the emergency lighting batteries charged. There has been discussion with the building inspector regarding what acceptable access means and looks like and he will probably have to assist with a determination in this realm. Coughlin said the owner wanted to connect the shelters to electrical power without having to have a separate electric meter setup for them. The Electric Superintendent has been working with the owner on this matter but little progress has been made thus far.

Kalahar asked if they would be usable before spring weather and tornado season. Walton stated that the shelters are in place in the far northwest corner of the park and they are usable in case of tornado. The council thanked Walton for the update.

Public Forum

Mayor Hawkinson temporarily recessed the regular meeting and opened the public forum at 8:54 p.m.

No public comments were made so Mayor Hawkinson reopened the regular meeting at 8:55 p.m.


Park Board – December 7

Kalahar referenced Jackie Edwards’ presentation of opportunities to work with the YMCA and the hospital. He stated that Jackie is serious about moving this project forward. The Board also discussed their budget, priorities for next spring and the veteran’s memorial. He enthusiastically shared that Dominique Claseman has raised $72,000 towards the Veteran’s Memorial project. He also mentioned that in light of the new memorial being built, the Park Board is looking to undertake some repairs and updates to the Kubesh Park shelter so that it is in good shape when the veteran’s memorial project commences next year.

EDA – December 8

Ebbers shared that the EDA had a brief meeting. Flooring is being replaced in a few units of Bayberry Apartments; and the proposed hotel study representative/builder took a tour of town with Susie Lang.

Public Utility Commission – December 8

Ebbers shared that the PUC met with Karen Cavett to get briefed on the chloride permit limits being placed on the wastewater plant. He shared that the new MMPA vehicle charger is now installed out by the corn monument. It is a very visible yellow unit so it is hard to miss! He stated that Amber reported that she has not received much feedback regarding the rate increases going into effect in 2022.

Community ED Advisory Board – December 13

Mayor Hawkinson shared that information about winter community education and recreational activity opportunities will be sent in the mail very soon. The board also discussed early childhood programming as well as continued conversations about partnering with the YMCA.

Parks & Trails Update

Coughlin shared that a map of the proposed new and updated MNDOT’s sidewalks, depicting new and replaced sidewalks, will be created to tie into Kubesh park and the Veteran’s Memorial. He hoped it would be presented early next year.

Padrnos asked about snow and ice removal from the walking path/trail. Coughlin stated that it is the city’s responsibility to keep it clear, though not salted or sanded.

Other Reports of Council / Staff

Mayor Hawkinson shared that the CCT board met last week and they could use some drivers. He invited the public to share that information with anyone they know that could be interested and could pick up a few shifts in town.

Correspondence and Public Notices

Mayor Hawkinson shared that there could be a possible quorum of the city council at City Hall at Noon on Thursday (12.23.2021) for a staff holiday pot luck lunch.

Mayor Hawkinson shared that Tracy provided a pool report similar to two weeks ago. She stated that the school continued to use the pool regularly. She will plan a couple days of open swim during holiday break and some Sundays in January and February. It was noted that December 27 and 28 they will host open swim at 1:00 p.m. according to Ebbers.


Motion by Ebbers, second by Kalahar: to adjourn the meeting at 9:04 p.m. Motion passed unanimously.

Brush pickup will begin in April every last Friday of the month til October please pile on curb or near an adjacent alley.
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