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home : news : news
May 25, 2022

1/21/2022 1:37:00 PM
Street overlays, major equipment purchases on council agenda

Acting Mayor Kelly Neider oversaw the North Branch City Council session January 11, as the Mayor participated remotely from Florida.  Kathy Blomquist and Amanda Darwin were in city hall council chambers with Neider.  (Council member Patrick Meacham was allowed to listen-in, but could not cast a vote due to non-compliance with remote attendance rules.)

The police department welcomed its newest officer, Tyler Lawson, who recited his oath to serve.

North Branch will be buying many thousands of dollars of needed equipment shortly, if everything falls into place with a bonding vote scheduled for the Jan 25 council meeting.  

City equipment needs and financing were presented as FYI last week.  

Finance Director Joe Starks told council he’ll look for council members to give the green light to a fire truck, plow truck, grader, curbside vacuum for leaves and street sweeper (which was received in 2021 and the city will pay itself back for when bond action happens.)
Starks explained an existing debt service annual levy of $240,000 falls off by 2023 and the city would continue to levy this and apply it to cover the new debt.  

The bond sale, expected in February, could come in as low as 1.28 percent.

“A (long range) equipment replacement plan that we enacted this year will help in the future,” he continued, “but we have urgent needs now.”
Should the preferred demonstration-model fire truck NOT be available by the time council votes on financing— the package will not proceed as presented, council heard.

The fire truck is replacing a 1989 rig. Chief Kevin Grote said the purchase is about $545,000.  The old truck has no air bags or shoulder belts— that’s how obsolete it is, he added.  

The demo model the department has investigated is at Custom Fire,  and fits the interior space specifications for storage.

The council meeting business also included reviewing a license application for selling tobacco products.

This applicant said he wanted to acquire the license first and then would move forward buying the site.  The location is a beleaguered smoke and vape shop in downtown,  and city council members were concerned.

The shop has seen multiple enforcement actions,  including revoking the license due to sales to minors.  Police Chief Dan Meyer suggested the goal the city strives for is preventing minors from accessing smokes and vaping devices. He cautioned after doing a background check for the license,  “I’m not convinced it won’t be the same people in the background” of an operation fronted by this new applicant.

Council heard from the applicant that the Revenue Department has checked the shop inventory for tax  stamps, and other legal compliance issues, etc. He added that no inventory is changing hands in this deal, however.  

Also,  he planned to hire an employee who council recognized as one already cited while working for another owner,  for selling to minors.  This worried council.

He sought this particular building site because it was ready for use as a tobacco/vape shop, and no remodel work would be needed.  He promised he’d have staff use an electronic I.D. scanner that verifies birthdates.

Council member Kathy Blomquist said she understood council concerns but she saw nothing about this applicant that would cause her to deny the license.   She made a motion to authorize — contingent on law enforcement being assured there are no offenses pending for regulated goods..  

Her motion got no second and died.

Council member Darwin made the motion to deny the license, which passed with only Blomquist opposed.

In other action, Council agreed to move forward on plans and specs for street bituminous overlays come spring.  The bids will be awarded sometime in April 2022.  Streets slated for projects are:

Oak, Pecan, 9th, 8th, Albert Lane, Golden Oaks Circle, Golden Oaks Trail, Branch Avenue, Great Oaks Court, 384th Lane and 367th St.  The final paving of 390th west of Cherokee Avenue is also in this package.

~ Council approved purchase of a new Interceptor squad car from Anderson & Koch.

The purchase of six Motorola body worn cameras and accessories was also authorized. The new body worn camera program was approved by council for the 2022 budget last year.

~ Council went with the bid submitted from the STAR for legal newspaper designation for three years.  The bid was at 2.10 per inch of text in a column width.  The County News Review bid was $1.99.  The Pioneer Press, providing the most extensive circulation numbers, bid about $6 per inch.  (The Chisago County Press did not submit a bid.)

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