March 3, 2011 at 8:21 a.m.
Applications being taken to fill North Branch Council vacancy; demo of old nursing home finally completed
A motion by newly-elected Council member Ron Lindquist to appoint Adam Anderson went down on a 2-2 tie (Lindquist and Theresa Furman voting yes; Blomquist and Mayor Oehlers no).
Ordinarily on an appointment, the mayor can use executive privilege to break the tie and decide the appointment. But Monday night Mayor Amy Oehlers said she wants to solicit council member applications from citizens, which is what the city council has traditionally done when there's been a vacancy, she stated. She remarked that people looking to speedily sidestep the city's usual practices cause her "concern."
The matter also should be put on a future agenda so the existing council can agree on "policy" to handle issues like this. Oehlers added that getting applications from interested citizens and doing interviewing for the vacant council seat isn't a big cost. Her opinion is that to simply take the next highest vote-getter in the last election, what Lindquist was advocating, ignores the fact that the outcome of an election is a snapshot, based on a specific alignment. Oehlers said voters look at how many council seats are available when voting in November, who has filed, how campaigns play against each other, and a host of other considerations.
The city will accept applications until March 23 and hopefully by the following council meeting Monday, March 28 council will have applicants' names to begin discussing the process. The council would interview applicants (which is a public meeting) and then vote to appoint as soon as possible so the council gets back up to five. Interested people can ask for applications at the city administrative offices or go to the website.
In other business: the council okayed on a 4-0 vote the 16 foot sidewall ordinance for accessory structures. The code had restricted shape of buildings, and a request from garbage hauler Terry Flor to rebuild after a fire ran into difficulty with the restrictions. The rule change pertains to buildings on lots of 10 acres and more.
~ Council also gave the tree cutting quote to Besta Logging, to remove firewood from the redevelopment area and business complex known as ESSBY. The city gets approximately $8,000 from the trees.
There were only two offers to provide the cutting and the second quote, from Precision, was conditioned on a per ton harvested, and would have been paid in installments.
Supervisor Shawn Williams said the city would be "money ahead" with the Besta quote and the company is a local firm. Council went with the flat, up front rate.
~ There was debate on acceptance of a state health improvement grant.
North Branch has qualified for $5,000 that the city does not have to match, to make improvements to pedestrian routes and to boost healthful walking in the city. This is part of the "walkable communities" initiative championed under Governor Pawlenty. The cities of Wyoming and Center City have also participated.
Council member Lindquist said this is not a need; it is a "want" and the city should reject the money.
He ended up being the sole no vote on a motion to move ahead on the program and use the state's grant.
Mayor Oehlers observed that North Branch already has staff time put into qualifying for the grant and in the future if the city doesn't want to pursue state aid programs it can just avoid putting any effort into that.
Council member Kathy Blomquist added residents deserve options for recreation "near where they live" and finding ways to make North Branch more friendly to walkers is one of the ways the city can provide this.
City Planner Al Cottingham said the city has until June under the grant to implement an action plan spending the funds on enhancing walkability.
Mayor Oehlers made a point to explain that there are rumors the city is looking at dissolving the police. The work session for today (March 3) is strictly on the police investigator position as it relates to expected restructuring of investigation at the sheriff's department level. Oehlers said nothing but the investigator post will be reviewed at the work session.
~ In public comment Oakwood Mobile Home Park landlord Joyce Borchert complained about the increase in utility rates. She said her bill was up 20 percent. She raised rent in January but wasn't aware utility rates were going up so she said she didn't work this into the rental fee. "We have got to work together" on cost of living issues so people can afford to live in North Branch, she offered.
Green Acres demolition
The council got a report on the recent demolition of the old county nursing home south of downtown called "Green Acres Country Care Center." The abandoned building sat for years while the site developer struggled with finances and improvements costs for the Lucht's Crossing neighborhood.
The old brick nursing home is now a pile of rubble. The city negotiated the demolition with a May 2011 deadline for razing the dilapidated building.
Under the agreement the city has with ShadeTree Communities LLC and 21st Century Bank, the city must release a $30,000 letter of credit, which council okayed Monday.
The site cleanup which is already well underway, must be completed by August 2011.
Commenting has been disabled for this item.