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No ordinary oath of office in Loretto Tuesday
Jan. 17, 2011
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College baseball player draws attention when sworn in as mayor

By Ryan Gueningsman
Managing Editor

LORETTO, MN – Normally, oath of office ceremonies in small communities warrant a photo or two by the local press.

However, Tuesday night in Loretto, there were a few more people on hand for the swearing in of college student Kent Koch, 23, as Loretto’s mayor, including a photojournalist from a Twin Cities television station and a photographer from the Star Tribune newspaper.

Koch’s family also filled the first few rows of seats in the city offices and a five-minute recess took place after the swearing in before the newly-elected mayor called his first meeting to order.

John Neumann and Tom Pedersen also received the oath of office as council members after Koch was sworn in.

Employee contract reviewed by council

During the last budget cycle, the council chose not to increase wages for staff. However, the city has a contract with the Loretto Fire Department in regard to the public works director, that states he is to get a wage increase from 2010 to 2011.

Former Fire Chief Herb Koch, who helped implement the contract when he was chief, said the purpose of the contract in the beginning was to help the city afford a public works director and also keep that person in town to be part of the fire department during the daytime hours.

This is the last year of the contract, which is tied to a donation from the fire department for $20,000 that the city relies on to help balance its budget, Patnode noted.

Mayor Kent Koch said if the city has to pay $2,080 to ensure it gets $20,000, it is a good idea to be sure and follow through with the contract. Lohr said the budget would have to be looked at, as this wasn’t something that was allocated for. The matter was assigned to the personnel committee to work on further.

Odds and ends

In other business, the council:

• learned the Loretto and Hamel fire departments received a $33,000 grant to do a feasibility study on consolidating the two departments. Fire Chief/Public Works Director Jeff Leuer said costs to the city would be minimal.

• discussed a volunteer agreement in the works with former City Council Member Jeff France to work at the wastewater treatment plant, following the retirement of Rich Arens.

Leuer said since France would be working with chemicals and things that could potentially cause harm to citizens, a job description will need to be developed and a volunteer agreement will need to be in place. The personnel committee will meet and discuss the agreement further.

• discussed a few complaints received recently regarding snowplow issues. The issue was deferred to the streets committee and a recommendation will be brought back to the council.

• reviewed information on electronic communications among council members from the League of Minnesota Cities.

• discussed the creation of an overtime policy. The council directed City Clerk Cindy Patnode to see if the League of Minnesota Cities has a template document that the city could use.

• heard participation in the recycling program has increased, although the material that is recycled was reduced by about 19 tons from 2009.

• discussed the feasibility of a study on Railway and St. John streets. This determines approximate costs and how assessments may be applied. It was noted these streets are marked by engineers to be rebuilt instead of repaired, due to their deterioration and age.

This item will be placed on the council agenda in February for possible action.

• heard an update on the successful holiday train visit. There were 750 pounds of food collected, and $16,316.65 in cash donations.

The committee recommended that 5 percent of the cash be donated to both the Rockford and Delano food shelves, with each also receiving $800 from the Hanover Food Shelf.

• heard an update on the city’s redevelopment committee and action plan that is a work in progress. It will make recommendations on redevelopment opportunities along Medina Street North from St. Peter Street to West Railway Street.

This affects five parcels of land in that area. Two of the landowners were there and requested to be kept better informed of the progress of the group.

A grant of $36,440 was awarded through the Metropolitan Council to conduct design workshops, complete studies, and develop zoning implementation tools.

• approved its open book meeting as Wednesday, April 27 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Loretto City Hall. This is conducted instead of a board of review meeting, and allows residents or business owners to meet about their property taxes without having the burden of traveling to Minneapolis.

• approved the pay equity report for 2010.

• approved a donation from the Loretto Lions Club of a warming house for the skating rink. Discussion took place about liability and the heater in the building. It was noted the city appreciates the donation and wanted to encourage the project.

• had a discussion about a conditional use permit request from Adam Cerny and Eric Riley, who wish to operate a motorcycle, snowmobile, and ATV repair shop called Empire Cycle at 200 Medina Street North.

Due to zoning regulations in place, it was the consensus of the council to ask the applicants to withdraw their request and reapply for an “interim use” text amendment the council could act on at its meeting Tuesday, Feb. 8.

The council seemed favorable of this process as a way to allow this business to be located in the zoning district.

• approved a resolution passed annually in order to use certain software originating from Hennepin County.

• approved its annual appointments and city representatives on various commissions and committees. Regular council meetings will remain the second Tuesday of each month, with the exception of August.

• heard from City Attorney Steve Tallen, who gave a presentation about crimes he prosecutes for the city.

The council also heard from Sgt. Jason Nelson of police activities in November and December, noting no major crimes were reported over the last two months.

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