Herald Journal - Voters' Guide 2010
Herald Journal / Dassel-Cokato Enterprise Dispatch / Delano Herald Journal

Dassel City Council

Jack Adams

Why are you running for Dassel City Council?

I served on the planning commission for four years before I was appointed to a vacant council seat in 2012.

I would like to return to the council at the end of this term, to serve the community and follow through with efforts to help the city run more efficiently.

I think the record of my attendance speaks for itself, as I have only missed two meetings in the five years I have served.

What do you believe are the top two issues facing the city, and what are your proposed solutions?

Low cash reserves and local government aid cuts.

The cash reserves, at this point, are at 15 percent and should be at a minimum of 35 percent. These two go hand-in-hand. With the LGA cuts from the state, the burden has been put on the city to find different revenue sources.

The fire department is a great revenue source. Being considered is charges for service on insured incidents, like structure fires and motor vehicle accidents. Every month this is not being done is lost revenue to the city.

Using the most recent information available from 2011, and an average insurance payout of $500, the City of Dassel left about $21,000 of revenue on the table, by not billing the insurance companies.

The cost of billing is minimal for the amount of return. It is still possible this could be done this year by resolution, if not, I will make this a priority in 2013.

Also, the city needs to look hard at economic development and explore the possibilities of annexation to increase the tax base.

With the creation of the community development director position, I feel the city is on the right track to increase the tax base and bring new businesses into the community.

What specifically can the city do to cut costs and operate efficiently, while still maintaining service to taxpayers?

Contact neighboring communities about doing joint purchasing on anything from sand and salt, to office supplies. Large purchases tend to have lower costs. Also, sharing services with other communities when possible.

Sharon Asplin

Why are you running for Dassel City Council?

Having been a lifelong resident of the Dassel area, I am comitted to the community and want to be a part of keeping Dassel the best it can be.

I feel that change is good, and that it is important to have new people serving on the council to look at issues from a new or different perspective.

I have previously served on church council and other community boards, and know the importance of listening to people. I know that council members represent the people of Dassel and are accountable to the people who elected them.

It’s also important to listen to people from outside the community who might not be taxpayers or voters within the city, but are still a part of our community by their volunteerism or support of local businesses.

What do you believe are the top two issues facing the city, and what are your proposed solutions?

Finances and budget are the top issue. There are no simple solutions to managing expenses, and it is unrealistic to think that any single person can change or fix anything.

Thoroughly researching any expenditures and prioritizing projects that must be done vs. projects that want to be done would certainly be necessary, along with utilizing whatever state or grant money that might be available.

Just as individuals have had to cut back or limit spending in today’s economy, a city should be cautious about spending, and avoid increasing expenses to taxpayers.

A second issue is working with organizations that are a part of the city, such as fire and sheriff departments, or the Red Rooster committee.

Communication is key, by respectfully listening and discussing issues in order to resolve conflict.

It is important to continue support of Red Rooster Days or other local events that bring people into our community and show that we are proud to live in Dassel.

What specifically can the city do to cut costs and operate efficiently, while still maintaining service to taxpayers?

Again, there are no simple solutions. We need to operate efficiently, by listening to the needs of taxpayers and continuing with necessary spending where it is a priority to maintain the quality of projects that are already in place.

Jonathan Haapala

Why are you running for Dassel City Council?

Well, I have always been interested in politics; reading, watching, talking, and debating, and now, I would like to get involved with it.

What do you believe are the top two issues facing the city, and what are your proposed solutions?

Budget and/or money. The city has gotten into some financial difficulty. I think we need to stop spending so much, and spend within our needs. Even with financial problems, we should still try to find a way to lower water bills. I think people want more money in their pockets, rather than the city’s.

Bonding. In the last few years, we have spent a lot of money. Some of the purchases have been good, like getting a new fire truck for the fire department. Some of the rest, you can make a good argument that they were all good or bad, for some or all of these things.

In the future, we’re going to have to watch a little what we buy.

What specifically can the city do to cut costs and operate efficiently, while still maintaining service to taxpayers?

It’s always hard to cut costs and operate efficiently. We need to look at each area of our budget. The last few years, because of the economy, businesses have had to cut costs. No one wants these areas cut, but it may have to come down to taking a little equal percentage from each area.

Bob Lalone

Why are you running for Dassel City Council?

I want to be an active participant in efforts to improve the quality of life for Dassel residents. Also, to help provide guidance, moving forward with the city’s comprehensive plan for attracting new businesses and opportunities.

What do you believe are the top two issues facing the city, and what are your proposed solutions?

The number-one issue would be to revitalize the downtown area. An overall vision needs to be created in how this should happen.

Key points in the process would be upgrading the infrastructure (i.e. lighting, sidewalks, and street improvements), then providing an access to funding and grant programs for new and existing businesses. This is why the city developed the economic development authority position, to facilitate this effort.

Another issue would be how local government aid (LGA) cuts are stressing our city’s budget. As a council, we need to put pressure on the League of Minnesota Cities (state lobbyist), and our district representatives (house and senate) to stop reformulating the way funds are distributed to cities.

Every year, it is a guessing game as to how much and when those monies will be available. If cuts are in order, then the State of Minnesota needs to provide cities with a mechanism to offset the loss.

The last issue would be Dassel’s cash reserves. A recent audit report showed that the city is deficient in this account for financing larger scale projects and maintaining daily operations.

Cash reserves are necessary to fund Dassel’s day-to-day operations, as well as fund capital improvements and help ensure that Dassel can keep operating in case of an emergency.

Many operations of the city, particularly within the water and sewer, require significant cash reserves because infrastructure and equipment operated and maintained by the city can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to replace.

What specifically can the city do to cut costs and operate efficiently, while still maintaining service to taxpayers?

Continue to get competing bids on projects and asset purchases, to ensure that the city gets the lowest price and highest quality product.

Require request for proposals (RFPs) on larger amount projects with specifications (non-competing) that will meet the needs.

Researching group health care plans is necessary to provide the same benefits at a lower cost for city employees.

Allow certain large-costing assets to age beyond their expected life span.

Continue providing oversight on the city’s budget and infrastructure-type projects.

Sara Nelson

Why are you running for Dassel City Council?

I am a life-long resident of Dassel; I have chosen to raise my family here. I also go to church in this community, and have taught math at the local high school for the past 15 years.

I have been president of the Dassel-Cokato Education Association for eight years, on the negotiations committee for 10 years, and part of the DC district insurance committee.

I am involved with the youth committee at church. I have also been a part of the Red Rooster Committee, serving on the ambassador’s committee (then known as the queen’s committee), running concessions on Labor Day, and serving the meal in the food barn.

I am willing to listen, to seek input, to ask hard questions, and to problem-solve.

I am running for council because the city of Dassel has been an important part of my life since I was a child, and I would like the opportunity to use some of my skills to serve its residents with the values of hardwork and integrity that I have grown up with my entire life.

What do you believe are the top two issues facing the city, and what are your proposed solutions?

Finances are always an issue facing any city or county, and shrinking local government aid does not help.

We need to be creative in using our resources, and search for as many alternate sources of funding as possible, such as seeking out grant money.

Is there a way we can help our local businesses, or potential businesses seek out alternative funding to start or expand their business?

I would like to work cooperatively with the city and be a resource to our businesses and its residents in order to build a better, stronger community.

I have heard the complaints, and experience, myself, the high water bills in town. However, I also understand the need to fund city infrastructure, maintain the city, and build the fund balance reserves.

It is important to be pro-active and have a long-term view of where our finances are headed, and clear goals on what we want to accomplish; and, with that information, develop an economic plan.

It is also important that we are transparent with the residents about those goals and what is needed to accomplish them.

Transparency in local government is important to creating a high trust level with its residents. It is not the job of the council to micro-manage the daily operations of the city or the volunteer institutions within the city.

We hire competent people to run the day-to-day operations, and those people need to be the first sources of information in the decision-making process.

One job of the council is to support local organizations that work to promote and protect the city, and ask questions and seek input, but not to create barriers for them.

The same can be said about the needs of its residents. We can listen to complaints, ask questions, seek input, and work together for a solution.

In the whole process, let’s not forget the importance of a common-sense approach in local government.

What specifically can the city do to cut costs and operate efficiently, while still maintaining service to taxpayers?

There is no magical answer to this question. As I alluded to before, long-term planning and goal setting can be beneficial to the financial security of a city.

We need to look at the budget, question the line items, and work together to find solutions.

We need to utilize our city employees and members of other volunteer organizations, tapping into their knowledge and expertise, to explore any and all alternatives to funding, such as seeking out grants or loans for economic development.

It is collaborative efforts that run a city. It takes more than a mayor, more than a council, and more than city employees. It takes the residents to make a city better and stronger. It’s time to sit down and ask the residents what they want for their city and listen to the ideas they have to offer. We can learn a great deal from each other.

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