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January 27, 2023

1/20/2023 3:34:00 PM
Chisago City Council seats Battles

The Chisago City Council welcomed new councilmember Nicole Battles to its ranks at the Jan. 10 organizational meeting. Battles assumes the seat previously occupied by Mark Anderson who chose not file for reelection.  

Official appointments for 2023 resulted in few changes: official newspaper - Chisago County Press; city attorney - Patrick Doran, Miller & Stevens Law Office; city engineer - Bolton & Menk/Ryan Goodman; city auditor - Abdo, Abdo, Eick & Myer; and city financial consultants - Ehlers & Associates, Springstead, and ADV Kern DeWenter Viere.

One change did occur when Jeremy Dresel was named Acting Mayor. He replaces Councilmember Marie Rivers who held that position for several years. Rivers now will serve as Dresel’s alternate.  The Acting Mayor presides over the city council in the absence of mayor Bob Gustafson.

Battles also was appointed to serve as the council representative to the city planning commission, the Green Lake Association and the Beyond The Yellow Ribbon Committee. She was named alternate to the joint sewage treatment commission and as an alternate to Craig Meyer as council liaison to the fire department. Other council appointments remained basically unchanged.  

No members of the public appeared at a public hearing on the 2023 city fee schedule, which was approved. All sewer and water fees will increase by several cents per gallon as determined by the recent rate study.

The cost of beer permits for organizations using Paradise and Moberg city parks will increase from $25 to $50. Pavillion rentals at the parks are $75 for residents and $100 for nonresidents. Park facility rental is $175 plus a damage deposit. Groups of more than 100 using a city park will pay $250 a day.

Rates for some cabins at Ojiketa Regional Park changed, with Evergreen Guest House set at $125 a night with a two-night minimum. Cabins at the park range from $50 to $95 a night. Tent sites are $25.

The complete city fee schedule can be viewed at the city offices.

In other business, the council:
-  heard an update on the pending annexation of Lent Township by the Cities of Stacy, North Branch and Chisago City, and then agreed to authorize Bolton & Menk to review the annexed township property and amend the city’s comprehensive plan and zoning map at an estimated cost of $14,400. Administrator John Pechman explained that the annexation agreement had been expected to be complete by mid-January; however, to his knowledge, the township only has signed off on its agreement with North Branch. Once the annexation is approved, Bolton & Menk estimated it will take no more than 120 days for them to complete their work to incorporate six and half new sections from Lent Township into Chisago City’s comprehensive plan and zoning map. A public hearing will be held on the revised documents.

- approved design review for a Scooters drive-thru coffee shop to be constructed at the intersection of East Street and South Avenue north of Highway 8. Per Minnesota Department of Transportation recommendations, entrance to the drive-thru will be from East Street with exit onto South Avenue. Existing structures on the site will be demolished.

Scooters was founded in Bellevue, Neb., in 1998 and has 346 stores nationwide. Relatively new to Minnesota, Scooters currently operates facilities in Maplewood, Rochester, Litchfield and St. Cloud, and has new facilities in progress in Sartell, Cambridge, Waconia, Ham Lake, Blaine and Chisago City.

The Scooters drive-thru kiosk provides no interior seating, patio or public access. Four to five employees will work in the 670 sq. ft. shop at any one time, with seven parking stalls provided for staff only.

- heard Fire Chief Zach Reed review details of the Department’s 110th year of operation and the challenges ahead. Last year the department responded to 107 calls and underwent 1,500 hours of training, three times the required minimum. More than half their calls occur between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. with Friday being their busiest day of the week. Rescues and emergency medical incidents constitute 20 percent of their calls. In addition to training and responding to calls, the all volunteer department takes part in more than 15 community events throughout the year.

At the request of Sheriff Brandon Thyen, the fire department can provide certified divers to a countywide dive team, that sprang from a dive team in Stacy-Lent.  In addition to getting five members certified as divers, this has involved raising funds for equipment with some dive team members paying for their own equipment supplemented by use of charitable gambling funds.

Chief Reed said the department’s new firetruck is in final production stages with delivery in late March. Meanwhile the truck committee has approved specifications for the next new truck, which will cost an estimated $800,000. Reed reported the department’s air packs and radios are reaching an age when they are no longer supported and will need to be replaced in the next one to two years at an estimated cost of $185,000 and $250,000 respectively.

Recruitment and retention remain the greatest challenges facing the department with four vacancies currently existing on the 25-person roster. The chief pointed out that Minnesota ranks 48th out of 50 states in fire department funding, while safety requirements, and the cost of equipment and protective gear have escalated significantly.

Reed concluded his written report by stating, “The future of becoming a paid, on-call department is here. I ask that we increase the funding to make that possible.”

“Volunteering has changed dramatically in the past 20 years,” Reed told the council. “We look forward to meeting the challenges. Thank you for supporting your department. It’s an honor to be here.”

- granted variances for residential driveways at 28150 Lacy Ave. and 8886 Parkview Circle and a conditional use permit providing a manufacturing/dealership permit in a light industrial area for Straight-Line Performance at 10317 Liberty Lane. The company manufactures parts for on road vehicles that are not yet licensed. Owner Jason Houle has operated a similar facility in Forest Lake for 15 years. He told the planning commission they manufacture parts like seats and handle covers primarily for scooters and motorcycles.

- authorized seeking bids for extending sewer and water to the proposed site of a new Lakes Area Police Public Safety facility to be constructed near the Chisago City Fire Hall.

The joint Chisago City-Lindstrom project hit a snag when the state legislature failed to pass a bonding bill last session. State funds were expected to cover a third of the cost with Lindstrom and Chisago City paying the other two thirds. Meanwhile the estimated price tag of the new joint police station has escalated, which Pechman described as “much more than when we started.” The cities will continue to seek state aid this year.

The joint Chisago City-Lindstrom Police Commission in November voted to continue to keep moving forward, and to seek bids for sewer and water work to be done this spring. If those bids are accepted, Lindstrom and Chisago City will share the cost of the sewer and water extension to the site at an estimated $87,500 each for earthwork and pipe installation.

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