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June 1, 2020

3/27/2020 12:35:00 PM
Lindstrom Council to interview seven who seek vacant city council post

The process of filling a vacant seat on the Lindstrom City Council was finalized last week, when council set March 30 and 31 as interview dates for seven people who have filed letters of interest.  The idea is to be prepared to choose an appointee at the April 16 council session.  Member AnnMarie Brink’s last meeting was February, and there are about eight months remaining on the term.  The seat then goes on the November ballot.

Those applying include: Katie Werman Roche, Linda Merkel, Beau Mannino, Kate Lundgren, Angie Koch, Lee Donlin and Michael Albers.

Council was seated far apart in accordance with guidelines for virus avoidance.  Council member William Schlumbohm was using the Internet to participate from home, and the city’s attorney, planner and engineer also were remotely connected and visible on monitors.

There was discussion on closing city hall, but for now Lindstrom citizens are advised to not enter the city hall, and use the dropbox for payments for sewer and water and e mail or call with questions about permits, etc.  

The  Lakes Area Police Department will station an employee at the secure city hall lobby window, which has glass protection, should people need contact with law enforcement services-- for the time being.  This may change. The list of other government entities that are shutting off public access to buildings to protect staff and government functions, grows every day.

Under advisement of staff, and after seeing a low bid that was well above engineer estimates-- council voted to hold-off on the Broadway-Newell stormwater and utilities project.  The engineer Jon Herdegen said he took the extra step of talking with Josh Dresel, Dresel Contracting, about why the low bid was still so high. Herdegen said the size of the work doesn’t rise to the level that attracts contractors doing massive projects and it’s too big for the small firms plus certain materials’ costs (pipes) are escalating above the norm.

The unknowns are possibly a factor.  This work zone (from Broadway Ave. and Lions Park Pond to the Pleasant Hill park stormwater outflow) has presented  underground surprises already.  

City Administrator John Olinger explained that staff “...just don’t have a firm handle on this” and the comfort level isn’t there to move ahead on the bid.  The project would begin from day one over-the-estimated budget and he recommended pushing it to next year.  The city can look at incorporating this work into an adjacent project and getting a better overall bid or there might be parts that can be deducts.

All the council voted to send a letter to Sen. Mark Koran expressing opposition to a bill he’s carrying,  related to building permits and inspections.
SF 3816 revises how permit fees are calculated and instead of using the value of materials and labor,  the bill would require permits be based on “cost per square foot.”   

The League of MN Cities testified against the bill. Some residential permits are complex and the bill “oversimplifies” review and inspection.  Fixed fees used by some cities are not taken into account. A remodel permit can’t realistically be calculated on square feet.

With the municipal bar closed under Governor’s order-- city council agreed that staff at the bar will continue to be paid based on normal schedules for at least  the foreseeable lifetime of the declaration of emergency.  Staff have the option to transfer and get hours at the liquor store, and fulltime and part time bar staff (only two persons)  with benefits are allowed to transfer to another city position or take sick time and vacation.

A vote on variances for a house addition/garage at 30125 Norway Avenue was taken, but another public hearing is needed to address more code issues.  The applicant was asking for setback variances from Ordinary High Water and from the street and to vary from impervious surface standards; but additional ordinance issues were identified in discussion (ie: minimum size, etc.)

The applicant is not at fault, so the second hearing fee will be waived.

The first set of variances for which a hearing was held by the city planning commission, were approved.


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