10/16/2020 12:00:00 PM Taylors Falls Lighting Festival parade, etc. are being held
With several visitors in the council chambers masked up and seated six feet apart-- the Taylors Falls City Council heard Monday night this week that barring any wave of local Covid-19 cases come November-- the Lighting Festival will still be happening.
The festival’s organizer in chief Geri Aanonsen especially wanted to clarify that the parade is still on, despite incorrect Facebook postings and rumors that it has been called off. There will be a skating rink this year, weather permitting, on the vacant city lot near the Drive In. Snow sculpting will be encouraged with the council giving the okay to use a city dumptruck to haul snow from Wild Mountain to the sculpting area. The third graders who make displays based on the festival annual theme, get to use the Chisago House’s large windows this year to set up their creations.
Council members offered to do what they can to spread the word the Lighting Festival and parade are still moving ahead as planned.
Council then went about spending their CARES Act funds. The city received $77,000 based on population and can distribute it on expenses encumbered due to public health concerns from March to about December.
City hall was previously approved for electronic upgrades and sufficient portable computers for working remotely and holding meetings (story Press Oct. 1)
The fire department is often the first to arrive at medical distress calls and council voted 5-0 to use CARES Act aid to purchase a LUCAS automatic chest compression device for the firefighters. It replaces doing manual CPR. This is $18,000. Council was told the only other one of these locally is at Stacy-Lent Fire Department.
The city website could also use upgrades and staff recommended a progressive plan and a one-time expense to be covered by the CARES Act to improve communications with residents via the website. This runs $6,700.
Mayor Mike Buchite suggested the remaining several thousand dollars be donated to Lakes Region EMS. The organization is a city partner he stated, and it qualifies as a non-profit. There should be about $4,000 to $5,000 available for this donation.
Under CARES Act rules any unspent funds at the end of 2020 have to be returned and city council members supported using these monies locally, related to public health by reducing the burden of additional virus costs the EMS teams are encountering.
In other business: firefighters will go to $1,400 per year of service for benefits-payout when they leave, if vested (a 10 years service min). The increase from $1,200 becomes effective only after a firefighter hits their fifth year after this action, so if anyone were to retire now and qualified for the payout they get the $1,200 per year.
The department also is filing to be under Minnesota public employee retirement benefits management.
PERA oversees public employee retirement monies and the fire department has decided to shift benefits administration to the professionals.
City Council member Larry Julik Heine remarked, “It’s a win win. This benefits the firefighters and it benefits the city.”
Two council seats are up for election and two people who have filed spoke during open microphone. A third candidate is also on the ballot.
The two highest vote-getters are seated. John Tangen, who is in year 22 of council service, opted not to seek re-election.
Taylors Falls donations were accepted 5-0. Xcel gave $500 to the Lighting Festival Committee, Mary Rivard $1,800 in honor of family members who have been firefighters and a Wannigan Days donation and a fire department contribution were officially accepted.