By Ivan Raconteur
NEW GERMANY, MN New Germany City Council heard from residents who objected to its recent choice of a site for the city’s new water treatment plant.
As a result, the council chose a new location Tuesday evening.
The site originally chosen by the council would have required moving playground equipment in Tower Park, which concerned some city residents.
The city obtained a quote from Henning Excavating, and found it will cost $4,000 to $5,000 to remove the footings from the old water tower (also in Tower Park).
This cost was much less than the council expected, and was described by City Engineer Sheila Krohse as “a very good deal.”
As a result, the council changed the location of the water plant, which will now be constructed on the site where the old water tower once stood.
No playground equipment will have to be moved to use this location.
Council member Jim Paul noted that city residents were not as concerned with cost, but didn’t want the playground equipment moved.
Krohse said that work to remove the footings could begin as soon as the frost is out this spring.
Changes to council procedures approved
The council approved new bylaws and rules of order that will add more structure to meetings, and allow the council to conduct the city’s business in a more professional manner, according to Mayor Jason Kamerud.
The council has been reviewing the proposed changes in recent weeks.
One key issue regarding the new procedures involves public participation.
Council member Steve VanLith said some residents felt they were not given an adequate opportunity to speak at a recent council meeting.
“I just don’t want to discourage people from having a voice,” VanLith said.
“To say that I shut him (the resident) out was an unfair characterization of how that meeting went. It has never been my intention to thwart open dialog,” Kamerud said.
He added that after being elected, but prior to taking over as mayor, he observed that “meetings were run with very little decorum” and were unorganized.
“One of my early goals was to add structure,” Kamerud explained. “We are running the business of the city. I am trying to strike a balance between running a professional business meeting and getting public input.”
Paul said the council is concerned about getting residents to attend council meetings.
Kamerud said the rules of order are intended to serve as a rule book.
“It is also fair to the citizens to let them know when they will be allowed to speak,” Kamerud said.
The council also discussed the provision for adding a consent agenda to council meetings.
This would allow the council to approve a group of non-controversial, routine business items that do not require discussion, at one time.
VanLith opposed the consent agenda, noting that if he arrives at a meeting late, he would not have time to review the claims before approving them.
Council member Marc Trujillo spoke in favor of the consent agenda.
After discussion, the council approved the new bylaws, excluding the consent agenda.
The council then considered the proposed rules of order, which outline things such as how motions are made.
VanLith said he found the rules confusing, and said he would like more time to review them.
The rest of the council, however, supported the new rules of order, and the new rules were approved on a 4-1 vote, with Kamerud, Paul, Trujillo, and council member Shirley Jaeger in favor, and VanLith opposed.
Kamerud again stated it is not his intention to stifle dialog or public comment.
Public works hours to be monitored
The council heard from city clerk Joan Guthmiller that it will need to monitor the number of hours worked by former mayor Pete Pederson, who helps with pubic works duties, in order to avoid paying Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) contrubutions, which is not in the current budget.
The council directed VanLith, who is in charge of public works, to monitor Pederson’s hours to ensure that his wages do not reach the PERA threshold of $425 per month.
VanLith said in addition to the hours for which Pederson is paid for duties such as lawn mowing and snow removal, he also donates time to the city, doing things such as equipment maintenance.
Kamerud said this may have been acceptable when Pederson was an elected official of the city, but as an employer, the city cannot allow employees to do work for which they do not get paid, especially if the work is similar in nature to their regular duties.
Kamerud said allowing this would open the city to liability under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
VanLith agreed that he would monitor Pederson’s hours, and would tell Pederson when he can work, rather than the other way around.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• asked Krohse to look at large cracks on Park Street, which VanLith said will have to be addressed soon.
• accepted the resignation of Jerry Clasen from the fire department. He has served on the department for eight years, according to VanLith.
• heard from Jaeger that the next pancake breakfast sponsored by the New Germany 125th anniversary celebration committee has been set for Saturday, March 20 from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.