By Lynda Jensen
DASSEL, MN The Dassel City Council continued to discuss its public works department at both a work session and during its regular meeting last Monday.
Last month, it voted to prohibit the personal use of city equipment by city employees.
This effectively ended a policy used by public works, which allowed the personal use of snow-removal equipment by the public works department.
However, Mayor Mike Scanlon stressed that the public works department was allowed to do this by the city council in 2004, when Al Suchy was mayor, and the public works department did not do anything improperly.
“Our public works does a great job in everything they do,” Scanlon said. “They didn’t do anything wrong.”
Nevertheless, this subject was discussed at length during the work session, scheduled right before the regular council meeting.
The intent of the original language was for public works to dig themselves out in emergency scenarios.
The problem is that this doesn’t appear to be the case, according to work session discussion, since Public Works Director Dave Scepaniak has been digging out his personal driveway with city equipment when the snowstorm was not a major event.
Scanlon reiterated that he felt using public equipment for personal use was unfair to taxpayers in the city. “It’s not fair and not right,” he said.
Scepaniak disagreed with this in the work session, saying he should be able to use the equipment for his driveway, pointing out that he must honor a 10-minute response time that is built into his job description. He asked if they wanted to change that.
Council Member Jason Benzing noted that the policy was fine as it stood, except for the part where personal driveways were being plowed out.
It was noted that Scepaniak is responsible for digging himself out in order to get to work, just like anyone else in the city.
Scepaniak said that his team worked hard over Christmas, for a period of four days.
Benzing observed that during the Christmas snowstorm, the crews only plowed at night when the roads were iced up and frozen. This wasn’t as effective, he said.
“We made our decision,” Scanlon said, pointing out the council unanimously agreed to end this practice anyway.
During the work session, the council then moved on to discussing the practice of public works bringing home city-owned trucks at night when they are on-call.
It was decided to suit up two trucks with equipment, one for Scepaniak and a second one for whomever is on-call, to do this.
It was noted that Scepaniak is the licensed operator for the city’s infrastructure, such as the wastewater treatment plant, and is a key person when it comes to that subject. “There are some things only Dave can do,” Scanlon said.
During the regular council meeting, Scepaniak addressed a past comment from Council Member Pat Haapala about the lack of plowing at Marcia Street. He admitted that it was plowed quite late. However, he said the plowing does happen. “It always gets plowed,” he told Haapala. She has maintained that Marcia does not get plowed.
Haapala asked him about too much chlorine in the water, which has been brought up in the past. Scepaniak said he worked over the weekend on the problem and that she lives in a location that is a bad spot for that. He has said in the past that public works has been working on the right balance of chemicals since the new tower came online.
“When I went to take a drink, it was like poison,” she said of the chlorine.
Scepaniak has worked for the City of Dassel for 14 years.
Scepaniak asks for high power vacuum
During the regular meeting, Scepaniak once again asked the city to consider buying a high power vacuum for $58,000.
The vacuum, which has a 2,000 gallon tank, could be used to clean storm water catch basins, as well as lift station cleanup, the latter of which Scepaniak said can be done manually by lowering someone down to do the work. “It’s a nasty job,” Scanlon commented.
The equipment sought is a 2004 model wet/dry vac. A different vacuum that is less versatile is being looked at as well, which is five years older, with many more hours on it, for $48,000. It was noted the more expensive vac could suck both wet and dry dirt and sediment, which could benefit the lake.
Currently, the city is spending $1,700 per year for a lift station cleanup, plus another $1,400 for a one-time clean out, Scepaniak said. The lift station should actually be cleaned monthly instead of what is done now, he added. If clean out was done properly, the expense would be $28,000.
“The big issue is the lift station,” Scanlon said.
However, Scanlon observed that the council decided to hold off on buying all purchases like this last year.
It was decided to table the request until Council Member Alesia Warner could be present to take part in the decision-making. Benzing asked Scepaniak to check other towns, to see if they would be interested in leasing the equipment from Dassel to help supplement the cost of its purchase.
Those present at both the meeting and work session were McGrath, Scanlon, Benzing, Haapala, Council Member Bob Lalone and Scepaniak.
Building inspector visits
During the regular city council meeting, building inspector Kevin Piepenburg accepted the invitation from the council to introduce himself.
He has been a building official since 1993, and has worked for the City of Litchfield for seven years, he said.
He noted that there has been a lot of remodeling going on countywide when it comes to permits and such, especially construction around the lakes, with homeowners converting seasonal homes into permanent homes, he said.
Piepenburg has been serving the city’s needs for inspection services since spring of 2009.
Number down of snowmobile offenders
The council also heard a report from Deputy Gordy Prochaska, who reported the number of snowmobile offenders is down driving on paved trails, ever since a newspaper article was printed in the Enterprise Dispatch.
“There’s hardly any tracks at all (on paved trails),” he said.
Other calls, such as lockouts, domestic disputes, and other complaints were the usual number for this time of year, he added.
Odds and ends
In other subjects, the council:
• heard from liquor store manager Marv Vetsch that January sales were a bit down from last year at the Dassel Municipal Liquor Store.
There is good traffic, but he continues to see conservative buying, he said.
• heard a report from Fire Chief Dale Grochow (see other article).
• bumped the next regular meeting scheduled for Monday, Feb. 15 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16 due to the observance of Presidents Day.
• set a work session meeting for 6 p.m. Monday, March 1.
• noted that Meeker County has set its assessor “open book” review for Wednesday, April 28 from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at the Dassel City Hall. This is an opportunity for anyone wishing to discuss the evaluation of estimated market value on their real property to make their opinions known, McGrath noted.
• heard from Museum Director Carolyn Holje, who said that artists are moving forward with large panels that are planned for the back of the fence shared with the baseball field. The newsletter has also taken a new form and has been mailed to Dassel households.
• heard an update from Scanlon about the bike path trail. He noted that the grant applied for was not received, since the legislature is looking at bigger things.
• were invited by Scanlon to attend the Dassel food shelf open house Saturday, Feb. 20 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Anyone who wishes to make suggestions for different hours of operation and the like may do so at that time, he said.