By Ivan Raconteur
Two candidates stepped forward Tuesday to express interest in the Lester Prairie City Council seat vacated by the resignation of Council Member Sandie Adams-Bruins in December.
The council deemed both candidates qualified, and there was some talk of a coin toss to determine which would be selected.
However, candidate Merlin Mathews voluntarily stepped aside, so the council could appoint former Council Member Larry Hoof to fill the vacant position through the end of the year.
The remaining two years of the term will be placed on the ballot in November.
Hoof previously served on the council from 1999 to 2010.
The council then appointed Mathews to serve the remaining two years of Hoof’s term on the planning and zoning commission.
The mayor position and three council seats will be up for election in November. The only incumbent not up for election will be Bob Messer.
Mayor and council salaries increased
On a split vote, the council approved increasing city council salaries from $1,550 to $2,000, and the mayor’s salary from $1,900 to $2,400 annually.
The vote was 3-1, with Mayor Andy Heimerl and council members Bob Messer and Ron Foust in favor, and Council Member Eric Angvall opposed.
Angvall said there is no money in the 2014 budget for the increase, and the council could have discussed this during the budget process if it planned to increase council salaries.
“A 29 percent increase is kind of a steep increase in one step,” Angvall commented.
Heimerl noted the council compensation has not been raised for more than 10 years, and he said the move would mean the council is compensated more fairly.
Angvall expressed frustration with the proposal, noting it was the first meeting of the year, and the council was already spending money for which it has not budgeted.
The final budget for 2014 was approved in December.
Continuing an item from a previous meeting, the council discussed implementing a city newsletter.
Troy Feltmann, of Herald Journal Sign & Graphics, presented information about options that had been requested by the council.
The council expanded the discussion to include other ways of getting information to residents.
The consensus was the city should use multiple platforms to reach all city residents.
City Clerk Marilyn Pawelk said the city pays $1,000 for its website portal, and Assistant Clerk Christine Dammann works on the website nearly every day.
Pawelk said if the council wants information posted on the website, it needs to get the information to city staff.
Discussion of the newsletter was tabled, due in part to the fact it is not in the city’s current budget.
Former hotel property now owned by city
Foust noted the city has closed on the former hotel property at 100 Maple Street South.
The property will be evaluated in the weeks ahead to determine how the structures will be removed.
The council will make a decision on the matter in February, when more information is available.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• received a report showing a total of 203 combined tons of brush, grass, and leaves were removed from the Lester Prairie compost site in 2013; 22 tons more than in 2012.
• heard from Pawelk the city received an $8,000 dividend from the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust.
• approved the council areas of responsibilities for 2014 with no changes (other than Hoof will take over the areas previously assigned to Adams-Bruins).
• reviewed a draft city hall inspection form. The council will consider approval of the final form in February.