By Kristen Miller
DASSEL, MN Inquiries among citizens regarding city council compensation prompted discussion at last Monday’s Dassel City Council meeting.
Currently, city council members are paid a quarterly lump sum at a rate not based on attendance. The quarterly salary for the mayor is $562, and $312 for the council.
For special meetings, however, council members are paid per meeting they attend at a rate of $25 a meeting.
Mayor Mike Scanlon brought the discussion to the council members to decide if the system should remain as is or be changed.
Council member Jason Benzing suggested the council receive a lump sum, but the amount be reduced if they miss a meeting.
It was noted that a certain number of absences should be excusable.
“Everybody is probably going to miss one or two a year,” Scanlon said, suggesting a safety net be built in.
Council member Bob Lalone asked, if he were only going to be paid for meetings, should he not answer the phone when he gets calls at home from residents?
“You’re a council person 24/7,” Lalone said.
The issue will be addressed at the next city council meeting Monday, Oct. 18.
Council discusses liquor store sale
On the agenda for council discussion was the possibility of selling the liquor store to a private entity interested in purchasing the operation.
The interested party, Muneer Ahmed, was in attendance at the meeting and addressed the council.
Ahmed, who has been a resident of Dassel since 1985, told the council he was interested in renting the property from the city with the intention of purchasing the liquor store inventory and operation within the next two to three years.
With the bank seeming interested, Ahmed said he wanted to approach the council to see if it is feasible.
Lalone asked why this was even on the agenda for discussion since the liquor store is not for sale.
Scanlon replied that if an issue is brought up, he is willing to have it on the agenda and “if it comes up, deal with it one way or another.”
Benzing said he would like to hear more information and look into the idea further.
Through the liquor store, the City of Dassel provides jobs and a service to its residents, Lalone said, adding that he didn’t see why there was even a discussion since the liquor store is operating in the black.
Benzing replied that it isn’t the city’s responsibility to provide jobs and if a private owner would purchase it, he or she would be providing jobs.
Scanlon agreed with Lalone, noting that the city doesn’t lose any money on the liquor store. “It doesn’t make any money either,” Scanlon said, adding that in a few years, when the building is paid off, it does have the potential of providing an estimated $100,000 annual profit for the city.
Scanlon suggested Ahmed present a business plan to the Dassel Economic Development Authority and “let them decide” if it should be brought to the council.
City Administrator Myles McGrath did point out some “stumbling blocks” for selling a city operation including an ordinance change and the seeking of bids for the sale, adding that the city can’t just choose who to sell it to.
McGrath gave his report to the council, which included an update on the new signage near the elementary school, saying the signs are working.
“There are still a few parents who need to watch and be aware of the signs,” McGrath said, adding there are still a few cars making U-turns on Guy Street.
He also gave an update on a recent inspection from the Minnesota Department of Health in regard to the kitchen at city hall.
Some items that need to be corrected include replacement of the ceiling tiles and removing some of the appliances which are currently residential grade.
He also noted the hood of the stove was never installed to vent outside, which the city was cited for from 2001 to 2004, noting this was before his time.
He will contact an electrician for an estimate and consult the mayor with expenses for necessary upgrades.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• set a public hearing for a language amendment which would exempt commercial, industrial, and institutional users from the sewer rates lock in based on December usage of water. Instead, rates would be based on a monthly basis.
The public hearing was scheduled for Monday, Nov. 1.
• paid the final payment for the Dassel water tower project in the amount of $40,231.
• approved a two-year law enforcement contract with Meeker County Sheriff’s Department at a 3.29 percent ($5,200) increase for 2011, and a 1.91 percent ($3,120) increase in 2012.
• approved the claims, which included a correction on the invoice for the recent floor cleaning at city hall.
At a prior meeting, the council inquired about the cost, which was more than the quote.
McGrath provided the council with the invoice and explained there were discrepancies in it. He noted the sales tax was not built into the original quote of $1,655. Also, during the project it was discovered that the kitchen area required more work than anticipated, with an additional cost of $180.
The actual total cost of the project was $1,747, but the invoice was for $1,961.
While later analyzing the invoice, McGrath found an area on the invoice had been deemed unnecessary to have done as a cost-savings measure made by staff.
Scanlon said that the council and staff “should pay a little more attention to the bills we’re paying” and to watch future invoices.
• heard from liquor store manager Marv Vetsch who said he was “very satisfied” with September’s numbers and the store is “still moving in a positive direction for the year.”
He also reported that October is food shelf month and the liquor store is a collection site for the Dassel Area Food Shelf.
• heard from public works director Dave Scepaniak who reported a large crack in the secondary pond between the road and the rip rap.
He told the council it “looks like an earthquake” and said there is a 150-foot-long crack about 16 to 18 inches wide.
“There are some theories we need to explore there,” he commented.
• approved $255 from the discretionary fund to pay for catering of a community promotion event by the Red Rooster committee scheduled for Monday, Oct. 11 in the community room of the Dassel History Center.