By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
Greg Kimman will be the new public works director/engineer for the city of Little Falls. He will replace current Public Works Director, Jerry Lochner, who will retire May 31.
A lifelong resident of Little Falls, Kimman has been an engineer with Short Elliott Hendrickson (SEH) for 12 years. He will start his duties May 27.
The city received nine applicants for the position. Five were interviewed, with the entire City Council being invited to take part in the interviews with City Administrator Dan Vogt.
Vogt said Monday he was happy and impressed with the level of candidates.
“As a result of the interview process, staff was given direction to contact Greg Kimman,” said Vogt and Kimman accepted the position.
The Council voted to hire Kimman, 7-1.
Council Member at Large Brian-Paul Crowder, who had another meeting the night of the interviews so was not present, was the lone nay vote.
“I think you’re a great person,” Crowder said to Kimman. “I know that during the interview process some came very close or tied.”
Crowder said he felt that Kimman was given the job because of a “sweetheart deal” for the mayor.
In fall of 2013, SEH gave the go-ahead for Kimman to draw up plans for a recreational complex north of Little Falls, that would include a splash pad and skate park, at a reduced rate of $2,000, paid for by the Mayor’s Youth Task Force.
“I think you should abstain from voting, because you weren’t even there to listen to all the people interviewed that night,” said Klinker. “It was a consensus of the seven there that Greg was the best person for the job; it had nothing to do with what he did for the splash pad.”
Crowder asked if he was the top candidate.
“You always seem to come up with these little crazy things,” said Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem.
“It’s not crazy, you may be crazy,” said Crowder.
“Greg didn’t give the mayor a sweetheart deal; SEH gave the city a sweet deal because they have worked with the city for many years, and it would be a shame that you go around town ….” said VanRisseghem.
“You can bend it any way you want it,” said Crowder. “I’m sure you can get a video recording or audio recording of it.”
Council Member Frank Gosiak said he didn’t think the deal was for the mayor, but for the city. “There’s a lot of public support for it,” he said.
Klinker said the group could have chosen any one of the five candidates interviewed. He said the candidates were ranked by those present at the interview and Kimman received the highest ranking.
“We ranked them and he got the highest ranking. Interviews tell you more than what a piece of paper does,” he said. Office staff was also asked to rank candidates, he said.
“Everything was really close,” he said.
“How can he give the mayor a sweetheart deal? We didn’t even talk about that. He works for SEH, he couldn’t make that deal,” said Klinker. “It’s just because the mayor and Crowder don’t see eye to eye. He shouldn’t even have voted.”
Kimman said he has attended Council meetings for the past four years.
“I know what’s going on,” he said. “I know it wasn’t personal.”
Vogt said the position is part of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE) union. Starting pay is $72,060.
In 2013, the Council decided to look for a person with an engineering degree to take over the public works director position when Lochner retired. The goal is to save the city money in engineering services.
Little Falls Council Briefs
In other business Monday, the Little Falls City Council:
•Heard a resident request the Council consider an ordinance requiring professional yard waste removal services to have some sort of dust/dirt abatement program. City Administrator Dan Vogt agreed to look into the issue;
•Learned from Little Falls Supt. Steven Jones that Charter is considering moving the public access channels in Little Falls to the 180 number range, instead of Channels 6 and 12. Charter indicates this is to move to an all-digital platform, which will cost the city nothing. However to move to high definition in the future could be costly, Jones said up to $100,000 for the educational channel. City Administrator Dan Vogt will contact Charter for a discussion in the near future;
•Approved the low bid of $209,521.49 from Holden Electric of Baxter for installation of 35 new street lights to replace existing cobra-style light fixtures in the historic downtown area. This is in addition to the $600,000 cost of fixtures and poles for the 156 lights to be replaced. City crews will install the new lights where existing historic lights are located;
•Approved paying $39,500 to city engineers Widseth Smith Nolting for additional work done due to the city expanding its downtown street lighting improvement project;
•Approved rewording of the city’s ordinance 56, to define street side ground floor dwelling units and to amend street side ground floor dwelling units to include apartments and property owners; clarify accessory structures in residential districts and to amend and clarify setbacks for accessory structures in all zoning districts;
•Made adjustments to the streets within the city designated as state aid streets, upon approval of Commissioner of Transportation and the state;
•Approved a variance for GC&O Enterprises LLC to decrease the rear and front yard setbacks to allow for two separate additions to the Country Inn and Suites on 16th Street Northeast; and
•Accepted a $10,575 grant to help pay for the 2015 annual statewide Historic Preservation Conference to be held in Little Falls in mid-September 2015.