Little Falls Council votes to disband several committees

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor

Before Little Falls Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem could offer her appointments to three council committees, City Administrator Dan Vogt questioned whether the committees were needed at all.

Vogt, who has been with the city for about five months, said during that time the Personnel and Finance Committee, the Public Works Committee and the Public Safety Committee, had not met.

Instead, he suggested it was better to discuss the issues during a work session, when the full Council was present.

“The problem is when you’re not on a committee, you can’t participate in the meeting,” he said. “In a work session, everyone can participate in the discussions.”

Although council members can attend a committee they are not a member of, they cannot have input during the meeting.

Vogt said it was his recommendation to eliminate the council committees.

Conducting business during a work session was “a better way to do it,” he said.

Union negotiations may be one area the Council needs help in, he said.

The Council voted unanimously to banish the three committees.

Also on a unanimous vote, Don Klinker was named president of the Council and Frank Gosiak, vice president.

Little Falls City Council Briefs

In other business Monday during its work session, the Little Falls City Council:

• Discussed ending the employment relationship with a probationary employee who was not meeting job requirements. Vogt asked the Council to allow staff to review the applications and do interviews to recommend the best person for the city, with the Council making the final decision.

Council Member at Large Brian-Paul Crowder asked whether two part-time staff members could be hired, to avoid paying benefits, as other businesses do. Vogt will review union contract information and report to the Council;

• Heard that the Little Falls Fire Department had the opportunity to purchase a 2011 Dodge pickup, a drug forfeiture vehicle. Costs to the city include $8,200 to settle the loan on the vehicle and about $6,000 to outfit the truck for the fire department. The vehicle has a book price of $32,600;

• Heard Fire Chief Mike Nieman explain that the changes on the Mutual Aid Agreement between the city and Camp Ripley, which were questioned at the Council’s last meeting, included an hourly rate be shown and for the Camp Ripley contacts to be named as Pat Boone, Brian Boser and John Kreuser, all people Nieman has worked with and is familiar with; and

• Learned that the new sweeper the city had budgeted $190,000 for, could be purchased through state bid at about $175,000, and would be included on the Council’s next agenda. The trade-in on the older sweeper will be about $9,800. Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem asked whether the city could keep the old sweeper and have both working. Public Works Director Jerry Lochner said the sweeper is run on double shifts, but that staff would look at the options and report back to the Council.

During its regular meeting, the Council:

• Listened as Jerry Drellack of Drellack’s Insurance presented a petition from several businesses asking that the city plow the alley to the east of Bank of the West north to south and deposit plowed snow on the west side instead of the east side, as it causes ice issues near the businesses;

• Received a petition to rezone Oakland Cemetery from multiple family residential (R3) to non-central business district (B3). A public hearing will be set for February;

• Set a public hearing for Monday, Jan. 28, at 5:30 p.m., regarding an extension on Larson Boats’ Minnesota Investment Fund Grant. The company requested this second extension because it has not yet meet its job creation goals;

• Approved hiring Mead and Hunt Inc. for design and bidding services for rehabilitation of the north ramp area of the Little Falls/Morrison County Airport. The cost is not to exceed $37,952;

• Heard resident Theresa Skorseth request the city consider signing a resolution regarding Minnesota Arms Spending Alternatives Project (MN ASAP). The Council had denied the same request from Robin Hensel in the fall of 2012;

• Heard Hensel request the Council ask for a no-fly zone for drones over the city of Little Falls; and

• Agreed to include on the next agenda Crowder’s request to discuss the Council’s salaries and whether to extend a $50 decrease for 2013, as has been done for the past couple of years. If the Council does not vote to extend the decrease, the mayor and council president will be paid $900 per month and other council members $800 per month.

The Council next meets at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 22, due to the Martin Luther King Junior holiday.