By Starrla Cray
MONTROSE, MN In light of the current economic conditions, the Montrose City Council unanimously approved a pay reduction for the mayor and city council members that went into effect March 1.
The motion, which was made by Council Member Scott Czanstkowski, was approved at the February meeting. An official ordinance reflecting the change will be drafted for the Monday, March 14 meeting.
Previously, the mayor and council received a base pay of $70 per regular council meeting (whether the meeting was attended or not).
For each meeting attended, the mayor received an additional $80, for a total of $150 per meeting. Council members each received an additional $40 per meeting attended, for a total of $110.
Under the new policy, no pay will be given unless a meeting is attended. The mayor will be paid a total of $80 per meeting, and council members will receive $50 per meeting.
Also, for special meetings, the previous reimbursement of $70 has been reduced to $50 for both the mayor and council members.
Meetings that last more than four hours went from $140, down to $100.
According to Montrose City Administrator Barb Swanson, many city councils have monthly or annual salaries, instead of being paid on a per-meeting basis.
In 2010, the total council pay in Buffalo (including expense reimbursements) was about $21,400. Delano’s council received a total of about $32,000, and in Edina, the total pay was approximately $42,300.
The total pay for the Montrose council was $19,300 in 2010. Mayor Andy Kauffman received $11,000, and the highest paid council member received $2,300.
Kauffman attends substantially more meetings than the council members, Swanson said.
In addition to regular council meetings, Kauffman also works with the League of Minnesota Cities, the Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose School District, and the Wright County Economic Development Partnership, to name a few.
In an effort to become more involved with city hall, Kauffman also started doing weekly meetings with city staff.
At the February meeting, the council also decided to return open forum to the city council agenda.
For open forum, people interested in addressing the council must complete a form and present it to the mayor or city administrator for consideration before the meeting. The person speaking at the meeting is limited to three minutes at the podium, unless additional time is granted.
TIF spending plan
The council approved a tax increment financing (TIF) spending plan, as recommended by the Montrose Economic Development Authority (EDA).
Montrose’s 2-1 TIF district was decertified in April 2009, and the estimated fund balance as of Dec. 31, 2010 was $23,081.
The city has been granted temporary authority to spend the TIF dollars to provide a loan, interest rate subsidy, or other form of assistance to encourage private development resulting in construction/rehabilitation of buildings, as well as job creation/retention.
In order to qualify, the construction must begin before Friday, July 1, and funds must be spent by Saturday, Dec. 31.
Montrose is currently in contact with two business prospects.
According to a letter from economic development consultant Joanne Foust, the Municipal Development Group has been working with a company to study the feasibility of constructing a new commercial building in the area.
The group has also been in contact with a business that has expressed interest in the acquisition of the former Stock Lumber site.
Well water concerns
Concerns about possible city well contamination during the construction of the Montrose Early Education Center were alleviated by a report from city engineer Justin Kannas.
He told the council that the city well was not contaminated, and that the Montrose Early Education Center site (115 2nd St. S.) was also not in any danger of water contamination.
In a letter to Montrose officials, Kannas stated that the area of excavation where the contaminated soils were encountered is about 40-by-60-feet.
The site is dominated by clay-like soils, which limit the movement of contamination.
Based on the limited extent of the groundwater impacts to the area of the release, the depth of the impact, and the location of the contamination, the risks associated with the groundwater impact were found to be minimal.
In addition to a site investigation, the Minnesota Department of Health sampled water from the well in November 2010 and tested it for volatile organics. The test came back negative for the three contaminants at the site.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• heard a recap of the Feb. 1 park commission meeting. Park and recreation events tentatively planned this year include a movie in the community center, National Night Out, an 8k run, and breakfast with Santa.
• heard that the fire department has received nine applications for firefighters.
• approved an 8-hour council work session with Brimeyer Fursmon on a 3-2 vote. Mayor Andy Kauffman and council members Scott Jensen and Jeff Petersen voted in favor, and council members Scott Czanstkowski and Roy Henry voted in opposition.
• switched the ex-officio positions of Czanstkowski and Jensen, due to scheduling conflicts. Jensen will be the park and recreation representative, and Czanstkowski will be the Healthy Communities Partnership (HCP) steering representative.
• approved the purchase of a phone system outright from Central Telephone, which includes a new phone system, installation, service, maintenance, training for existing and new employees, network assessment, cable from Highway 25 to the wastewater treatment plant, and broadband Internet.
Since the city decided to purchase the system outright, the monthly bill is decreased by about $175, for a total monthly cost of approximately $650.
• decided to apply to be a host city for a League of Minnesota Cities community conversations event. The league is planning to select six to 10 cities as host sites for community dialogues regarding city services. The events will take place over the spring and summer of this year.
• set the local board of appeal and equalization meeting for Tuesday, April 19 at 6:30 p.m. in the Montrose Community Center.
• heard that Montrose elected officials and staff are invited to a law enforcement contracting presentation Thursday, March 10 at 7 p.m. at the Wright County Law Enforcement Center in Buffalo.
• acknowledged Roy Henry, Jr. for his years of service on the Montrose Fire Department.
• acknowledged Robert Moynahg, a student member of the park and recreation commission.
• acknowledged Jim Tourville for his role as emergency management director for many years.
• decided to proceed with the “safe routes to school” project, which will complete the sidewalk/trail from Garfield Avenue South to 12 Hi Estates Mobile Home Park.