By Lynda Jensen
DASSEL, MN The Dassel City Council discussed several public works issues during its meeting Tuesday.
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.
The public works department has been known to take a truck home, which is OK, but then dig out a personal driveway with city equipment, according to council discussion.
The policy was hinged on existing city ordinance, which allowed the public works director to draft a policy that would allow the city truck to be assigned, according to state law.
However, Council Member Jason Benzing looked up this state law, and found that the law covers traveling to and from a residence, but does not extend to using city equipment on a personal basis. Otherwise, it’s against state law to allow public employees to use public equipment for personal use.
Public Works Director Dave Scepaniak was not in attendance at the meeting.
Mayor Mike Scanlon said he spoke with Scepaniak about it, and was told that the reasoning was so public works employees could get out in case of a very large snowfall.
“It’s patently unfair to do it, and we should not allow it anymore,” Mayor Mike Scanlon said.
Benzing said that the legal issue was plowing personal driveways.
The council therefore approved the idea that the city would prohibit employees from using city equipment for any personal use.
Another subject brought up was the on-call system in place for public works, since there was a recent mishap where the on-call person for public works was needed, but not reachable since the emergency cell number that he carried wasn’t known by city officials who were looking for him.
A woman, who had 4 feet of water in her basement, needed the water to be shut off, and a different city employee than the on-call person was brought in to deal with the issue. “This was a true emergency,” Scanlon said.
The council discussed different ways to make this emergency cell number more accessible.
The on-call schedule varies, with four full-time public works employees, each taking one week per month of on-call. The on-call is 24 hours/seven days a week for whomever is on duty.
The council debated the idea that citizens should call a plumber if they have water problems on their private lines, since homeowners are responsible for private lines that attach to the city’s water and sewer mains.
A plumber should be able to shut off the water, it was noted. Lalone said that even firefighters have the same tool to do this.
However, Scanlon pointed out that a plumber would have no idea where the water shut off valve is on the property, especially not in winter.
“A plumber doesn’t know where the shut off is. There is a book (used for reference, as to where the shut off valves are),” he said.
It was noted that public works employees are paid for this. “We pay them extra to be on-call,” Scanlon said.
Either way, Scanlon said there isn’t an appropriate system in place for on-call employees to be reached, since the present system relied on the Meeker County dispatch, which is something the county doesn’t like because of the liability.
“There is no (official) emergency number, other than the dispatcher calls Dave,” even if Scepaniak isn’t the one on-call, Scanlon said.
Scanlon spoke with Brad Lindgren of the sheriff’s office, who suggested the city come up with its own emergency contact with public works issues, since it would compete with dispatching emergencies such as accidents or fires.
If the dispatcher is unable to contact the public works employee, this might delay the city’s response, or delay response to the other emergencies, and the county didn’t care for this type of scenario, Scanlon said.
Lalone objected, saying that the dispatch system should be available for this type of emergency. The city pays for this service as part of its contract, he said.
“I would not expect them to answer that (type of call),” Benzing said.
It was suggested to discuss these issues during a workshop meeting with Scepaniak. Council Member Pat Haapala noted that she would like to know how the snow removal schedule works, since Marcia Street “doesn’t get plowed. I’m kind of upset about that,” she said.
Scanlon suggested that perhaps Scepaniak could show a map of where they plow first to better explain the snow removal system in the city.
Old tower to be removed, but not yet
The old water tower will come down, but not quite yet, Scanlon reported.
There are several things that need to be taken care of first, such as coordinating logistical components with Xcel Energy, Charter Cable, and other entities.
Once definite dates are set, the city will alert everyone as to when the tower will come down, he said.
Mini-Rod event is OK’d by city council
The popular Mini-Rod event was given the green light by the council for use of Atlantic Avenue during Red Rooster Days in September. The event reportedly attracted about 2,500 people last year.
The only wrinkle in the process is that Meeker County is expected to overlay this section of road sometime during the summer, and there may be a curing process to deal with at that time, if any.
Administrator Myles McGrath noted that the final agreement with a road swap, which included the overlay, was not finalized yet, and that this could be included as part of the agreement. The county wished to do the overlay when the mobilizing crew was in the area, which would cut down on costs for the project.
Odds and ends
In other subjects, the council:
• deadlocked on the approval of $1,250 for the 2010 commitment to the Southwest Initiative Foundation in Hutchinson.
Benzing felt this money would be better spent by giving it to the Dassel EDA for local use, and Haapala agreed.
It was noted that the Dassel bakery received funds from this entity. Scanlon wasn’t sure if the EDA was prepared to handle this type of business scenario yet.
Benzing noted that the region served by the foundation is too large and the use by Dassel businesses is too infrequent for a good return.
The vote was as follows: Scanlon and Lalone voted yes, and Benzing and Haapala voted no. Council Member Alesia Warner was not present at the meeting.
• heard from Lalone and Scanlon that a total of 28 Christmas trees were picked up and brought to the compost site. The two joined Benzing in volunteering for this service to the public. The mayor has asked in the past for those who used this service to donate a food shelf item in return.
• heard from Scanlon that there is a meeting Thursday, Feb. 4 for the Highway 15 Coalition in Hutchinson. He noticed the same form letter was sent asking for the $200 fee for cities and wanted to know what the city is getting for this amount.
• approved the application for a permit to the Rotary Club Friday, Feb. 19 for a wine tasting event. There has been no problems in previous years.
• approved a new fee schedule, with the following fees increased: the Community Room rental for the museum annex went from $100 to $150 for residents, $125 to $175 for non-residents, and the damage deposit went up from $200 to $250. The mechanical permit fee under building permits went from $22.50 to $36.25.