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Dassel council reschedules public hearing on sewer rate language
OCT. 25, 2010
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By Kristen Miller
News Editor

DASSEL, MN – During last Monday’s meeting, the Dassel City Council rescheduled a public hearing regarding the language changes for sewer utility rate charges after concerns were brought up that it was the night before the general election.

Originally, a public hearing was set for Monday, Nov. 1 to discuss a language amendment in which commercial, industrial, institutional, and multifamily customers would be charged for sewer services according to monthly meter readings. Previously, they were charged according to their respective December meter reading of the previous year (as single family residential users will remain), according to the new language.

Mayor Mike Scanlon explained that setting residents’ rate according to December water usage is acceptable since people typically don’t use extra water, as they may be during the summer months, when people water their lawns. The water used by commercial and industrial businesses, for example, will most of the time go into the sewer.

A member of the audience asked the council why the public hearing was scheduled the night before the general election. He noted, this would prevent people, particularly the elderly, from needing to come out two nights in a row.

Mayor Mike Scanlon told him “that it never crossed our minds.”

“I can see his point,” said council member Bob Lalone.

City administrator Myles McGrath told the council the idea was to have the language adopted and in place for the first of the year, but also said pushing it back two weeks would not be a problem.

The council agreed to reschedule the public hearing to Monday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m.

Council items

Council member Alesia Warner addressed the council and the residents in regards to comments on council compensation at the last meeting that she felt were directed at her.

Warner told them that it wouldn’t bother her whether or not she is paid per meeting or in one lump sum, and that when she misses meetings it’s because of conflicts with her kids.

“My kids come first,” she said, noting that oftentimes she is the sole parent. She also invited any inquiries regarding her absences.

Also under the council items, Lalone provided a draft request for proposal (RFP) regarding information technology help and configuration check.

This would allow a third party to come in and give an opinion on the newly installed city hall computer system, which was initially installed voluntarily by council member Jason Benzing.

Lalone called it an “unbiased health check” of the system to ensure it’s secure, which would include a risk assessment.

The service would cost roughly $500 or less.

Benzing told the council he didn’t feel spending the extra money was worth it, and the risk was low.

This topic was tabled for the next meeting.

Administrator items

During the meeting, McGrath addressed some items as reminders to the residents of Dassel.

In regards to leaves, the city reminds residents placing leaves on the street is counterproductive and can clog storm sewers and catch basins.

McGrath also reminds residents that trash containers should not be placed on the street or gutter line. Instead, trash containers should be placed on the boulevard next to the curb during non-snow months. When there is snow, containers should be on the driveway apron.

Odds and ends

In other business, the council:

• approved a resolution authorizing participation in the Dassel cafeteria plan, which is a premiums – only IRS section 125 plan. This allows health insurance premiums withheld from employees’ payroll to be treated on a pre-tax basis.

McGrath explained that this is the same plan that has been in place, but is something that needs to be reviewed periodically.

It was noted that this plan actually provides cost savings since the amount the city is matching is less because it is before taxes.

• will review the preliminary enterprise and utility fund budgets, which include preliminary 2011 water and sewer fund budgets, prior to next month’s meetings.

It was noted that the numbers (see graph) reflect the proposed increases to rates as previously discussed that were suggested to take effect Jan. 1, 2011.

McGrath told the council that there is less being transferred from reserves this year due to the proposed rate increases.

In 2009, $129,945 was transferred from reserves for both sewer and water funds. The 2010 budget shows $80,269 expected to be transferred. The proposed 2011 budget shows a dramatic decrease in transfers from reserves, with $46,610.

The council was asked to review the numbers and bring any concerns to McGrath. The council is expected to adopt these budgets at a November regular meeting.

• heard from Meeker County Deputy Sara Miller that she has been getting complaints about cats being picked up in town.

If the sheriff’s office gets a complaint of cats being a nuisance, the deputies will take the cats (without tags) to the sheriff’s office in Litchfield. After approximately three days, the animal is taken to the humane society in Willmar.

If an animal is picked up without tags, the deputies will leave a description of the animal outside city hall for owners to check if their pets are missing.

Miller also informed the council that there are still drivers making U-turns at the elementary school despite the signs on Guy Street at the intersection of Horace Avenue.

This is a traffic violation, she said. People picking up students at the school are asked to drive around the block.

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