Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility Olivia City Council Meeting Minutes - January 19, 2021 - City of Olivia, MN

REGULAR MEETING MINUTES

Tuesday, January 19, 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, Blanca Ferguson, Tom Kalahar, George Ebbers and Landon Padrnos.

Others present: Dan Coughlin, City Administrator; Christi Weidemann, City Clerk; Jason Krumheuer, Police Chief (via zoom); Brian Stenholm, Police Officer / Emergency Management Director, (via zoom); Aaron Walton, City Attorney; Sue Hilgert, Former Olivia Mayor (via zoom); and Amber Dale, Utility Accounts Manager (via zoom).

AGENDA

Motion by Ebbers, second by Kalahar: to approve the Agenda as updated. Motion passed unanimously.

CONSENT AGENDA

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

  1. Regular Meeting Minutes of January 4, 2021
  2. Resolution 2021-07, 2021 Data Inventory Responsible Parties
  3. Resolution 2021-08, Reestablish Local Board of Equalization and Appeals
  4. Resolution 2021-09, Scheduled Step Increases
  5. Resolution 2021-10, Update of Police Department Part-Time Roster
  6. 2020 Cogeneration and Small Power Tariff Reporting
  7. December Check Register
  8. January Payables #2

Motion passed unanimously.

Consultant Staff Introductions – Aaron Walton, Walton Law Group

Mayor Hawkinson welcomed City Attorney Aaron Walton to the meeting. Walton said he’s been with the City of Olivia since 2006 and that he supports 13 different cities in the area. Walton gave an overview of work he does for the City of Olivia including attending Council Meetings and EDA Meetings, criminal prosecution, real estate transactions, land use and zoning issues, and nuisance abatement issues.

Councilmembers shared their appreciation for Walton’s work for the City.

Coughlin said that as schedules permit, other City Staff Consultants will be introduced.

Airport Land Lease Update

Hawkinson said that Mr. Wordes provided Finance Director Klages with an update which she forwarded to the Council prior to the meeting. The update stated Mr. Wordes has received assignment of indemnity paperwork from his crop insurance that both he and the City would sign if approved which would add the City’s name to all future payments, he also said that he has signed an intent to grow with Remington Seeds. According to the update, Mr. Wordes said Remington didn’t have any specific paperwork for an actual assignment for Remington to add the City to his future check payments.

Walton said that he will be putting together a generic form for Mr. Wordes and Remington Seeds.

Padrnos asked if anybody has seen any documentation that will guarantee crop prices? Walton said there will be uncertainty involved in this, but there is no way around it.

Kalahar said that he didn’t see anything in the update regarding the beet plant and tare dirt agreement.

Padrnos said that there is still plenty of time to lease the land to somebody else this year. Kalahar said he would like to finish out the contract and give Mr. Wordes a chance. 

Ferguson agreed with Kalahar and said Mr. Wordes is putting in effort to make this right and finish his contract.

Ebbers said his issue is that Mr. Wordes could have made a better attempt at addressing past-due invoices.

Kalahar this will need to be approved at the next meeting. Ebbers agreed and said he would like to see all paperwork signed and turned in by the February 1st meeting. Coughlin said Mr. Wordes tried to stop by on Monday but City Hall was closed due to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and Wordes was out of town today.

Lexipol Police Policy System

Coughlin said that Police Departments have several policies and manuals in place that are constantly changing and take extreme amounts of time to update. Coughlin said Chief Krumheuer faces challenges keeping up with constantly changing mandates and policy updates and having a policy system in place would allow Chief Krumheuer to devote more time to his police duties.

Coughlin gave an overview on a Police Policy System called Lexipol which was created former law enforcement officers. Coughlin said this system is used by the Renville County Sheriff’s Department along with other cities within Renville County. 

Kalahar said that he thinks that the City needs to start thinking about hiring an office support staff for the Police Department.

Ebbers asked Chief Krumheuer approximately how much time he spends on policy updates. Krumheuer said that he is constantly working on updates and there is a lot of time involved, but didn’t know the exact number of hours.

Motion by Ebbers, second by Kalahar: to approve the Lexipol Police Policy System contract quote as presented. Motion passed unanimously. 

Public Forum

Former Mayor Sue Hilgert wanted to thank the council for the commendation of exceptional public service resolution that they had introduced the January 4th meeting. Hilgert said she was very surprised and honored to receive it. Hawkinson said he appreciates the time and effort Hilgert put into getting the newly elected Council members brought up to speed on things and welcomed into the mix.

Hilgert thanked Coughlin and Weidemann for their part in the crafting of her resolution. Coughlin noted that Mayor Hawkinson had written the commendation resolution on his own and that his part consisted of printing it on presentation parchment. 

Walton said that there is a new management group, Schuette Cares, working over at West Court. Walton said they hit the ground running and he expects to see good things happen. 

COVID-19 Update – Brian Stenholm / City Staff

Stenholm said as of today there are 49 active cases. Stenholm said the numbers are on the decline. Stenholm said that he will be working with public health to see where the City employees fall on the vaccination list.

Ferguson asked Stenholm to help clarify a few questions regarding long term effects from COVID and also if a person can get COVID again. Stenholm said he will find answers to those questions.

Hawkinson asked Stenholm how people in the area feel about the vaccine. Stenholm said he has heard both positive and negative thoughts and believes it’s about 50/50. Some are worried about how fast it was rushed through the research and testing phases while others are eagerly awaiting their turn to get their shots. Ebbers shared that his observations show people similarly having mixed thoughts about the vaccines that are being rolled out.

Coughlin suggested inviting Public Health Employee Mary Kay Sinner to the next Council meeting to answer any questions the Council might have.

Renville County EDA Advisory Committee

Hawkinson said that the committee discussed potential grants and funding that will be available for businesses who have been negatively affected by COVID. Coughlin said anybody who has questions on the COVID funds can call Olivia City Hall.

Pool Board

Kalahar reported that he was elected Chair of the Pool Board and that School Board members Jamie Bohlin and Brian Boen were appointed to the board. Kalahar said the board went over the history of the pool and talked about the joint power’s past, present and future agreement. Kalahar said they will meet again after the referendum vote in February.

Coughlin said the board approved a short-term retainer for Tracey Johnson to be the interim pool coordinator. Kalahar said he is thankful for Johnson staying on. Kalahar said there are some long-term decisions that will need to be made after the referendum vote.

EDA

Hawkinson said that the EDA received notice that K&M Manufacturing has asked to exercise the option in their lease to continue it for another 5 year term. Coughlin was asked to give a brief overview of the history of the EDA’s involvement with that particular warehouse and how the current agreement with K&M came to be. 

Public Utilities Commission

Hawkinson said that Ameresco gave a presentation to the commission. Coughlin said that the PUC Board recommended that staff undertake a series of reference checks related to Ameresco’s other projects in the region; but if those turned out promising that they gave their approval to present the project for the Council’s consideration.

Parks and Trails Report

Coughlin said that he has been in contact with MNDOT regarding the alley by the Fire Hall. Coughlin said that the potential expansion will affect the alley.

Other Reports

Kalahar stated that he wanted to take time to discuss the issue of the banners with vulgar language being displayed in the front yards of two different properties. He said he would like to know what the Council can do legally to address this matter because in his six years on the city council, this issue has had more people reach out to him about their concerns than about any other topic. Kalahar added that he personally feels that this is more of a nuisance or adult use / decency matter than a constitutional one. He said if he didn’t paint his house or mow his grass the City would take action – so he is frustrated that something cannot be done in this case in the name of civility and decency.

Ferguson asked if the City has an ordinance about political signs and campaign signs and if that had any jurisdiction over this case. Coughlin said that there are state and local codes related to the displaying of campaign signs, but it is his understanding from talking with the city attorney that this type of signage is not a political campaign sign in the eyes of the law. He said the City also has a code section related to profanity but again the League of MN Cities and our own city attorney have indicated that applying that code section in this case would be an infringement of constitutional rights and it would open up the City to liability in such a case.

Kalahar said he is sick of having 1% of the population getting to do anything they want while the 99% seem to be hamstrung by legal opinions and technicalities. He suggested that perhaps Senator Lang and Representative Miller should be invited to discuss this matter and perhaps seek changes to state law to address such situations.

Ebbers suggested making a statement on behalf of the City that such signage goes against our value of civility and decency.

Hawkinson shared that he personally was quite angry when he saw those signs so he completely agrees with the frustration and anger over this matter. He concurred that this definitely is not representative of the values our community stands by. The Mayor said that even though that everyone in the room agrees that this is not something we want in our community, unfortunately the legal opinions provided have indicated that this is protected speech and the City has no legal standing to take action. 

Kalahar offered that perhaps it is time to change the law to get this sort of situation addressed. Hawkinson noted that given the legal guidance provided, he believes that making such a law would be an illegal law as it would be going against the constitution. Kalahar said that if profane and uncivil signs and banners were protected speech, perhaps it is time to amend the constitution to address this type of excess. 

Padrnos noted that he doesn’t like the sign either and that he concurs that the language used does not represent the City’s core values. 

Ferguson said that the discussion was not going in a good direction and she suggested that the whole conversation be dropped if things were going to continue to progress along such lines. She shared that it was her belief that the individuals who have posted such profane language in their yards might want to provoke the very arguments and discord that was developing in this particular discussion. 

Padrnos said that it is clear to him that the City Council as a local governmental body cannot do anything about this signage due to the constitutional issues raised by the City Attorney; however he did want to note that some individual members have used their own freedom of speech to try to persuade those with the offending signs to voluntarily take them down.

Ferguson added that she too is quite dismayed about the signs. She said that her 6-year-old has seen the sign and now not only knows how to say the word but also how to spell it. Ferguson said as a mother, she is personally outraged by being put in this position but that if we do not have the legal right to remove that signage, the Council should figure out a different way to address the issue. 

Coughlin said that it was clear that everyone in the room shared similar sentiments but he encouraged them to transcend the current dualism thought process where victory is only defined as if the signs come down and it is a defeat if that doesn’t happen. He explained that the approach they’ve been taking has been three-pronged in nature. The first approach was as Councilor Padrnos had mentioned where people who know the property owners personally and have a connection to them have been urged to reach out to the sign owners and get them to voluntarily remove the signs. He said that it appears that this approach was successful in one of the two properties in question.

Coughlin continued that the second approach has been to consult with the League of Minnesota Cities and our own city attorney to explore every possible way that the City could legally take some action on behalf of its citizendry. He said that the extensive research done thus far has not provided any defensible way for a local unit of government to take action in such a case but that these research efforts continue.

He said that the last way we have been trying to approach this is to transcend this particular moment and focus on doing something along the lines of what Councilor Ebbers suggested and have the majority of the organizations, groups, businesses and individuals in the area exercise their own first amendment rights to make a united statement that we will not let the poor choices of a few people redefine who we are and to let the world know that we are better than this. That we can be politically diverse, racially diverse, economically diverse – but still be united as one and stand against uncivil and indecent behavior. He said that unified voice should be how we as a community redefine victory in this case.

Hawkinson mentioned that he was working on a joint statement with a variety of other groups and organizations in the area. By unanimous consent, the Council stated that they granted the Mayor their blessing to add the City Council’s name to the joint statement and suggested that Coughlin could assist with drafting that document. 

Hawkinson said that before they moved on with the meeting he wanted to pause and express his regret for getting emotionally engaged when discussing this topic. He shared that he wanted to apologize for not handling the situation as good as he should have. 

Changing the topic, Ferguson said she attended a meeting for the cultural center in Bird Island and they are working on educational pieces and are planning to do a poetry reading in the near future. She encouraged everyone to look for more info coming from the cultural center in the near future.

ADJOURNMENT

Motion by Padrnos, second by Ebbers: to adjourn the meeting 8:46 P.M. Motion passed unanimously.

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