By Ivan Raconteur
The Lester Prairie City Council members found themselves stuck, as one council member described it, “between a rock and a hard place,” during Monday’s council meeting.
Resident John Richardson, whose rottweiler, Lexy, was recently classified as a dangerous dog, came before the council and said he was unable to obtain a $50,000 security bond, which is one of the requirements of the designation.
City Attorney Jody Winters said this left the council with only two choices.
If the council let the dangerous dog designation stand, Richardson would be in violation of state statute, and the city would have no choice but to impound the animal and have it euthanized.
The only other option was to remove the dangerous dog designation, and go back to a potentially dangerous dog designation.
Winters explained that if the council chose to reverse the designation, it would have the authority to impose additional restrictions above those required by the city’s leash law.
Council members expressed concern about liability the city might face if it reversed the designation.
“If we go backward, and the dog bites, we are as responsible as anyone,” Council Member Art Mallak said.
“If you say your insurance company would cover it (if the dog bit someone) for $300,000, I’d like to see a letter from your insurance company stating that,” Mallak told Richardson.
Richardson replied that if his insurance company knew he had a rottweiler, it would drop his coverage.
The council expressed reluctance about returning to a potentially dangerous dog designation.
“He (Richardson) wasn’t following the rules then,” Council Member Larry Hoof commented.
“It (the dog) has acted aggressively a number of times. Much of the discussion that has gone on over a period of months has been ignored,” Council Member Ron Foust said.
Mayor Eric Angvall asked what would happen if the council were to go back to a potentially dangerous dog designation, and three weeks later, the dog ran out into the street and scared someone.
“You would have to go back to a dangerous dog designation,” Winters said.
“What I am asking you to do is to go back to potentially dangerous,” Richardson said.
The council agreed to reverse the dangerous dog designation and classify Lexy as potentially dangerous. It added the restrictions that Lexy must be muzzled and leashed or in a proper enclosure whenever she is outdoors. Richardson must also install warning signs on his property.
Richardson asked how long he had to comply with the requirement to keep the dog muzzled. The council agreed to give him seven days to comply.
Richardson objected to the requirement to muzzle Lexy. “You are going to psychologically damage my dog,” he said.
Richardson asked if the council was open to the idea of having a dog park in town.
Angvall replied that he was not opposed to the idea, and suggested that Richardson discuss it with the park board.
Temporary steps approved to address space needs
Police Chief Bob Carlson presented plans for temporary improvements to address space needs in the police department and city hall.
“We are not looking for approval tonight. This is for information only, so you have time to look at it before the Wednesday, Jan. 9 public meeting,” Carlson said.
During its November meeting, the council asked Carlson to get information about temporary measures to resolve the space issues faced by the police department and the city staff.
The city still wants residents to attend the public hearing to provide input about how the city can address long-term space issues in the city.
Rather than waiting until January, the council approved the temporary improvements.
The changes include removal of one restroom and re-configuring the office space in the police department building at a cost of $9,475.
The plans also include moving the existing file room in the city office and construction of a new file room to accommodate records that are currently stored in the police department building.
Also included are relocation of a trophy case and construction of a service counter. The total cost of the city hall improvements is $3,886.
“These prices are similar to quotes we have received in the past, and he (contractor Wayne Goodell Construction) has been the lowest the last several times,” Carlson said in response to a question about whether the city got multiple bids for the work.
In addition to making the space more functional for the city’s current needs, the changes will make the police building more saleable if the city ever decides to sell it,” City Clerk Marilyn Pawelk said.
The changes that were approved are intended as a temporary measure to address the city’s needs for today. The city will need to consider long-term solutions at the public meeting in January, Pawelk said.
The council also added discussion of Central Park to the agenda for the public meeting.
“If we are going to go to the time and effort to do that, why not open it up to the park idea,” Angvall said.
“That would be a good time for the committee to bring us up to speed,” Foust agreed.
The council asked Park Board Member Bob Messer to contact the park committee and ask them to make a presentation at the Jan. 9 meeting.
Park addition discussed
Angvall said he talked to a property owner about some land adjacent to Sunrise Nature Park. The owner may be interested in selling some land to the city.
The council seemed open to looking into this for possible expansion of the park.
“At this point, you have no money because you have taken all the money and spent it on a park for which there is no plan,” Angvall said, referring to Central Park.
“We may need to re-appropriate,” Foust said. He added that the city may be able to get a DNR outdoor recreation grant for land acquisition.
“This is what you have eyed since the original (grant for Sunrise Park),” Angvall said.
The council directed Messer to contact the landowner and find out how much land is available, when the property might be available, and at what price.
City web site discussed
The council discussed implementing a city web site.
Some of the benefits that were discussed included the ability to post things such as city ordinances and council meeting minutes.
Foust said some of his customers use city web sites to download information about setbacks and building permits.
Carlson said the city has already purchased a domain name.
Resident Stan Ehrke said the city should go to the League of Minnesota Cities web site to get information about this. He said the league has a document that explains naming conventions and other steps a city can take to implement a web site.
“You have to do some homework. You guys are wasting time,” Ehrke said.
“It sounds like you have some good information. Maybe you could share that with the council,” Messer said.
“No,” Ehrke replied.
“It is better to harass someone,” Angvall commented.
Final levy approved
The council approved the final budget and levy for 2008 on a vote of 3-1, with Mallak, Hoof, and Foust in favor, and Angvall opposed.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• directed Winters to take Corey and Clint Schmidt, the owners of the property at 100 Maple Street South, back to court. The building has been deemed hazardous, and the owner has failed to comply with four of the six court orders for repairs that were issued the last time the matter went to court.
• accepted two fire department grants. The first was a $31,850 FEMA grant. The second was a $3,700 DNR grant.
• approved purchase of a five-year extended warranty for a generator at the wastewater treatment plant at a cost of $1,200. The value of the generator is approximately $300,000, and the warranty covers all parts, warranty, and travel time.
• approved a pay increase of approximately 4 percent for all full-time city employees to become effective for the first pay period of 2008.
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