Pitbulls and part-timers discussed at council
By Clay Schuldt
Special to the Argus
The Caledonia City Council continued discussion concerning the temporary replacement of the city clerk/administrator at their June 25 meeting in light of Jennifer Feely’s resignation, which is effective July 13.
A proposal from Brimeyer Fursman, LLC was given to the council offering to perform recruitment and success planning for the position; however, the council preferred to save money and will attempt to fill the position themselves. Council members said they felt if a decent interim administrator could be found, they would have time to search for a permanent replacement. “If we’re comfortable with an interim clerk, then I am comfortable looking on our own,” Mayor Robert Burns said.
The council has already interviewed two potential interim administrators. The first was Jim Norman. Norman has 20 years of experience as a city manager/administrator and recently served as the interim city administrator of Afton. Norman would be able to start in the position immediately and is willing to work 40 hours a week.
The second interviewee was Paul Sparks. Sparks served as the city manager in Albert Lee from 1978 to 2004 and ran the economic development authority for a further three years. Sparks has been retired from full-time work since 2007. Sparks is willing work 24 hours a week and is able to stay in the position until January.
The council made no decision to hire either candidate at this time, preferring to review additional resumes prior to making a hire. The council did discuss whether a full-time clerk was necessary for the day-to-day running of Caledonia, or whether city staff could help out during the interim. Mayor Burns commented that the biggest concern of the council is hiring an individual that will not allow Caledonia to fall behind on city projects during the transition process.
Pittbull discussion/animal control
Following an incident involving a pittbull attacking and killing a smaller dog, the council has been in discussion over enacting ordinances to ban pittbulls from Caledonia. All existing pittbulls would be grandfathered into this proposed ordinance.
Since the May 29 meeting letters from all over have come to the council, many questioning the legality of banning a breed of animal. The council believes many of the letters are being sent from pittbull groups that are non-local. Animal Control Officer Mike Gavin believed that regulations existed that would allow for the banning of vicious animals. “I know we can build up a guideline for what we’re looking for,” said Gavin, commenting on other communities that have passed similar ordinances. “It’s there; it’s possible to be done.”
Council member Lemke was in favor of the ban, saying pittbulls are bred to be violent.
Gavin currently has the aggressive pittbull in custody, is working with insurance companies and does not believe the animal will be returned to its owners.
Fire department awards pumper contract
A mid-year fire district meeting was held on June 21 to discuss financing a new fire pumper. The rural fire district approved moving forward with purchasing a new pumper truck through Alexis Fire at a cost of $349,371 to be split equally among the city and fire district. A down payment of $90,000 will be made with Caledonia and rural district each paying $19,000. The remainder of the down payment will come from the fire departments gambling funds ($12,000) and the sale of a used fire truck to Spring Grove at a price of $40,025. The remaining $259,371 will be financed.
Council Member Tom Murphy was reluctant to make a large purchase, saying the $19,000 would be needed for other purposes before the end of the year. “We haven’t even hit the first of July, and I am really concerned about our general fund.” Murphy said he is determined to keep Caledonia in the black.
Fire Chief Chuck Gavin was present at the council meeting and said this particular truck offers significant savings since it was built before new standards were put in place and will save the city $20,000. “On top of that,” Gavin explained, “We’re getting a bigger more powerful truck to run the pump.” Gavin went on to comment that the fire department’s budget has been kept to the bare minimum. In addition, the sale of an old fire truck to Spring Grove is a great opportunity that might come around again, he said.
Council member Robert Lemke said he agreed the pumper truck purchase was necessary and motioned to award the contract to Alexis with the 10-year interest rate of 3.17 percent and annual payment of $30,664 a year. Mayor Burns seconded the motion, which passed three to one with Murphy voting against.
Wastewater assistant position
The personnel committee recommended hiring Coady Heiderscheit as an additional water/wastewater operator to assist current operator Ryan Skillings. The council was willing to approve Heiderscheit’s hire, but additional discussion took place on whether the hire should be part time or full time.
Skilling said he felt the position should be full time, explaining that the daily activities take up enough of his time to make accomplishing larger projects next to impossible, such as hydrant flushing and the sewer project.
The council agreed with Skilling and passed a motion to hire Heiderscheit on a 40-hour basis. Heiderscheit will be employed on a probationary period for six months while pursuing a Class D Water License in the State of Minnesota.
Variance denied for now
Duane Olson returned to the council for approval on the square footage for a new garage on his property. During the June 11 council meeting Olson applied for a variance to tear down an old garage on his property and build a new garage. The new garage plans set the structure back further from the property line, five feet from the north line and eight feet from the east.
At the June 11 meeting the council had no issue with granting a setback for the garage, as the setback would better align the new garage with the preexisting houses nearby. However, the council was reluctant to approve the proposed square footage for the garage – 840 square feet. Zoning ordinances allow 800 square feet.
Olson was reluctant to shrink the size of the proposed garage as building materials would not allow for an even 800 square feet. In addition, Olson pointed out that if he owned one more square foot of property his garage could legally be much larger than 840 square feet.
Council member Lemke made a motion to grant the variance, which was seconded by Mayor Burns. However, the motion failed to pass, ending in tie with council members Murphy and Randi Vicks voting against. Council member Paul Frisch was not present at the meeting to break the tie. Burns informed Olson that he could return to the next meeting with Frisch present.
Administrative Coordinator Mike Gerardy brought to the board a matter concerning Caledonia’s zoning map. The issue is whether or not the land is zoned as residential or industrial. The property in question rests in between East Main Street and East Grant Street. While the map has the property zoned as industrial, it is located near a residentially zoned section of town. The owner of the property wishes to split it and erect a shed near a lift station. The ordinance for building a shed varies depending on the properties designation.
The council considered asking Davey Engineer to perform a study in order to determine if the map was zoned correctly. However, council member Randi Vick inquired about a survey that had been conducted in 2006. A newer map from the 2006 survey was located and indicated the area in question as residential. The council agreed by consensus to ask Davey Engineering to verify that the 2006 map is accurate. If the property is confirmed residential, the property owner would need to build a home prior to building a shed.
The council approved two road maintenance projects in Caledonia. The first project will be to chip seal a section of the West Main Street heading toward the recycling center at a cost of approximately $10,000.
The second road project will be to resurface North Kingston Street from the North Park driveway down to Highway 44. Three inches of the old blacktop will be ground off, and three inches of the new hot mix asphalt will be added. The cost for this project is estimated at $21,200. No current start dates has been arranged with the contractors at this time, but the council hoped to time the project with the Highway 44 project.
The next regular scheduled city council meeting is set for Monday, July 9 at 6 p.m.