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Dassel City Council grapples with a multitude of tough decisions
May 25, 2018

By Nancy Dashwood
Staff Writer

DASSEL, MN – Prior to opening its regular meeting Monday evening, the Dassel City Council conducted a public hearing regarding Dassel resident Nathan Lantto’s property at 521 Maple Street, to hear testimony and receive evidence to determine if a nuisance existed on the property.

The council initially received information and photographs of the property to review at its April 16 meeting.

Sergeant Becky Howell of the Meeker County Sheriff’s Office reviewed the information presented in April, which detailed actions taken to ask Lantto to clean up more than 20 snowmobiles on his property.

Actions taken included:

• A certified letter sent from the City of Dassel to Lantto March 8 ordering cleanup within 10 days. The letter was not picked up.

• Howell hand-delivered the letter to Lantto March 27. Lantto told Howell the snowmobiles were frozen to the ground and could not be moved.

• Additional photographs of the property April 11 showed the snowmobiles had been moved closer to the property’s driveway.

• A certified letter sent from The City of Dassel to Lantto noting his right to a public hearing before the council May 21. The letter was not picked up.

• A Meeker County Sheriff’s deputy hand-delivered a copy of the notice of hearing to Lantto May 15.

• The property was photographed again May 16 by a Meeker County Sheriff’s Office deputy. The photos showed multiple snowmobiles on the property’s driveway and near the back of the house.

The property owner’s point of view

Lantto listened to Sergeant Howell’s report, and came to the podium to address the council.

He asked if he might approach the council and show them pictures of his property, taken within the hour prior to the public hearing.

Council members reviewed the photos, and Lantto informed them that currently there were no snowmobiles on his front lawn, and there were three in front of his garage. “The good one is sold,” he said.

Lantto assured the council he was not attempting to cause a problem, but admitted to being a “snowmobile addict.” He also pointed out he is an 11-year resident of the city, and is heavily involved in snowmobile organizations in the area.

Lantto indicated he typically “parts out” many of the snowmobiles on his property and admitted, “this winter you could say I went overboard.”

He told the council one of the visible snowmobiles was sold, he would get rid of four snowmobiles in the back yard, and he intended to keep two vintage snowmobiles behind his house.

“Am I a nuisance?” he asked the council. “That’s for you to decide.”

The council closed the public testimony portion of the hearing, and moved further discussion to a private session after the city council’s public meeting. The council proceeded to open the regular city council meeting.

Potential business partnership leads to split vote

Council members discussed a formerly tabled issue regarding potentially moving $2,000 of Dassel’s inactive Economic Development Authority (EDA) funds to the Litchfield Area Chamber of Commerce.

City attorney Kurits Greenley’s formal written opinion was that the suggested transfer of funds was “appropriate.”

Councilor Tom Weseloh was in favor of allowing the Litchfield Chamber to see what it could do to assist business in Dassel.

“The EDA is not good,” Weseloh remarked. “We need help. We’re going in the wrong direction. We need to get businesses to stay here.”

Councilor Andrew Carlson looked at the situation differently. “Let’s see what ‘Home to Roost’ can do,” he said. “Those committee members have a vested interest in our community.”

After further discussion, Weseloh made a motion to enter into an agreement with the Litchfield Chamber, and Councilor James Hallquist seconded it.

Weseloh and Hallquist were in favor; Mayor Ron Hungerford and Carlson were opposed. (Councilor Justin Bemenderfer was absent.) The tie vote means the motion failed.

Summit Hills improvement project has bid alternates

City engineer Chuck DeWolf told the council the Summit Hills improvement project was ready to be advertised for bids.

He indicated that a few trouble spots within the city could be added to the Summit Hills project as bid alternatives. Potential bid alternatives included:

• Guy Street sidewalk replacement from William Avenue to Horace Avenue;

• CJ Moe Boulevard and Simon Avenue intersection patching;

• Lake Avenue storm sewer outfall correction; and

• miscellaneous street patching and concrete repair.

Carlson said he had spent much time thinking about this project, and had reservations about spending more than $458,000 to essentially build a road to an area that could eventually be developed with 11 homes.

Hungerford remained in favor of the project. “This is a stepping stone of getting that development completed,” he said. “Eventually, we have to get it done.”

After further discussion, the council elected to approve plans for the project, and to order advertisement for bids, including the bid alternatives.

Advertising for bids will commence Friday, June 1, with bid opening scheduled Monday, June 25 at 11 a.m.

Museum director reports great news

Dassel History Center Director Carolyn Holje reported the museum recently received a $2,726 grant for the 2018 Discover Dassel Fine Art Tour, slated for Saturday, Oct. 27.

She also indicated an application for a $7,500 grant was in the works to digitize and catalog more than 1,500 donated local photographs.

Holje reminded the council that coffee would be served at the history center following the Memorial Day program at the Dassel Cemetery.

Holje reported that rentals of the history center were being booked quickly; there are seven graduation receptions scheduled at the center during the month of June.

Odds and ends

In other business, the council:

• heard Dassel Fire Chief Dale Grochow report a total of 30 calls for the month, bringing the year-to-date number of calls to 135. The council approved Terry Heidecker as a new Lieutenant 1 Officer – a training position – replacing Jeff Putnam. Weseloh, also a member of the Dassel Fire Department, abstained from the vote.

• listened to an update from Public Works Director Troy Zwilling, who told the council a “summer help person” had started that week, and was predominantly responsible for mowing. He also said street sweeping was nearly complete.

Zwilling mentioned the sewer system was experiencing issues with wipes labeled “flushable.” Zwilling noted that all wipes are non-flushable, and often get caught in the city’s lift stations and pumps.

• heard Howell present the Meeker County Sheriff department’s monthly report. The recent discovery and removal of more than 1,400 marijuana plants from a house in the city made Howell indicate, “we’re not immune.”

Hungerford was impressed with how quickly the plants were cleaned out by all of the responding agencies.

“It’s not common to buy a home and not live there,” Howell cautioned.

• listened as Boese reviewed monthly claims, which included three payrolls. Total claims, including the payrolls, totaled $307,892.

Carlson questioned if the listed bills had already been paid. Boese responded affirmatively. Weseloh, Hungerford, and Hallquist voted in favor of the monthly claims report, and Carlson was opposed.

• listened as City Clerk Terri Boese reported receiving two estimates for replacement of the carpet in the city clerk’s offices, hallway, and conference rooms. Weseloh, Hallquist, and Hungerford voted in favor of the expense, while Carlson was opposed.

• approved Thirsty’s Tavern wine and strong beer license renewal application, and the tavern’s dance permit application.

• learned via a letter from Meeker County Sheriff Brian Cruze that Casey’s General Store had failed a compliance check in July 2017. The news caused Carlson to state, “some kind of penalty,” was needed when such violations occurred.

The meeting was then closed to the public to allow the council to discuss ongoing litigation with Miller Manufacturing. The council also intended to discuss how to proceed with information from the public hearing earlier in the evening.

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