Two committees to be deleted from city code; another amended

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor

Ordinances that would take two committees out of the control of the city of Little Falls — the Sister City Committee and the Golf Advisory Board — were introduced at Monday’s Council meeting. In addition, an ordinance to amend a subsection in the city code relating to the Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) was also introduced.

The Sister City Committee was formed in 1987 under then-Little Falls Mayor Pat Spence, to foster the friendship between Little Falls and Le Bourget, France, where Charles Lindbergh landed after his trans-Atlantic flight in 1927.

In addition to receiving a portion of city proceeds from the Little Falls Arts and Crafts Fair, the committee raised funds, in fact, the city’s code required it to raise funds, to host French guests. As part of the Sister City relationship, every two years a group of people from Little Falls visit France and two years later, the French visit Little Falls. The French are expected to visit Little Falls in 2015.

However, when it was learned that it is illegal for a city or its committees to raise funds, the Sister City Committee began to crumble, with its members not knowing what their responsibilities were or how to move forward.

The Golf Advisory Board hasn’t met for two years, so its necessity is in question. In February, the Council appointed Council Member Jeremy Hanfler as a liaison to the Golf Extravaganza Committee (not a city committee), which raises funds for the golf course.

The amendment introduced to the city code relating to the HPC, deletes Section 2.33, Paragraph E, Subsection 11, which says the HPC has “authority to solicit gifts and contributions to be made to the city and to assist in the preparation of applications for grant funds to be made to the city for the purpose of heritage preservation.”

City staff, in reviewing the city code relative to boards and commissions after the possibility of deleting the Sister City Committee and Golf Advisory Board was raised, found the section of the HPC code that mentioned fundraising and found it should be eliminated as well.

In December 2013, the Council voted to spend the budgeted $2,850 for a city code review by American Legal Publishing Corporation.

City Administrator Dan Vogt said the corporation has completed its review of the city’s code.

“The city attorney is reviewing their recommendations,” he said, but noted that in briefly looking at the information, he hadn’t seen where the proposed amendment to the HPC was mentioned.

Although removing the Sister City Committee as a city committee may be controversial, Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem said, “Things really need to be looked at. It’s been this way for years and if changes need to be made, we need to make them.”

Little Falls City Council Briefs

In other business, the Little Falls City Council:

•Heard City Administrator Dan Vogt present the possibility of offering a stand-alone health insurance option to employees of a high deductible health plan along with a health savings account, potentially saving employees and the city thousands in health premiums. The Council will review this possibility at a future meeting. The current health insurance premium plan, negotiated through the unions, cannot be renegotiated for three years, but the HDHP and HSA could be offered as an option for employees who wished to use it. There are currently 34 employees who use the city’s health insurance premium plan;

•Amended the city’s policy on data practices to reflect new Legislative changes to Minnesota Statutes, Section 13.03, Subd. 2 and Section 13.05, Subd. 5, that went into effect Aug. 1;

•Approved the closing of the sidewalk at BonJos, Little Falls. Aug. 26 – 28, for a sidewalk sale;

•Approved splitting the work to continue repair of the rock wall in front of Pine Grove Zoo between Rimm Masonry and Concrete LLC, Hillman at $120 per hour up to $5,000 and Patrick Kuffel, Little Falls, at $35 per hour up to $5,000;

•Tabled a decision on the purchase of a Bobcat Skid-steer loader for $33,644.10 until firm numbers on the repair of the city’s current loader can be reviewed, as well as numbers for its trade-in value;

•Approved the lone bid for removal and cleanup of diseased elm trees and other stumps. The bid was from T’s Tree Service LLC, Little Falls, for $3 per diameter inch, for approximately $2,514. Public Works Director Greg Kimman said this is consistent with what was paid last year;

•Approved on a 7-1 vote a change order for an additional $28,363.84 for work done at the well field test at the site near the airport, done by North Star Well Drilling. The expense, due to additional labor, equipment and material that went over the original scope of the project, included charges for access delays resulting in an additional 23 hours labor at a cost of $4,025. Kimman explained this was due to changes in soil conditions. He also noted that the cost of the project would probably be nearly $100,000 less than the $233,000 estimated. Council Member Jeremy Hanfler voted no, feeling the cost for the delays cited was excessive;

•Approved the acquisition of the old Sudsy Dudzy Laundromat site at 734 First St. NE. It is a non-conforming lot owned by Dennis Tretter. The Housing and Redevelopment Authority would purchase the lot at a cost of $7,500, plus closing costs. The Council also voted to purchase another nonconforming lot at the corner of Fourth Street and Fifth Avenue Northeast from Carl Haugen, for $10 plus closing costs. The house on the property was destroyed and cleaned up by the county. At some point, the property could be sold to adjacent property owners, or adjacent land purchased, so the lots would conform with city lot sizes;

•Approved a variance request for Floyd Richmond to construct an 18-foot by 20-foot enclosed porch addition on an existing dwelling on Riverwood Drive, approximately 90 feet from the Mississippi River. The minimum required is 100 feet, but since the dwelling sits at an angle, just a small portion of one corner would be at 90-feet;

•Approve the acquisition of utility easements from GG&O Enterprises LLC, near Country Inn and Suites in east Little Falls. The city’s storm sewer is near the property and with the Country Inn and Suites expansion, the city needs the easement to maintain the sewer;

•Approved the acquisition of a utility easement near Larson Boats LLC, to maintain water mains near the business in west Little Falls; and

•Authorized the execution of a cooperative construction agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation for signage along the Mississippi River Trail, US Bike Route 45, which will go through the city. The state will pay for the signs and install them. The city will be responsible for maintenance.

Due to the Labor Day holiday, the next Little Falls City Council meeting is Tuesday, Sept. 2, at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall.

  • robin hensel

    Are you paying attention Little Falls community???? This is pretty powerful content. Thanks Terry for using the word ILLEGAL.

  • my veiw

    So robin is this going to be all you do is always give negative comments. Then plan on not getting votes. Its a proven fact that people that arnt positive leader. are in effective. try finding a little positive for a change. Please. I wanna believe you can be god but sofar no way

    • I fail to see the negativity in Robin’s statement. Its merely a statement of fact if you want something different head to the library and check out books titled “My Little Pony”.

    • robin hensel

      my view……so are you suggesting that the public shouldn’t have accurate information/reporting on illegal fundraising/solicitation of donations? Are you suggesting that my insistence of telling the public the TRUTH….is somehow negative? If all you want is a city council/ city staff/ city committees that are allowed to break their own laws, then by all means continue to vote for your current mayor/councilors!! Breaking the law matters to me. Doesn’t it matter to you also?

    • Rick Witte

      my view I don’t believe that Robin has any real delusions of her becoming Mayor of Little Falls. Seems more likely that she is only attempting to continue making issues in an attempt to siphon off enough votes from the current Mayor to assure that Mr. Zylka wins the election.

      It seems that Robin and Mr. Crowder raised the issue and the City changed its policy even though Mr. Crowder probably voted in support of the measure himself many times.. That’s a good thing. Unfortunately Mr. Zylka also voted for and supported the Cities donation to the Sister Committee. No mention of him in their continual dialogue though.

      They raise issues of conflict of interest, but under State Statutes it does not appear that they are correct. That’s probably why Jody doesnt cite State Statute.

      The only real issue here is whether or not, if Mr. Zylka were to win, whether or not he intends to complete his term or does he intend to seek another office in two years? Only he and Mr. Wenzel seem to know for sure.