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Sidewalks become hot topic of Dassel council meeting
SEPT. 23, 2013

By Kristen Miller
News Editor

DASSEL, MN – The Dassel City Council heard concerns from residents regarding a proposed sidewalk plan in which the city would install sidewalks in areas of concern.

Arlys Kendall, who lives at 241 William Avenue East, said she is very much opposed to a sidewalk being installed in front of her house between Guy and Horace streets. Her concern was her responsibility to keep it clean.

Under current city ordinance, homeowners and business owners are responsible for keeping their sidewalks cleared of snow and ice in the winter months, though it’s not being enforced. The city is proposing that if the snow is not cleared from sidewalks, the city will then clear it and assess the property owner.

Another concern she had was having a sidewalk on the hill, which would make it more dangerous for pedestrians than the roadway.

Council Member Jason Benzing voiced concerns he’s heard from residents, particularly in the area of the elementary school, regarding students walking on the streets because there isn’t a sidewalk.

Another resident expressed concern with keeping her sidewalk cleared and being responsible for someone getting hurt if it wasn’t cleared in time.

Mayor Jeff Putnam said the council wasn’t proposing anything that wasn’t already being done in other towns, but said he was glad the residents came to express their concerns.

Putnam said his concern was spending money on sidewalks this year. “If you read the audit, you know what kind of shape we’re in right now,” he said.

Benzing was concerned with holding this project off any longer, and the city potentially being held responsible for an accident.

Benzing also noted that the longer the city waits, the more the project will cost.

The city was given an estimate on the project, which included three areas (two repair/replacement areas and one new sidewalk between Horace and Willis), at $10,000 from Ailie Construction.

“How long do you put it off?” Benzing asked.

“Until we can pay for it,” Putnam replied, adding that he didn’t agree with Benzing that the sidewalks were an emergency.

Benzing noted that it’s something he’s been hearing for the past five years and that it is negligent of the city to leave that liability out there.

“It’s negligent spending money we don’t have, too,” commented Council Member Sharon Asplin.

Benzing noted that the city is breaking its own law since the current ordinance states that the city is responsible for sidewalk repairs. Putnam later stated he didn’t agree with an ordinance that bound the city to spend money.

The council took no action regarding the sidewalks, but will hold a public hearing Monday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. regarding having the ordinance include an assessment to property owners for any snow/ice removal done by the city.

New deputy in town

Deputy Brian Bondhus was introduced to the council last Monday as a full-time deputy replacing Travis Sebring, who has taken a different position in the Meeker County Sheriff’s Office.

Bondhus, a resident of Darwin, began working part time with the department as a correctional officer in 2006, and then transferred into the boat and water patrol in 2009.

Supt. presents levy information

Dassel-Cokato Superintendent Jeff Powers presented to the council regarding the levy that will be brought forth to voters Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Powers explained that the proposed levy, which would increase the district’s revenue by $450,000, would replace the current levy, which expires in 2015, and will last for 10 years with a small inflationary increase based on the consumer price index.

The levy would amount to $650 per pupil, and include $438 from the voters and $212 from state aid (Location Equity Aid made up of 58 percent state tax base and 42 percent local tax base).

The proposed levy would support the current levy’s expenses including updating technology, off-setting bus fuel and heating costs, providing support to students who struggle academically, hiring additional coaches and advisors as needed based on participation, etc.

Powers provided a graph of the tax impact for residential homesteads, commercial/industrial, and agricultural homestead (taxed on home value and one acre). As an example, Powers used a home with a taxable market value of $175,000. The annual increase would be $12.38.

He also noted the tax-payers will see relief after 2014-15, when the bond will be paid off for the construction of the middle school commons, early childhood center, and district office. The decrease for the same homestead at that time is estimated at $43.20.

Odds and ends

In other business, the council:

• approved a one-time early retirement incentive program for staff, with the deadline being the end of January, for retirement no later than June 30, 2014.

• approved the resignation of Council Member Sara Bollman Nelson from the personnel committee, and Asplin from the fire department advisory board. Asplin will then be on the personnel committee, and Putnam will take her place on the fire department advisory board.

• was informed that there have been a number of thefts from unlocked vehicles within the city, and residents are advised to lock their vehicle doors.

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