By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
The public forum at the beginning of the work session of the Little Falls City Council will stay right where it is. This, after a motion to remove it from the agenda entirely failed 2-6.
The public forum has been moved from one portion of the agenda to another over the past couple of years and most recently, was limited to three minutes per person to address the Council.
Council Member Loren Boyum proposed removing the forum in favor of personal contacts by phone, visits, emails or by contacting City Hall with concerns the week before a Council meeting to be included in Council packets. Then, at the end of the regular meeting, the concerns included with the packets would be discussed. Each member of the Council, said Boyum, would then have the same information about concerns in front of them as they were discussed.
He said it would be “a more orderly process” with a written record to help the Council follow up more effectively.
City Attorney Toni Wetzel told the Council it could certainly do what Boyum proposed. “If that’s what you think is best for the Council and the residents,” she said. “You need to be able to run a meeting and hear from residents, but you can certainly do it.”
Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem said she had heard from the community about the potential of getting rid of the public forum and said she was surprised that residents felt they always had the freedom to contact the Council with issues and were able to get on the Council agenda if needed. “That’s what I’ve been hearing all week,” she said.
Council Member At Large Brian-Paul Crowder, in favor of keeping the forum, said it was a way for the public to talk to the Council. “If this passes, it is for everyone,” he said. “No exceptions.”
Council Member Jeremy Hanfler felt another 10 minutes wasn’t a big deal. “We’re here for two hours, what’s another 10 minutes,” he said. “If someone has something to say, let them come and say it.”
Council Member Frank Gosiak said people wouldn’t have to be present for the whole meeting, but could visit with the Council after the meeting.
That idea prompted Council Member Greg Zylka to question whether there would be a problem with constituents meeting with Council members after the meeting, if more than one member of the Council was still present.
“I was always told that was a continuation of a meeting, which was against the law,” he said.
“I’d be very careful,” said City Administrator Dan Vogt. Wetzel agreed.
Vogt said one-on-one discussions would be acceptable, but if a couple members of the Council were standing together, that would be different. “I’d be careful staying around too long after a meeting — before or after meetings,” he said.
“What’s the difference if it’s 10 minutes before the meeting or 10 minutes after the meeting,” said Hanfler. “Let them speak at the beginning. If it’s at the end, they could wait for hours.”
Council President Don Klinker said moving the public forum confused people.
“We keep jumping this (public forum) around and people get confused about when it is,” said Klinker. “My personal feeling is we should leave it the way it is.”
Zylka asked whether someone could be asked to discontinue if they spoke disrespectfully toward staff or employees.
“If you’re a public official, you better have a pretty thick skin,” said Wetzel. “Unless they start throwing around profanities.” The guidelines are “pretty darned liberal” she said.
Boyum’s proposal to eliminate the public forum was defeated 2-6. He and Council Member LeeAnn Doucette voted in favor, while Gosiak, Klinker, Hanfler, Zylka, Crowder and VanRisseghem voted no.
The work session is usually set to start at 6:30 p.m., but that time can change by the Friday before the meeting, depending upon the business the Council has to discuss.
To find out the time set for the work session, call City Hall at (320) 616-5500 or look under “Government Meetings” in that week’s issue of the Morrison County Record.
Little Falls Council Briefs
In other business Monday, the Little Falls City Council:
•Recognized several employees for years of service including: Chuck Volbert – 34 years; Greg McGillis – 32 years; Officers Chuck Strack and Rick Heurung – 15 years; Officers Jon West and Josh Burgardt – five years; and Pete Balaski and Jeffery Doroff – five years;
•Decided to take no action on a request for raising bees within city limits, as the person requesting didn’t want to raise bees on his own, but thought it would be a nice option;
•Approved the Pepsi Company providing a golf course beverage cart for the city, with a five-year exclusive deal with the company to serve its product at the clubhouse. City Administrator Dan Vogt said the clubhouse currently serves only Pepsi products;
•Heard Public Works Director Greg Kimman report that city staff is working on several sanitary manholes in the city. He is in the process of getting prices from several contractors to repair the manholes, ideally without tearing up streets. He noted there are about nine or 10 along Highway 27 that are in disrepair;
•Accepted a $25,000 grant to remove lead-based paint from the Musser home at Linden Hill. The lead-based paint must be removed before the home can be repainted;
•Voted 7-1 to convey to the Central Minnesota Ethanol Co-op the pretreatment facility located at the site north of Little Falls. Council Member At Large Brian-Paul Crowder voted no;
•Approved a bid for $2,345 from City Sanitary Commercial Service for an appliance, tire and bulk garbage collection for one- and two-family residential properties within the city. The other bid came from Bob LeMieur Rolloffs Refuse and Recycling for $2,798;
•Approved the engineer services of Meat & Hunt for the crosswind runway land acquisition at the Little Falls/Morrison County Airport. The engineering services costs are not to exceed $44,253 and do not include the purchase of land;
•Were informed by City Attorney Toni Wetzel that the Council could not approve a request by the Little Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau to place signs on both sides of the bridge over the Mississippi or to place “Vintage Car parking only” signs in downtown Little Falls for a vintage car event, July 16;
•Approved two recommendations from the Planning Commission/Board of Adjustment; one a variance for St. Francis Health Services to allow construction of a new building for Little Falls Health Services, formerly the Lutheran Care Center, to replace the existing building within the required rear yard setback. The other, to rezone the property from multiple-family residential to noncentral business district;
•Approved a resolution to secure a vacant building at 307 Northeast Fourth Street, which was found to be in disrepair and unsecured, making it a hazard in the community. The home is in foreclosure and owned by a mortgage company out of state; and
•Learned public hearings would be held for a conditional use request for a home occupation (business) by MaryAnn Susalski and to clarify language in the city code regarding the revocation, suspension or refusal to renew procedures, for conditional use or other permits. The hearings will be held during the Planning Commission’s meeting Monday, June 9, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.
The City Council next meets Monday, June 16, at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall.