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home : news : news August 22, 2017

3/2/2017 4:33:00 PM
New administrator on-board and special meetings abound

The City of North Branch has a new city administrator.  Council voted Feb 21, with Robert Canada absent, to hire Renae Fry and Fry’s first day was Tuesday this week.

Interim Administrator Richard Hill, the city’s finance director,  was appointed as acting administrator while the council worked with a recruiter for a new hire.  Council interviewed four finalists, between end of January and Feb. 8.

Fry comes from Sauk County, Wisconsin where she was administrative coordinator.

There was also a closed meeting February 9, where legal concerns are discussed under attorney-client privacy.  

The matters reviewed included a lawsuit, by resident Peter Schaps, who is seeking to overturn actions by council that took him off the Water & Light Commission before he had even attended a meeting.  The complaint against the city asks for Schaps to be reinstated and costs to be reimbursed.

The North Branch council also reviewed a complaint that former Council member Theresa Furman filed against new Council member Kelly Neider,  with the MN Office of Administrative Hearings.
The state is being asked to get involved with North Branch’s certification of the election results.  Furman contends the city did not get the required election campaign documents, and had no legal ability to certify the election minus the paperwork from Neider.  And, Furman also names Neider in the complaint for penalties for not submitting the required campaign expense documentation.

The OAH held a pre-conference hearing February 6 and concluded enough evidence was presented to move to the next phase.   The County Press has not connected with OAH’s Chief Judge Tammy Prust on a date for a follow-up hearing.

There was also a personnel performance and/or complaint aired as part of the closed meeting; which is confidential until action is taken, which is then required to be announced.  The employee also has the ability to open the meeting to the public and did not.

Roadwork season
And, finally, upcoming State Aid street projects were approved. These are Isanti Trail, Cougar Trail, Harder Avenue, 400th and Hemingway. (Surface overlay segments are shown on the map.)  Costs are approximately $1.3 million.

The city council ventured into a method of financing  by trading with the City of St Paul.

St Paul transferred about $1.1 million of its state aid account to North Branch,  in exchange for federal monies that St Paul can apply to an immediate need.
North Branch recently heard that the several-years-old Federal Highway Transportation appropriation for the I-35 bridge and interchange has an unspent balance.   The council reviewed a request for the under-budget sum from St Paul.  Because North Branch has no federally qualified roadwork ready to go-- but North Branch had a similar-cost state aid project ready-- the two cooperatively traded funds.

And, the Water & Light Commission and council successfully sold refinancing for Water & Light water system debt.  Kathy Aho, Springsted consultants, said in a press release the water debt is now at an interest of 2.8 percent, down from a combined 4.9 percent for the three bond issuances. She estimates savings from the lowered interest rate over the debt pay-off to 2028 at $1,047, 700.

Water & Light earlier refunded electric system debt and will realize savings of $383,000 on that.
Said Aho, this refinancing helps with water and light’s building repair and replacement accounts, improves the commission’s credit ratings and moderates impacts on rates to customers.  

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