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Howard Lake honors Mitchell’s memory
Dec. 1, 2017

by Nan Royce
Staff Writer

HOWARD LAKE – Howard Lake Mayor Pete Zimmerman paused the Nov. 21 city council meeting to honor the memory of Mike Mitchell, a longtime Orphans baseball supporter and city councilor.

Chris Bickman, representing the Orphans, and Nick Haggenmiller, representing the City of Howard Lake, presented a memorial plaque, which commemorates all of Mike’s service with the Orphans, to Mike’s daughters, Cindy Zitzloff and Kim Mitchell.

Bickman indicated there would be a formal dedication of the memorial plaque next spring, and the Orphans baseball team was planning to host a “Mike Mitchell night,” during one of next season’s home games.

Zimmerman praised the late councilor, who died in October.

“Mike was a lively member of the council,” Zimmerman said. “We will greatly miss him.”

Adding public works staff to the emergency response team

The council elected to add city public work staff and their equipment to the fee schedule, in addition to charges established in city ordinance for the Howard Lake Fire Department and other emergency response entities.

The addition of fees for the use of public works staff and equipment allows the city to attempt to recoup damages incurred in major incidents.

“This is mostly in response to people hitting a bridge,” Haggenmiller said.

Establishing fee schedules for the fire department and the public works department gives the city some legal recourse if those involved in a major incident refuse to pay for assistance received.

The council approved the following fees for the public works department when responding to emergencies.

• City staff - $50/person/hour

• Small truck - $50/truck/hour

• Pay loader - $100/hr

• Street sweeper - $100/hr

• Tipping fees - actual incurred costs

• Damages and expenses - actual incurred costs.

Too many warnings

Assistant City Administrator Aurora Yager briefed the council on progress made at a nuisance property located at 700 8th Avenue.

Yager said Community Service Officer Derick Boese noticed code violations on the property during his initial inspection of all city properties in May. The code violations consist of two vehicles with expired registrations parked on unapproved surfaces.

Yager reported when Boese re-inspected the property in June, the violations were still present, and a code enforcement letter was sent to the property owners.

Yager said both she and Boese discussed the situation with the property owners during July and August, but no progress was made.

Another code violation letter was sent Aug. 23. When the property was re-inspected Sept. 12, the violations were still present, and the property owners were notified that the violations would be brought before the city council.

Yager again talked to the property owner, and the owner was given additional time.

The property was reinspected Sept. 22, and another code violation letter was sent.

The property was again reinspected Nov. 8, and the violations remained. At that time, a letter indicated the matter would be presented to the city council at its Nov. 21 meeting.

As of Nov. 21, the violations had not changed. The property owners did not appear at the council meeting.

The council, upon the advice of the city attorney, passed an ordinance amendment that defines public nuisances are those which impact health, morals, peace and safety. It also regulates noise violations, nuisance parking and storage, inoperable motor vehicles and grass and noxious weeds.

The amendment tightens up the language of the ordinance, making it “much more legally defendable,” according to Haggenmiller.

The council adopted a resolution allowing direct city staff to file for court orders to abate the nuisance. The resolution also allows all costs associated with nuisance abatement to be collected with a special assessment against the nuisance property.

Agreement needed

The City of Howard Lake is a member of a three-city wastewater district. All industrial users within this district must have active significant industrial user (SIU) agreements in place to legally operate.

Both industrial users in the district operate in Howard Lake.

In 2016, the city and Forsman Farms came to an agreement on a significant industrial user agreement, prior to Forsman processing anything.

This action meant the city’s other industrial user, Sonstegard Foods, would be required to adopt a similar agreement.

Over the past several months, the City of Howard Lake declared Sonstegard Foods’ agreement void, and asked the business owners to meet to discuss the new parameters for an SIU agreement.

City staff indicated that since that request, Sonstegard representatives have called several times, and have had one in-person meeting.

City staff began working with SEH, Inc., experts on SIU negotiations, in particular, those dealing with odor issues.

City staff asked the council to officially hire SEH, Inc. to gain its assistance and expertise in drafting an SIU agreement that would eliminate the odor issue at Sonstegard Foods.

For an hourly rate, with a total not to exceed $4,400, SEH, Inc. would:

• provide a review of five years of SIU monitoring data to evaluate compliance with pretreatment rules;

• recommend additional monitoring, including air quality sampling,

• inspect the SIU facility, followed by an inspection report, and coordinate with the MPCA (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency) if needed, and;

• review and recommend changes to the SIU agreement to address nuisances and any other deficiencies found during data review or inspection.

The council agreed to hire SEH, Inc. to assist with Sonstegard Foods’ SIU.

City facilities maintenance and future space needs

In October, the city council gave city staff the go-ahead to seek proposals to assist Howard Lake with the creation of a facilities maintenance plan and future space assessment.

Haggenmiller and Yager brought forward two vendor bids for the project.

City staff indicated the bids received met and exceeded the expectations and scope asked for by the council.

SEH, Inc. delivered a bid of $25,800; while BKV Group brought a bid of $25,500.

The monies for the consultant fees would be paid from the city’s facilities fund, would be incurred in 2018, and would not exceed $25,500.

“Plans have value but only if there’s an intention to do something,” Zimmerman said, noting if nothing happened as a result of the study in question, its recommendations would be obsolete within two to five years.

After a brief discussion regarding the necessity of hiring a consultant to evaluate properties of which city staff are already familiar, the council agreed to award the contract to BKV Group, for an amount not to exceed $25,500.

Filling a council vacancy

Mike Mitchell’s death left the Howard Lake City Council with a vacant seat.

Mitchell’s term expires Dec. 31, 2018.

The only requirements established by the League of Minnesota Cities for filling a vacant seat are that the individual must be above the age of 21; a resident of the city to be served; and have no outstanding warrants or legal issues.

The council decided to follow city staff’s recommended timeline for filling the vacancy.

The time line is as follows:

• Declare council seat vacant, Nov. 21.

• Direct staff to seek applicants, Nov. 21 to Friday, Dec. 1.

• Council to interview and select applicant, Tuesday, Dec. 5.

• New councilor to be sworn in, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018 – the first regular city council meeting of the year.

Application materials are available at city hall, and on the City of Howard Lake’s website Applications are due today.

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