Montrose Council discusses city’s hostile work environment

August 4, 2008

By Teresa Jagodzinski

Montrose City Attorney Kyle Hartnett addressed the work environment for Montrose city employees during last Monday’s council meeting.

Hartnett discussed with the council the issue of a hostile work environment, which causes some employees to not want to come to work.

He also noted the effect that numerous data requests has had on city staff, including physical effects, like not being able to sleep.

During the open forum portion of the meeting, Larry Miller, longtime owner of Red’s Cafe, said “I have dealt with a lot of city councils here. I’ve disagreed with a lot of what they have said, and I’ve agreed with a lot, too.

“The only I would like to make is treat your council with respect, Miller said. “If you have an issue, you bring it here, and if it can’t be settled, you use the power of the vote – not anger, and not vindictiveness.”

He noted that those in favor of firing city staff should check around and compare numbers. “I think everybody here deserves to be treated as human beings.”

Bob Chantland asked to have his open forum topic read aloud by Mayor Charlie Nelson.

“City officials and others conspiring to publicly portray concerned citizens as person to be featured if they ask or demand answers to too many questions. Regarding Larry Miller’s comment, we will be voting the other cities pay a lot less.”

Chantland accused longtime Journal-Press writer Doug Voerding of slanted reporting, saying that Voerding has tried “to make some of us concerned citizens look bad. Barb (Swanson, the administrator) manipulates minutes, which can be proven and the council approves the manipulated minutes.

“Scare, positively scary. We have an election coming up and we will be having no more arrogant cops.” Chantland said.

“We intend,” he continued “to get Lloyd Johnson elected as mayor. This will end this corrupt and sleazy little dictatorship we got going here, and we are going to have a genuine democracy. And you should print that.”

Chantland further said “God bless the fire department, by the way. There’s a lot of good firefighters in the fire department – but you deserve better leadership. And there would be a lot less turnover in the fire department and the future will vindicate that.”

Hartnett noted that the employees and city need to be protected from this type of hostile environment.

Mayor Charlie Nelson agreed that the city, as an employer has “to provide a safe environment” to its employees.

Hartnett directed the staff to have the correspondence go through him, and he would get the opinion of the Information Policy Analysis Division (IPAD), which is a state agency which determines what data is public and what is not public. The agency would also give him guidance on how to interpret the statutes.

Hartnett added that most of the data requests have since been withdrawn.

Bridgeland Development

Hartnett explained that the city’s engineer has sent several requests to Bridgeland Development to perform certain work on Aspen Lane.

Because a house was built on Aspen Lane, curb and gutter, and sidewalks need to be installed.

This work would fulfill the developer’s agreement with the city which requires all public improvements to city standards and specifications be installed.

The estimated cost of the needed improvements will be around $20,000, which includes any administrative costs the city may incur.

Because Bridgeland Development refuses to do the work, the city council approved having the city complete the necessary work and draw on Bridgeland Development’s letter of credit, which is currently $20,000.

Odds and ends:

In other business, the council:

• approved the 3.2 off sale license application for Jagwander Chand, owner of Jai Jagdambe, Inc. This is the former Montrose Convenience Store.

• appointed the following election judges for the upcoming primary election in September and general election in November: Wendy Manson, Barbara Swanson, Gloria Pageau, Bunnie Runman, Joleen Luhman, Janine Holter, Lisa Ellwoods, Sylvia Henry, Gloria Addickes, Debbie Hayes, and Margie Onstott.

• approved the bid for KUE Contractors, Inc. of Watkins to build the public works shed. Its bid was $109,349, which is higher than the engineer’s estimate of $100,000.

Assistant City Engineer Justin Kannas explained that the increase in the price of materials added to the bid being higher than the estimate. Kannas added that the only way to lower the cost would be to reduce the size of the building.

Swanson added that there are funds available to cover the expenses that were over the estimate. The council approved also adding a concrete floor to the entire building at a cost of $13,155, but the doors will be added at a later time.

• approved the quote from LaTour Construction, of Maple Lake in the amount of $8,250 to complete the grading and site preparation necessary for the construction of the public works shed.

• heard from the fire department that three new members joined the department. They are Darin Orr, Ahren Pfeifle, and Allan Torkelson.

• signed up to have a booth at the Montrose Waverly Chamber of Commerce Expo Saturday, Sept. 20.

• decided not to renew the city’s membership in the Minnesota Association of Small Cities (MAOSC). Nelson stated that the money for the membership, $1,212, can be used in other places.

• heard from a number of people in the open forum.

Michael Brenny, who lives along Highway 12, questioned if the city would pay for any negligence and damage to his property when construction is done on the sewer lines. The last time construction was done on Highway 12 by his home he stated that water leaked from the pipes onto his property, and the city told him it was on his side of the line and his problem. He also wanted to know if he would be compensated for any landscaping that would be torn up since he put money and labor into it. Kannas stated that he could talk to him after the meeting to work something out.

Scott Jensen had received the new Montrose-Waverly annual guidebook in his door from the Montrose-Waverly Chamber of Commerce. The map in the brochure of the Montrose area wasn’t current, and this should be corrected.

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