|3/19/2021 2:10:00 PM|
Roads, equipment, broadband among Lent Twsp. annual meeting topics
Lent Township’s annual meeting was smooth sailing on Tuesday, March 9 at the Lent Town Hall.
About 24 residents attended the meeting, with eight staff including the town board, and between four and six people were connected on Zoom at different times in the night. Supervisor Troy Nelson was voted unanimously to serve as moderator for the night.
The meeting started with a report for the Chisago County Commissioner that represents Lent Township, Chris DuBose. DuBose spoke of his desire to get taxes under control in the county. He said that there is “a lack of economic development in the county,” and that he’s working on that with a strategic plan for business incentive program.
A resident also asked about the potential of joining County Road 17 (Athens Trail) to County Road 14 (Lincoln Road). DuBose said that the extension of the road is on the menu for the county board at some point.
On the road report, a resident was concerned with 302nd Street and Karmel Avenue being a shared road with Chisago City. It is a gravel road currently, and the resident wanted Lent’s portion to be paved, regardless of Chisago City’s portion being worked on or not. Some on the board of supervisors did not love that idea, as the heaviest traffic on the road is for Chisago City use — the new Lakeside Elementary school, the business park and access to Highway 8. Nelson said that Lent Township has approached Chisago City about paving the road all at once at a shared cost, but Chisago City has so far declined.
In the building report, supervisor Carolyn Cagle noted that there was a lot of lost revenue in town hall rentals with the pandemic. But, the township did receive some funds to improve the building, including the air exchange and making everything touchless and automatic in the bathrooms.
Cagle did note a few more small projects that need to be done at the town hall, but after that batch she doesn’t foresee the need for any more improvements and the hall should start to generate revenue.
Stacy-Lent Fire Chief TJ Potrament was on hand to report everything was well with the fire department. He said there has been a few things curtailed because of COVID and that the department has been running more responses. Potrament announced the newly promoted assistant chief Scott Olson, a fourth generation Stacy-Lent Firefighter. “Firefighting is in his blood,” Potrament said of Olson when announcing his position.
Supervisor Jess Eischens gave the broadband report, and she was excited that the northern residents of Lent were going to have access to the new broadband towers erected in North Branch. It’s a wireless point-to-point system that Eischens said is reliable and affordable. Residents to contact her or the City of North Branch to get on the waiting list.
When it came to the township budget, everything was passed, and most of it unanimous, despite some early discussion that made it seem like there would be split votes.
The road and bridge equipment fund had been $25,000 in 2018 and 2019 and went up to $30,000 in 2020 and $55,000 in 2021. The proposed 2022 number was $65,000. Over half of that ($36,000) is the annual payments on a new plow truck that was purchased last year. Supervisors wanted to keep banking extra money in the fund in case they need another truck in the next few years.
Resident Dave Chelberg had thought the township was going to look at rotating trucks every 15 years and was concerned that there is already talk of looking at replacing the second one when one was just replaced this year. He wanted to do a cost analysis of a second truck, and whether buying new, used, or contracting work out was the best idea.
Resident Sue Sinna also was concerned that this portion of the levy was a bit too high. In the end, the $65,000 number passed with a large majority of the vote.
The rest of the funds were approved unanimously, although there was more discussion on the general fund being $400,000 when it’s been between $115,000-$245,000 the past four years.
“For the general fund to be fully funded, we need about $355,000,” supervisor Nelson said. “It’s been underfunded in the past and we’ve been robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
The general fund number eventually passed unanimously, setting the total levy at $1,155,000 for 2022.
Sinna noted that the budget was over $1 million, when the board had stated at recent town halls that they wanted to stay under the number as it will trigger an automatic audit. “We just can’t keep it under $1 million anymore,” board vice chair Brian Seekon said. “There’s just too many expenses.”
The last item on the list that wasn’t unanimous was the contract for services, which sets a maximum amount that the board can give out to non-profits if they apply. The number has been at $4,500 for quite some time, and the board has given it out to local organizations that service Lent Township.
Sinna made a motion to set the budget at zero, and she got a second. Seekon agreed with the sentiment, feeling like they are almost forcing the residents to donate to charity. He felt they can decide on their own accord if they’d like to donate or not. A vote was taken and the motion for zero dollars failed. A new motion was made for the $4,500 and it was passed, again by a large majority.
The meeting entered the always light-hearted phase discussing the gopher bounty, $1,686 was paid out last year. Before Nelson could even start to read the line item, resident Jerry Schroeder, as is always the case when it comes to this item, rose from his seat and readied to make his motion to approve the bounty to an amusing uproar from the town hall.
The vote passed unanimously, with even Seekon, someone who has argued in jest with Schroeder on the issue before, agreeing. “I gave up my fight on this,” he said while laughing.
The residents suggested to keep the Chisago County Press and the County News Review as official legal notice newspapers. The town board actually does make this decision at their regular March meeting, but they take public input at the town hall meeting.
The regular meeting dates remain the same, falling on the third Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. Next year’s annual meeting date was set for March 8, 2022.