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January 15, 2021

11/6/2020 2:20:00 PM
Chisago City Council CARES Act funds to help shelter voters

The Chisago City Council on Oct. 27 agreed to use CARES Act funds to purchase a touchless, bottle-filler water fountain for city hall and four pop-up tents and lighting for people waiting in line to vote at the Nov. 3 general election. City Administrator John Pechman recommended purchase of the tents in case of rain and adding lighting as polls remain open until 8 p.m. and anyone standing in line by that time is allowed to vote.

The city’s polling place is the Chisago Lakes Library which does not have room for voters to wait in line inside.

In a related topic, Pechman also reported that the Chisago County HRA/EDA reports that approximately $65,000 of Chisago City’s $120,000 Business Relief CARES Act allocation is in the process of disbursement. Any of the remaining $55,000 not granted to qualifying businesses or nonprofit organizations by Nov. 15 must be returned. However, the city can elect to turn the funds over to Chisago County, which has until Dec. 1 to disburse aid to businesses within the county. After Dec. 1, any remaining funds will go back to the State of Minnesota.
Special council meeting

The council set a special meeting for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 12, to canvas the general election ballots as required by law, and to conduct a work session on proposed amendments to the city’s subdivision ordinance on administrative lot splits. Further official discussion of the proposed changes to the subdivision ordinance was continued to the next regular council meeting. That meeting will take place on the fourth Tuesday, Nov. 24, as usual. The December council meeting has been moved up to the second Tuesday of the month, Dec. 8.

In other business, the council:
- approved an interim use permit (IUP) requested by Justin Kral, owner of Justin Kral Companies LLC at 29180 Karmel Ave. The highly debated permit allowing outdoor storage for Kral’s business was approved after Kral submitted a detailed plan to screen his lot from neighboring Winehaven Winery as the council had requested. Owners of Winehaven previously objected to Kral’s permit request saying that the unsightly appearance of Kral’s business was detrimental to their adjacent winery and event center business.

Kral agreed to provide black mesh screening along the shared property line. He provided photos and diagrams to the council.  A portion of the screening will be attached to an existing fence along the property line that is believed to be owned by Winehaven. Mayor Bob Gustafson and Councilwoman Marie Rivers both said the screening was a good solution. Kral told the council, “I want to get along (with Winehaven) and do what’s best for both of us.”

Kral must also meet a dozen other conditions related to the permit. On Oct 27, the council relaxed some of these conditions to allow parking of 20 motorized vehicles rather than the previously stated 15, to allow the parking of five boats for a maximum of 48 hours for shrink wrapping (rather than previous limit of three) and to allow the IUP to remain in force as long as Karl operates the business.

- voted unanimously to pay for one year of continued health insurance premiums for long-time employees who elect to retire early during the next two years. Retiring employees would need at least 10 years of service to qualify and would have to agree to either keep the city health insurance plan for that year or to get their own plan. If they chose to get their own health plan, the city would reimburse them the amount of the premium paid for the city plan. Eligibility for the health insurance coverage or reimbursement will end if the retired employee is covered under another employer’s group health plan or if the city should decide to terminate group insurance coverage for all employees.

Pechman said the option is offered as an early retirement incentive and potential cost-saving.
He added that two of the city’s 16 employees could possibly qualify for the benefit in the next two years. The high cost of health insurance can be a deterrent to employees retiring before they qualify for Medicare coverage.

- approved getting a credit card for city staff to use when making online purchases. The card will have a $10,000 limit. This means that city staff will no longer have to use a personal credit card for those purchases and then request reimbursement.

- conducted the first reading of amendments to the city ordinance governing the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products. The minimum age for purchase of cigarettes and tobacco in the city must be raised from 18 to 21 to conform with recent changes in state law. Pechman said he wasn’t clear on whether there is also a change in the minimum age for the person selling the tobacco products. That wording will be verified prior to the public hearing on the ordinance set for the Nov. 24 council meeting.

- upheld a “potentially dangerous” dog designation imposed by the police department and challenged by the dog’s owner. Owner Jody Bruber objected to the designation of her dog Diesel as “potentially dangerous” saying that the ordinance stated the designation required an “unprovoked attack.”

Bruber said her dog had bitten another dog only after that dog had gotten excited and jumped toward her while the owners and dogs were standing at the end of her driveway. The incident happened when two dogs and their owner were walking past Bruber’s residence. Diesel ran out of the yard and toward the passing dogs. Bruber said Diesel was sniffing the other dog when it jumped in her direction, which prompted Diesel to attack. The injured dog had a small puncture wound on the top of its head and was not seriously injured.

Police Chief Schlumbom told the council that the situation met the requirements of the potentially dangerous designation as it happened on public property. After listening to Bruber’s concerns, the council was sympathetic but upheld the designation, which is issued as a warning. Diesel must be micro-chipped for identification, but no further action will be taken unless there is another incident. “It doesn’t mean Diesel is a bad dog,” they said.

In the event of a second incident, an offending dog can be declared a dangerous dog which means it must be kept in a posted enclosure at all times and registered as a dangerous dog.

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