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March 23, 2023

1/27/2023 12:26:00 PM
Taylors Falls City Council dynamic not yet settled

Taylors Falls City Council started off 2023 holding two meetings this month, with a three-hour second meeting Monday night this week to organize.  The former membership of the council rarely required more than one meeting per month.  

An hour was spent on choosing a new law firm.

The city’s longtime legal counsel had notified the city it would not renew their contract at the end of 2022.  

Taylors Falls only had two firms to choose from this week after soliciting RFPs and Council member Tim Grote suggested going out for more RFPs. Other council members noted the urgency of some decisions facing the city and inexperience of incoming officeholders that will benefit from some legal direction.

Council member Troy Aanonsen went to bat immediately for Holstad & Knaack of White Bear Lake. Commenting after  Aanonsen’s  glowing remarks, Council member Larry Julik Heine said he was not surprised— reminding council that Aanonsen had stated going into the earlier interview with the two firms that his mind was already made up. He was solidly behind hiring the firm that is headed up by state Republican Senator, Fritz Knaack. (1983-1992)

Council member Grote reported on city administrator contacts he’d made provided as references after Grote’s suggestion to gather more legal counsel options fell flat.  

Flaherty & Hood already work for other cities in this region, he said. The firm got positive reviews and he noted one of the attorneys is already very familiar with Taylors Falls. Their website lists municipal law, government relations, land use and annexation amongst specialities.

H & K however, lists divorce, real estate, family law and bankruptcy in its highlighted practice specialties.  Grote said the references he could connect with were only able to speak about long ago contracts with Knaack.

Mayor Weiberg noted his concern about the divided council and had supported getting more RFPs at first— but ultimately went with Holstad & Knaack along with Council members Aanonsen and Lee Samuelson.

There was also rather drawn-out discussion about replacing the vacant Public Works Superintendent position. Aanonsen said he’d rather hire a second non-supervisor employee.

Grote explained that a “supervisory” level post is needed to do various required reports and safety trainings,  and review of performance, among other tasks.

Council member Julik Heine added that the public works department is the most important Taylors Falls function and he felt a superintendent is needed.

The vote was to advertise for a superintendent level candidate.

The city will also post the opening for zoning and office coordinator left vacant with the untimely passing of Steve Heth.

Council member Samuelson also asked if the current local part-time office helpers’ hours can be re-aligned, so there’s a person at the city hall window during the day when citizens drop in.

Taylors Falls will also check with temporary municipal agencies (LMC for example) to see if a part-time clerk-skilled person can assist Clerk Mary Tomnitz in cleaning up multiple areas of undone tasks,  left in the wake of the clerk-treasurer shakeup last year.  Tomnitz reported Monday night the 2022 balances and reconciliation is just nearing finalization.  An audit begins at the end of January.

Tomnitz meanwhile argued in favor of giving Abdo Financial Services a year-long contract to lend some stability to their quarterly and annual payroll and tax services.  

Aanonsen made a motion to stay with them until the end of April 2023 only.  

Julik Heine said the firm is only used on an as-needed basis and they bill by the task and pay rate of the accountant, so the city has control over the expenses.

The shortened contract for services was adopted 3-2 with the justification that council will get a cost and services summary from the accounting firm. Mayor Weiberg said “I’d like to have the (company) come in and tell us what they’re doing.”

There was council reaction to some meddling by Aanonsen into a contract format involving a sister firm of Abdo.  

The council had received an e mail from the Abdo sister accounting firm reporting that the signatories were requested to be altered.  Aanonsen said he didn’t “ask’ to include the vice mayor (Samuelson) as a signer to a contract,  but it was merely a suggestion.  

According to state law the vice mayor has no role and has no duties;  except when directed to step-up by council in the absence of the mayor. Mayor Weiberg is completely accessible and involved.  There was no reason to add a vice mayor signature line.

Also,  Council member Grote pointed out, as he read statute language off a laptop computer, that state law disallows for a single officeholder to unilaterally direct anything to be done on the city’s behalf, declaring things will function better if “we all stay in our lanes.”

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