By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
Since the fall of 2011, citizens appeals and petitions have been placed at different areas on the Little Falls City Council’s agenda.
Before that time, the citizens appeals and petitions were held at the beginning of the Council’s regular televised meeting.
In October 2011, the change was made council members said, to improve efficiency in how the meetings were run, as recommended at a regional League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) meeting held in Royalton.
It is during this appeals and petitions portion that citizens are able to address the Council, limited to five minutes.
In March, the citizen appeals were placed at the beginning of the Council’s non-televised work session, with petitions remaining at the end of the Council’s regular and televised meeting.
At the time, resident Robin Hensel told the Council she felt as though that decision was directed at her. She had been using the citizens appeals and petitions portion of the agenda to express her opinions and concerns.
Since then, citizens appeals have been heard during the work session and petitions at the end of nearly every regular meeting.
In the past, petitions to the City Council have been to petition for rezoning, or road work or city services, which were then directed to the appropriate city department or committee to review and bring a recommendation back to the Council.
More recently, petitions have include a number of requests and statements not necessarily related to city services,
In April, City Administrator Vogt asked the Council to give city staff direction in how to proceed with the petitions offered at nearly every Council meeting.
The issue came before the Council at its May 6 meeting, but was tabled because Vogt was not in attendance.
Vogt told the Council Monday, that cities he has worked for in the past, never had “petitions” on the Council agenda, but had a spot on the agenda for citizens to address the Council called a “public forum.”
He recommended the Council replace the citizens appeals and petition segment with a public forum spot on its regular agenda, so as not to restrict public comment.
He also said that when a petition is brought before the Council, the Council must decide whether to file it or else give staff direction on how to proceed.
The Council voted unanimously to remove the petitions segment from the regular agenda and citizens appeals from the work session and to add a “public forum” period at the beginning of the work session. Individuals will be limited to five minutes.
Citizens are able to request a spot on the Council’s agenda. Vogt recommended citizens put the request in writing and drop it off at city hall the Monday or Tuesday before the Council meets.
“We’ll make every accommodation we can to get people on the agenda,” he said.
“If it’s in writing, it gives the Council an idea of what the purpose of the item being listed on the agenda is,” said Vogt.
The Little Falls City Council meets the first and third Mondays of the month at 7:30 p.m. The work session typically begins at 6:30 p.m. prior to the regular meeting, but is sometimes moved up a half an hour to 6 p.m., depending upon the number of items that need to be discussed.
Citizens can call City Hall at 616-5500 to find out when the work session will begin for that week.
Little Falls City Council Briefs
Other business conducted by the Little Falls City Council Monday, with all members present except Council Member Greg Zylka, included:
• Approving the advancement of $680,000 from the city’s Municipal State Aid Funds, as allowed. The funds will be used to pay off the remainder of the Eighteenth Street Northeast project; to fund a joint project with Morrison County on First Street Southeast from Eigth Avenue Southeast to the south city limits and the proposed 2012 street lighting project, to replace street light poles and fixtures for downtown;
• Authorized Fire Chief Mike Nieman to apply for a $1,500 50/50 matching grant to the Minnesota Department of Transportation to purchase a radio;
• Corrected an error from the May 6 meeting, by voting to receive petitions from Robin Hensel and Theresa Skorseth, since that motion was made and voted on after a motion had been made to adjourn the meeting, which is against protocol;
• Authorized the hiring of Wayne Moe at $8.69 per hour to work during the spring and summer months in Veterans Memorial and Maple Island Parks as he has for the past several years and of Macy Olson at $8.31 and Mary Ann Gross at $8.13 per hour as clubhouse attendants at the Little Falls Country Club;
• Approved a change in the language of the by-laws draft of the Sister City Committee in section 5 to read voting members serving three-year terms which are appointed by the mayor and approved by the City Council (instead of appointed by the City Council) and members are considered volunteers, not employees, as was stated;
• Voted to deny, upon City Attorney Toni Wetzel’s recommendation, a donation to the Darling/Green Prairie Park. She said the city cannot donate money that is not for the public good. Crowder was the lone “no” vote; and
• Approved on a 4-2 vote to deny paying an estimate of $2,306.21 for damage done to a 1990 Dodge Ram Charger with a snow plow that was damaged in March when the vehicle and city snow plow collided. The denial was based upon the advice of the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust, because it was determined the city driver was not at fault. Council Members Jeremy Hanfler, Cathy VanRisseghem, LeeAnn Doucette and Loren Boyum voted to deny the request as per legal advice, while Frank Gosiak, Don Klinker and Brian-Paul Crowder voted to pay for the damages. Boyum said, “It’s a cheap shot for the insurance adjuster to deny the claim.” He recommended Athmann go to small claims court.
The Council next meets Monday, June 3, at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall, preceded by a work session.