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October 2, 2022

9/23/2022 11:49:00 AM
Lindstrom City Council sets max levy; agrees work still to be done

The Lindstrom City Council last week was somewhat divided on adopting next year’s maximum levy as a couple council members requested more information, particularly on other cities’ salary increases. They weren’t comfortable supporting the proposed six percent pay hike for city staff being included in the formulas.  

Council member Linda Merkel said staff got 4.5 percent last year, so over two years the increases will come to 10 percent.  She quoted a survey on wages that reports the national figure to be more around a 4.1 percent increase.

Mayor Kevin Stenson countered her concern, pointing out the city tax rate is proposed to be dropping even with the maximum levy proposed at $3,047,000.  

The rate on the 2022 levy of $2.7 million was 48.8 percent,  and under this maximum early levy that was ultimately enacted— it goes to 44.2 percent.  
Mayor Stenson added this action sets the 2023 maximum and there’s plenty of time until the final is adopted in December “...to arm wrestle and negotiate” what the final levy will be.

Council member Scott Hildebrand echoed Merkel’s call for additional information on trends in municipal compensation to better assess what Lindstrom should be offering. He agreed that by December there can be discussion and the levy adopted last week can hopefully be reduced.
The public hearing is December 15 at 6:30 p.m.for the property tax levy to be presented and finalized

Hildebrand also asked for more background on an appointee the mayor was putting forward to fill a new vacancy on the city Economic Development Authority.  Longtime member Sheryl Campbell resigned, related to the change in ownership for her Lindstrom workplace Lake Area Bank.  

Mayor Stenson asked council to consent to his candidate, Katie Werman Roche.  He said he asked the City Administrator to contact Roche first to see if she was interested.

Hildebrand said he hasn’t seen any background information about Roche,  and asked if city staff had contacted the new bank to see if a candidate there might be considered.    Is there any reason Lindstrom couldn’t advertise the vacancy, he asked.  

Council member Merkel also said the appointment vote needs to be delayed for process concerns.

Three years remain on the EDA term.  

Hildebrand said there could be an ideal applicant out there that nobody knows exists.

John Olinger, city administrator, said there is no policy on this situation, adding that these appointments are up to the mayor usually.
Hildebrand noted Roche is running for a council seat on the November ballot.  He felt an appointment by council could be construed as “supporting one candidate over another.”

Council member Merkel noted “...council is being asked to vote” but she has no options and she has no information.

The city will seek applicants. Contact city hall to learn more or go on the website.  There was no deadline discussed, but there could be names to consider by the city council meeting in October.

In other business: council rejected a land use request to combine a lot on the lake off Morningside Court, with a platted lot across the street on vacant land.  The  matter came to council because elected officials directed the lakeshore lot property owner in 2006, as part of another zoning request, to incorporate this small lakeshore parcel into the parcel adajacent to the south. The lot in question  doesn’t comply with standards for a buildable lot, but the plan was to use it for lake access and have the dwelling built on the combined lot on the opposite side of the street.

Applicant Loni Strand argued that she had no inkling the 2006 city action had directed the lakeshore piece be combined into her parcel to the south.   Council, however, referenced various letters and follow-up documentation mailed to Strand on the problem of not attending to the conditions agreed to on the earlier zoning approval.

Mayor Stenson motioned to deny the application based on the fact the council’s 2006 directive was never fulfilled.  Council agreed to deny— with Council member Laurie Burington abstaining as she resides in the immediate neighborhood.

In engineering issues, Jon Herdegen told council the assessments process for the Newlander roadwork needs a hearing to establish the assessment roll.  This wwas set for October 20. Affected property owners in the project zone should get notices.

For information puposes only, with no action required— a plan was reviewed that is coming together for three houses on Lindstrom Lake (on vacant land north of the grapevine field on Mentzer) with access off Olinda Trail.  It entails wetlands and an undersized private road, utility easements and an outlot for a future dwelling,  and a possible public easement to the lake.  Planning Commission meetings continue to review what city Planner Rita Trapp called this, “non traditional subdivision.”

~ Council also approved a contribution to the local non-profit Historical Society for $500.

~ A request for review of a trail designated in the Morning Sun development was not discussed as the person with the complaint and suggested revision did not attend the council meeting.

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