Herald JournalHoward Lake-Waverly Herald, Nov. 25, 2002

HL Council rescinds agreement with Ridgeview minutes after passing it

By Lynda Jensen

Minutes after passing a business subsidy agreement with Ridgeview Medical Clinic, the Howard Lake City Council hastily rescinded the agreement during the council meeting Tuesday after finding a non-compete clause was taken out.

The city's intent of the clause was to protect the clinic's competitor, Phenomenal Rehabilitation; preventing the clinic from performing the same function.

The agreement relates to a subsidy of $39,000, to be given to the clinic.

The council already adjourned its meeting, and was about to open its HRA meeting, when the omission was discovered by City Attorney Chuck Paschke.

A different attorney handled the last revision of the document on behalf of the city, Minneapolis attorney Bob Deike, because he is a specialist in tax increment financing (TIF), said City Clerk Gene Gilbert.

Previously, council members discussed the agreement during the meeting.

The agreement was revised again to exclude information pertaining to a law that did not apply to the clinic, since it employs fewer than 100 people. This would reduce paper work for the clinic and city, City Administrator Kelly Bahn said.

The clinic was asking the agreement to last three years, which is the life of the subsidy, instead of longer terms of five or 10 years, previously discussed.

Council member Don Danford pointed out that discussion about the term originally started out as 20 years, went down to 10 years, and then five ­ and now only three years, he said.

Following discussion, the council reached a consensus that 10 years, pro-rated if the clinic should break the agreement, would be the desired time frame, with 20 years being too long for a business to know the future.

This motion passed, and the meeting was adjourned; with the video cameras being turned off and dissembled from the cable broadcast. Minutes later, the council reconvened and overturned its decision.

In another matter related to the clinic and Security State Bank expansion project, the council heard from TIF consultation Michele Hartman.

Hartman told the council that some additional TIF revenue will be collected at the bank/clinic project, since the building is twice as large in square feet as previously thought, and has more taxable value.

However, this will still mean the city will likely remain close to breaking even, she said.

The city will collect $34,000 per year on the project rather than a projected $20,000.

It is possible that the city could still make money on this venture, if taxable values rise, Smith noted.

Bartender walks out

The council discussed benefits of Stephanie Ryks, who was one of two full-time bartenders who ended up walking out of her shift toward the end of her two weeks' notice.

Ryks notified Liquor Store Manager Ruth Voight that she was quitting Nov. 4.

However, Ryks left a note for Voight Nov. 13 saying she would be unable to work her last two days, with no valid reason given for her days off.

Voight and Bahn met with Ryks the same day to tell Ryks she may lose her vacation, sick time, and compensated hours if she didn't work the full two-week notice.

"She was told it was not acceptable to give this type of notice for time off," Bahn said.

Ryks became angry and left, walking out of her shift that night as well.

"It cost us three nights of comp time," Smith commented.

Ryks accumulated 32.5 of comp time, 40.25 hours of vacation, and 236 hours of sick time, of which the city will pay up to 144 for the latter.

"Personally, I'd like to see her get her vacation," Voight told the council.

It was noted that Ryks signed an agreement that stated she understood the policy, and this was the purpose of the meeting with Bahn and Voight, to make sure that Ryks understood this.

Council members discussed the issue, saying it would be fair to give Ryks comp time since this was time actually worked.

However, since Ryks knew she would be placing her benefits in jeopardy when she left, she should not receive vacation or sick time because it would set a precedent for this, the council decided.

The council also decided to hire two full time bartenders instead of one, after hearing a report from Voight about the importance of adding a full-time worker instead of part-time workers.

Voight indicated that her job as manager was being neglected because she was being spread too thin. "I'm not getting the things done I need done," she said.

Several council members and Smith expressed confidence in Voight's direction and supported her request.

Sonstegard Foods expansion?

The council tabled a request by Geoff Smith of Sonstegard Foods to raise the business' sewer discharge limits, which is tied to a planned expansion to be ready by spring.

Smith was unable to attend the meeting, although he indicated that he will be able to attend the Tuesday, Dec. 3 meeting. Smith is the former manager of Classic Egg when it was operating in Cokato.

Sonstegard Foods sustained heavy damage from a fire July 2001, however, operations resumed in August for edible products, when the city issued a permit for the business to remodel from the damage.

The expansion is planned for this spring, making the Howard Lake facility home for a new subsidiary, Egg Specialties. This will include the production of deviled eggs, Easter eggs, ready-to-eat, hard-boiled eggs and other specialty products, according to a note from Smith of Sonstegard's.

Currently, the city charges Sonstegard Foods for discharge of waste into the sewer system.

The limit for Sonstegard is 300 milligrams per liter for biological oxygen demands and suspended solids, Bahn said.

Sonstegard wishes to raise this limit to 600 mg per liter, which means the city would collect less money for waste discharged into the system.

This waste causes extra work for the waste treatment plant, however the plant is not operating at its full capacity, said Public Works Director Tom Goepfert.

However, the increased load being proposed by Sonstegard is fairly large, Bahn said.

"It's 10 percent of our flow," she said.

This may limit the city's ability to allow more residential development, since the waste facility would be serving the Sonstegard waste, Mayor Gerry Smith said.

Mayor Smith urged other members to educate themselves before the next meeting, and expressed general misgivings. "I was shocked tonight at what we might face," he said.

"Brad has major concerns about this," Smith said, referring to the city engineer Brad DeWolf.

The expansion would add up to 30 employees to the business with an additional 15 to 20 seasonal workers.

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