Following Mayor Martin’s resignation on Monday night the City Council proceeded with the remainder of the City Council and Ways & Means agendas.
There was a discussion over the proper forum for a discussion of Brian LaPlante’s information about the risks to biodiesel was held during which LaPlante was allowed to comment. After about nine minutes, Councilman Jake Fee made a motion to table stating he’d like city attorney to weight in and it was immediately seconded by Councilmen Bobby Baird. The discussion was allowed to continue prior to a vote for nearly five minutes including a back and forth with Fee and LaPlante.
The presentation was tabled by a 5-2 vote with Councilmen Fee, Baird, Steve Erickson, Don Cavalier, and Tom Vedbraaten voting to table, while Clayton Briggs and Dale Stainbrook voted against tabling. Audio of the full discussion about the presentation here.
One of the points LaPlante has stated during the past two meetings of the City Council is that the risks of the biodiesel industry should be available to the City Council by Epitome Energy in their business plan. Documentation of risks has been available at public meetings, meaning they were available to the City Council as well. Epitome Energy CEO Dennis Egan has also told people at every meeting to call or email them with additional questions and he will answer them. If elected officials haven’t attended those meetings or consumed available information that is significantly different than LaPlante’s claims it hasn’t been made available.
Ironically, the next topic on the agenda was entitled Respect Minnesota presented by Crookston High School graduate Chris Tiedeman, Joe Kramer, and Erin Burns. Respect Minnesota is a pledge to honor and respect people and their opinions. Tiedeman said politics as gotten toxic but needs to be respectful. “Politics has gotten a bit toxic,” said Tiedeman. “I kind of grew up in politics after I got out of high school and it’s gotten to be a bit toxic. Whether you’re permitting a pipeline, a bio crushing plant or a solar garden once you go through the process, and even during that process, it needs to be done respectfully. And that’s what Minnesotans should expect, what the people of Crookston should expect.”
The committee voted unanimously in favor of the pledge and a resolution dealing with respect and Respect Minnesota should appear on the City Council agenda on October 14.
The committee also received a report on the 2018 audit completed by Brady Martz & Associates. Kim Durbin, Brady Martz & Associates, stated the City of Crookston’s unrestricted fund balance was $3.3 million, or just shy of six months of operating expenses which is within the healthy range of four to six months under state guidelines. Durbin summarized the audit in saying the City of Crookston was in good financial health. “We performed the audit of the City of Crookston’s December 2018 year-end,” said Durbin. “Overall the financial health of the city is in very good shape. Fiscally, they are strong and well-managed.”
The committee and Public Works staff had a discussion on the City of Crookston’s Snowplowing Policy. No action was taken. The committee approved the purchasing of radio read water meters for 2020. During the multi-year replacement, the city typically places their order in January, but City Administrator Shannon Stassen explained the vendor had notified the Water Department they were receiving a lot of orders which could cause delays later in the winter. “The vendor reached out with courtesy to the Water Department – saying we have a lot of orders and could be running behind.,” said Stassen. “So, if we wait until January to order we could be waiting for months to get them in. Our optimal time to install is over the winter as long as we’re not having water main breaks and stuff. That’s when we have our technicians available to do the installation and we don’t want to get caught without meters. If we don’t get them installed before the spring and summer, then we’re working on replacements and all the stuff we have to get done during the summer. So, wise move to order them here in October and ensure that we have them in early winter.”
The committee approved a request from Northern Properties to pay back a loan, including penalties for early payment, through the Small Cities Development Program two years early to open them up for new funding available through the program on some additional projects they like to complete explains Stassen. “Northern Properties has done a nice job of rehabbing some rental properties and bringing some online that have been offline for decades adding more housing stock,” said Stassen. “They have an opportunity to do that again – there is a grant going right now. But one of the rules with DEED is you have to pay off your previous loans and grants. It’s a combination of some loan and grant. They are willing to pay that off early. It means they have to pay a little extra but it also gives them access immediately to some of these funds so they can get started. Time is money and its something that makes sense for them to move forward more quickly.”
The committee also set the time for Ward 6 council interviews. The interview committee will meet on Monday, September 30 at 4:30 p.m. with candidate interviews at 5:00, 5:30, and 6:00 p.m. The committee will deliberate and decide their next steps at the conclusion of the 6:00 p.m. interview. Since the last City Council meeting, three Ward 6 residents had come forward to join the City Council on the interview committee said City of Crookston Finance Director Angel Weasner, “Charles Reynolds, Jeremy Olson, and Preston Hoiseth have all stepped forward to be committee members for the search for a Ward 6 council member.”
During the City Council meeting, no one spoke during a public hearing for a business subsidy with APG Development and a resolution accepting the business subsidy was passed unanimously.
Two items were removed from the consent agenda, a resolution to renew the farm lease at the Crookston Sports Center and a resolution that a parcel on Mill Street conforms to the comprehensive plan. Baird removed the farm lease and asked if the part of the property with flooding problems had been removed from the agreement and if the lessee, E & L Reitmeier, was aware of where they couldn’t plant. After being assured it had been surveyed and all parties were aware the resolution passed unanimously. Vedbraaten removed the Mill Street parcel and asked what the next steps were, which Stassen said would be to go out for bids. Fee mentioned one of the two adjacent properties was up for sale and suggested waiting to post for bid until the spring, which Stassen said could be done.