Dassel council raises levy 9% but not its own salaries

Sept. 8, 2008

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

Dassel City Council proposed a 9 percent increase Tuesday in the city’s 2009 levy, to $511,988 from the 2008 levy, but at the same time, decided against giving themselves raises in salaries.

City Administrator Myles McGrath made a comparison based on a League of Minnesota Cities survey of cities the same size as Dassel. The survey showed an average annual salary of $1,700. Special meetings average between $25 and $40.

Dassel city council members, however, receive $1,250 each year. Mayor Ava Flachmeyer receives $2,250, which is the base plus 80 percent. Special meetings are $25 each.

The salaries were set in 2004, and are well below average, McGrath said.

McGrath presented two options. Council members could raise the amount received annually, or adopt a per meeting schedule. Each meeting the council member attends, the council member would be paid $50 to $80 each. The average year has four to six special meetings, he estimated.

The mayor would receive an additional 60 to 80 percent, McGrath added.

Shortly before the council discussed raising their salaries, council members had voted to certify the 2009 proposed budget and levy to the Meeker County auditor.

Contributing to the 9 percent increase were debt service for street, water and sewer projects, increases in fuel costs, and escalating health insurance costs for city employees, McGrath said.

Council Member Wayne Medcraft said to make salary increases easier on the taxpayers, salary increases should be phased in over two years, as they were in 2005 and 2006. He also thought residents often didn’t file for election to city offices because the positions were time-consuming, in relation to how much city officials are paid, Medcraft said.

Medcraft made a motion to direct McGrath to put together an ordinance changing the current salary schedule. The motion was voted down, however.

Odds and ends

In other business, the council:

• waived the permit fee for the museum expansion project because the Universal Laboratories building belongs to the city.

• heard a report from Marvin Vetsch, manager of the municipal liquor store, that sales were strong in August. Minnesota Vikings cheerleaders will visit Dassel Liquors Friday, Oct. 17 as part of a promotional tour.

• listened to a report from Meeker County Deputy Gordie Prochaska that there were too many vehicles parked at the Red Rooster Days fireworks show to restrict parking to one side of the streets north of Spring Lake Park. Council Member Pat Haapala said she had received complaints that people were parked in and couldn’t get out in an emergency.

To alleviate parking congestion during the fireworks, McGrath suggested that people who are able to walk, should walk to the park on the new trail north of Dassel, instead of drive a car.

• heard a report from Public Works Director Dave Scepaniak that the installation of the new streetlights on Atlantic Avenue was rained out Tuesday. The lights will be installed later this month, as will the footings for the pavilion in Breeds Park, he said.

• reviewed the timeline for the new water tower and watermain project. The foundation will be constructed this month. The tank and tower will be erected in November. Watermains will be installed this fall. Painting the tower will be in May or June 2009. The system will be operational July 2009.

McGrath also reported that the city has no access yet to the new water tower site from either Highway 15 or 12 by the state. So far, the city only has access during construction. Otherwise, city workers must use easements through private property to get to the new tower.

• noted that McGrath had sent a letter to a property owner to cut back a bush blocking drivers’ view of traffic on Willis Street.

• listened to a report that the museum expansion is on schedule and that the walls will begin to be erected Monday, Sept. 15.

• agreed to have Butch Schulte be the city’s temporary building inspector.

Do you know more about this subject, or have a comment? E-mail: news@heraldjournal.com