LF Council votes 6-2 not to reduce its salaries

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor

For the last three years, the Little Falls City Council has taken a pay cut — $50 per month per council member. Each year, the Council has had to vote to do so, or the pay would revert to the higher amount.

This year, however, a motion by Council Member At Large Brian-Paul Crowder and seconded by Council Member LeeAnn Doucette to lower the Council’s pay by $50, failed to pass.

Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem didn’t favor the reduction.

She said the Council had voted to lower their pay in the past, when city staff had not had increases. This year, city staff did receive an increase.

VanRissseghem said she checked around and looked at other communities  concerning what they paid the mayor and Council.

She said the Pierz mayor gets $250 a month, plus $213 as insurance reimbursement and $10 an hour for each meeting he attends that is not on a regular Council night.

In January, VanRisseghem said she will have attended 32 meetings, if nothing were to be added.

“We’re not doing this because of the money, but the situation is that there are people out there who might want to,” she said.

City Administrator Dan Vogt told the Council that if the reduction were taken prior to the city’s levy being set, it might have had the possibility of affecting the levy amount. But now that the levy had been set, the amount had no bearing.

On a roll call vote, Crowder and Council President Don Klinker were the only two to vote for the $50 decrease.

The pay for the mayor and council president will remain $900 per month and council members at $800 per month.

Little Falls City Council Briefs

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

• Learned the city’s wells and their capacity needed to be evaluated. Of the city’s eight wells, three have elevated ammonia and four have iron and manganese issues, and all are located in the same general area near City Hall. Five of the eight wells are at least 50 years old;

• Heard City Administrator Dan Vogt say that while the city could save money hiring two part-time janitors or one janitor at 29 hours per week to avoid paying benefits, the city would lose flexibility in the maintenance required of the janitor. Vogt said staff was in the process of setting up interviews and would bring recommendations to the Council during its second meeting in February. Staff is not advocating hiring a part-time janitor, as training time is lost when a new employee finds a full-time job and leaves. Vogt was uncertain whether hiring a part-time janitor would cause a problem with the unions;

• Reviewed a letter from Col. Scott St. Sauver, post commander of Camp Ripley, regarding unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or drones, in response to questions after Robin Hensel asked the City Council to request a no-fly zone for drones over the city. St. Sauver’s letter said the issue was a national issue, not a state or local government issue and that UAV does not conduct any UAV operations outside the perimeter of its restricted and special use air space;

• Heard Gosiak say he’d like to see public comments during the Council’s regular agenda restricted to topics pertaining to city services or items on the Council’s agenda. “It’s good they use it,” he said, but said he wanted to limit comments to city business;

• Learned the city’s refuse haulers had placed an order for bags that fit residents’ cans. The haulers said the last order had been messed up and they received smaller garbage bags; and

• Heard from Vogt that a number of years ago Brainerd enacted a Local Option Sales Tax that is being used to build a new wastewater treatment plant. He offered the idea as a possibility for the city to generate funds for projects of regional significance, such as the zoo, but said he did not advocate enacting such a tax, just offered it as a possibility.

During its regular meeting, the Council:

• Put on hold for a month a discussion on whether voting should be held at Lincoln Elementary School, as Council Member Frank Gosiak heard concerns from a resident about all the people coming into the school to vote;

• Approved the purchase of an Elgin Pelican sweeper on the state bid from Mac Queen Equipment Inc. in St. Paul, at a cost of $173,099.50, plus tax; with the $9,800 trade-in of the city’s old sweeper, the cost is $162,299.50;

• Heard a resident share concerns about a young dog kept outside in a wire cage at a residence on Sixth Street Southeast, and that police said they could do nothing about it. Vogt took the address and called the Police Department and the situation was handled the same evening. Law enforcement had thought the issue was handled earlier, he said;

• Made no motion to approve a resolution on the Minnesota Arms Spending Alternatives Project (MN ASAP) as requested at the Jan. 14 meeting;

• Approved a conditional use permit to allow the installation of a generator at the city Life Station No. 29 on South Lindbergh Drive; and

A public hearing will be held Monday, at City Hall at 5:30 p.m., regarding an extension on Larson Boats’ Minnesota Investment Fund Grant.

The Council’s next regular meeting will be 7:30 p.m., Monday, Feb. 4, at City Hall.