By Sara Cronk
Dassel City Council last Monday approved a plan covering a number of projects to improve pedestrian safety and traffic around Dassel Elementary School.
These projects include connecting the Dassel-Cokato and Spring Lake trails, adding a 1st Street sidewalk, and widening the sidewalk in front of the elementary school to 10 feet.
A digital radar sign, similar to the one outside the high school, would also be added on 1st Street next to the elementary school.
Matt Johnson of the Mid-Minnesota Development Commission presented to the council about the plan. He explained, “The Safe Routes to School Plan really is [about] merging city needs and school needs.”
Johnson has already met with school officials, who expressed interest in the plan, observing the need for more sidewalks and safe options for elementary students to walk home. Johnson noted, “I observed before school a couple of days where right across from the park, next to the school, kids were actually walking in the roads.”
All of these projects will help improve the safety of students walking to and from the elementary school.
The total cost for the projects is $260,000, but the council agreed to apply for the Safe Routes To School Grant, which would pay for 80 percent of the cost. The actual cost to the city would be $94,000. These projects would not begin until 2021.
2017 levy and budget approved
The council approved the 2017 total tax levy of $683,058. This is a $26,271 (4 percent) increase from 2016.
The 2017 general fund budget was also approved during the city’s truth in taxation hearing last Monday.
The budget includes $1,033,564 in revenue, and $968,826 in expenditures. The city intends to use the surplus revenue to build reserves.
Summit Hills plowing
Meeker County asked the city to take on snowplowing for the Summit Hills neighborhood. The county has been plowing it for the past two years.
Prior to that, the city provided this service. Public Works Director Troy Zwilling advised the council to continue letting the county plow the area, as the road is in poor condition and might cause damage to equipment. This would also increase management costs for the area.
Council Member Sara Nelson stated, “The problem is we’ve got citizens that are inside city limits who . . . cannot get out of their driveways.” The council members, though taking Zwilling’s advice into consideration, unanimously voted to accept the responsibility for the plowing of Summit Hills. However, they did not come to this conclusion without concerns.
Nelson recommended that “there is some kind of record of the hours that are spent up there.” Council Member Ron Hungerford added, “Or [a record of] the damage to the equipment.”
Waste Management contract reviewed
At last month’s meeting, the council awarded a contract for sanitation services to Waste Management; however, at the time, the contract had not been drafted. City Attorney Kurt Greenley went over the details with the council.
Some minor errors were fixed, but there was one major issue in the contract. The draft included an indemnification clause, which stated that the city would “hold Waste Management harmless from and against all claims whatsoever based upon or arising out of any injuries including death to persons or damages to property to the extent caused in part by the negligent acts or omissions by the city.”
Under the current wording, the City of Dassel might be required to pay not only its percentage of the damages, but also to reimburse Waste Management for its portion of the damage. This payment would not be covered under insurance, as it does not cover contractual liability. Greenley is working with Waste Management to redraft the contract without the indemnification clause. The council did not vote on the contract during the meeting. The new contract is expected to go into effect Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017.
The Dassel History Center is organizing a “Rooster Ruckus” during Red Rooster Days 2017. Twenty roosters will be decorated by different artists and placed around Dassel. These roosters will be auctioned off during Red Rooster Days. This is made possible through a grant by the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council.
Odds and Ends
In other business, the council:
• recognized the resignation of Melissa Barker, deputy city clerk.
• approved changes to the fire department budget to increase the salary of employees. (Total expenditures remained constant from original budget).
The fire chief salary will increase from $1,200 to $3,000; assistant chief from $575 to $1,250; captain 1 from $100 to $700; captain 2 from $100 to $600; captain 3 from $100 to $500; lieutenant 1 from $100 to $700; lieutenant 2 from $100 to $500; lieutenant 3 from $100 to $300; and secretary from $425 to $450. Treasurer will decrease from $400 to $200.
• noted a $106,274 payment from Meeker County to the City of Dassel for special assessments on Summit Hill tax-forfeited land sales.
• received $90,000 from the Meeker County Board for the cost of maintenance and management of Summit Hills. The council used this to cancel three of the city’s negative fund balances.
• received a $41,715 dividend check from the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust.
• approved a 2 percent salary increase for both union and non-union employees of the city.
• approved $10,000 (50 percent) increase in individual employee life insurance, short-term disability insurance, and long-term disability insurance.
• approved complete rebuild of one of the current pumps at the main lift station, which will cost $7,867 and take approximately seven days to replace.
• notified the public that the Summit Hills auction will take place Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017.
• reminded the public that vehicles are to be kept off streets for 48 hours after a snowfall.
• notified the public that the history center annual meeting is Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017 at 10 a.m. at the history center.
• approved a 2 percent salary increase over the next two years for police services from the Meeker County Sheriff’s Office.
• approved 2 percent increase of the cost of staff wages and benefits. This growth also accommodates the increased cost for health insurance.