WRIGHT COUNTY BOARD MINUTES
JUNE 15, 2010
The Wright County Board met in regular session at 9:00 A.M. with Sawatzke, Mattson, Russek, Thelen, and Eichelberg present.
On a motion by Russek, second by Eichelberg, all voted to approve the 6-08-10 Board Minutes as presented.
The following item was removed from the Agenda: Item For Consid. #2, “Metropolitan Council Chair’s Meeting With Neighboring County Officials, 6-18-10” (Eichelberg). Notice was received that the meeting was cancelled. Eichelberg moved to approve the Agenda as corrected, seconded by Russek, carried unanimously.
On a motion by Russek, second by Thelen, all voted to approve the Consent Agenda:
1. Performance Appraisals: C. Fisher, M. Kaczmarek, J. McMackins, Sher./Corr.
2. Approve Contract With Employers Association, Inc. To Conduct A Classification Study.
3. Set A Budget Committee Of The Whole Meeting For 10:30 A.M., 7-06-10.
1. Approve Annual On Sale 3.2 Malt Liquor License for “Osowski’s Flea Market” (Monticello Township).
C. PLANNING & ZONING
1. Accept The 2009 Planning & Zoning Annual Report.
2. Authorize The County Attorney To Commence Civil Action (If Necessary) Against Minnesota Development Agency, LLC; Westford Meadows Development, LLC; Contractor s Capital Corporation, nst.
Bob Hiivala, Auditor/Treasurer, presented the claims for approval. He referenced payments on the last page to Granite Electronics ($40,835) which relate to the 800 MHz project. Hiivala said the 800 MHz project is close to being complete. Richard Norman, County Coordinator, referenced a claim on Page 2, MN Safety Council. The claim should be corrected to reflect Kelly and Nolan as the attendees (not Kelly and Norman). Mattson referenced last week’s claims listing and a claim to Allina Hospitals. The claims listing reflected the payment as $3,984 but in checking with the Jail Administration Office, the payment should have been $2,984. The payment amount was corrected with the Auditor/Treasurer’s Office. On a motion by Thelen, second by Russek, all voted to approve the claims as listed in the abstract, subject to audit.
A Personnel Committee Meeting was held on 6-09-10. At today’s County Board Meeting, Sawatzke referenced Item D, Recorder, and said the minutes do not reflect that the position will be advertised internally and externally as has been done in the past with Department Head openings, but that is the intent. Sawatzke moved to approve the minutes and recommendations, seconded by Eichelberg, carried 5-0:
I. POSITION OPENINGS.
A. Family Based Services Provider, Human Services.
Carol Schefers, Director of Public Health, stated that she is here in place of Mary Nesseth who originally came to the Committee on 2-10-10 to solicit this position. This position was previously recommended for hire. The position was filled, however, after a month the employee determined that this was not the job for her. Although the employee was informed at the interview what her duties would entitle, the employee indicated that certain tasks, while working in the senior clinics, were not what she wanted. Schefers distributed a handout (see attached) that describes funding sources and the role of the position. She stated that Public Health may see an increase in PMAP funding for home visits. There has been a recent change in legislation that may make this possible. Eichelberg asked what the job qualifications were for this position. Schefers stated that they are looking for a person with some background in working with families and children. It does not require a great deal of education. From experience, the Department has learned that candidates with a lot of education use this position as a springboard for other higher qualified and paid positions. She stated that during this past hiring process, they had many great candidates. The intent would be to go back to that list to fill the position. She stated that there is a waiting list again for services that would be provided by this position. The Department needs more staff for the Senior Clinics. Eichelberg stated that since the Committee approved this position previously, it would make sense to recommend it again. Sawatzke agreed. Eichelberg commented that he hoped Schefers has better luck with filling the position. RECOMMENDATION: Authorize request to hire a Family Based Services Provider.
B. Financial Workers (2), Human Services.
Schwartz stated that they have two position openings; possibly three if Public Health takes a current employee to fill one of their vacant positions. She stated that these vacancies prove that the Financial Services Unit is a good staging ground for other positions. Often, employees vacate their position within Financial Services because of the clientele and contacts. One vacancy is due to an employee leaving for Med Eligible. The other position is becoming vacant due to a lateral move to the Child Support Unit. Schwartz stated that they recently had a hiring process in which they interviewed several qualified candidates. She stated that they are hopeful that they’d be able to go back to that pool to draw from. She stated that the two positions differ in duties. Schwartz provided handouts (see attached) to show the need for and the duties of each position. The handouts also discuss how each position is funded. She stated that the Financial Worker position in the Family Financial Unit had a caseload of 160 cases in January 2009 and is now at 249. She stated that this position fulfills the immediate needs of those families that are on food support and healthcare assistance. She stated that due to a recent legislative change, an additional 70,000 Minnesota families could have the potential to apply. She stated that these are labor intensive cases. She anticipated that Wright County would see an increase of approximately 1,000 cases. Schwartz further commented that unlike the Family Based Services Provider position, there is no such thing as a “wait list”. Clients are seen immediately. There is no opportunity to strategize on how best to meet the needs of clients. Norman asked when the two positions would be filled. Schwartz stated that the two positions would not be open until the end of the month; however, the employee who would be making the lateral move is already attending training. Eichelberg asked whether the positions would be hired at Step 1. Schwartz stated yes. Peterson asked whether the Committee would consider recommending another position if the Public Health Unit does hire a current Financial Worker for a vacant position. Sawatzke stated no. The position would be considered at the first Personnel Committee Meeting in July. RECOMMENDATION: Authorize request to fill both vacant Financial Worker positions.
C. Assistant Jail Administrator, Corrections.
Norman stated that he received an email from Dave Miller, Captain, indicating that he was informed that Pat O’Malley is withholding his acceptance of the Jail Administrator position pending a wage clarification. Sawatzke asked that the discussion be laid over until the 7-14-10 Personnel Committee Meeting. Sawatzke noted that the Commissioners received a letter indicating that Sheriff Gary Miller would like the County Board to consider scheduling a Personnel Committee Of The Whole Meeting. The letter states that that he does not feel the Personnel Policy discusses how promotions should be granted to the next highest step in the pay scale as it was presented in the 5-12-10 Personnel Committee Meeting. Norman stated that he will not place the item on the County Board Agenda until a Board Action Request Form to schedule a Committee Of The Whole Meeting is submitted. Norman suggested that the County Board may want to revisit the policy in the future, however, it wouldn’t be retroactive. He stated that after the Classification Study is completed, perhaps the next project would be to revisit the entire Personnel Policy Manual. He stated that he thinks it would be a good idea for the County Board to review the Manual every five years. Norman stated that this position was only advertised internally. Eichelberg stated that O’Malley would be the interim Jail Administrator after Torfin retires. RECOMMENDATION: Lay over agenda topic until the 7-14-10 Personnel Committee Meeting.
Larry Unger stated that he will retire from the County on 6-30-10. By State Statute, a Recorder is to be appointed. Norman stated that given the duties as stated in the State Statute, there will need to be an interim Recorder until one can be appointed. Unger stated that he would recommend appointing Barb Gabrelcik, Chief Deputy Recorder, as the interim Recorder. She has been a County employee for over 30 years and can do all of the technical duties. Norman clarified that Gabrelcik would receive out-of-class pay as the interim Recorder. Unger briefly discussed the duties of the County Recorder. The position requires someone with strong managerial skills and someone who is very active and a leader within the County, the Recorder’s Association, and the State Association of Realtors. The Recorder testifies at the Legislature. The duties of the Recorder’s office include working with real estate deeds and mortgages as part of County and land records. Eichelberg asked whether the new Recorder position would be advertised as a full-time position. This led to a brief discussion about whether the County should consider combining the Recorder’s office and functions with another department. Other counties have combined functions of the Recorder’s office with the Assessor and the Auditor/Treasurer Offices. Unger stated that he has been through a lot of organizational changes throughout his career. Wright County is now considered a “metro” county. For a while, Wright County was one of the fastest growing counties. It was determined that combining the Recorder’s office with another Department would not be a good fit at this time. Norman reminded the Committee that the Recorder’s position was evaluated for pay equity and the position will get reclassified down two classes: from Class B to Class D. Unger stated that with the new classification study, this may change. He stated that the Recorder position should be fairly comparable from county to county. Sawatzke asked what the top pay step is for the Recorder’s position. Norman stated that currently it is $91,256 and it would go down to $80,443 with the reclassification. Sawatzke asked Unger what the work load is like in the Recorder’s office. Unger stated that he has told his Department that this is a good time for him to leave. However, there are a couple of things he would have liked to have done prior to retirement. He stated that his Department is currently working on a back log of activities to get ready for the next busy time. The amount of document recording has decreased. His Department is dabbling in E-Recording, however, the industry is not ready to go completely paperless. Unger stated that the Recorder is gone a lot from the office; therefore, a present Chief Deputy is a requirement to complete the day-to-day duties. He feels the Chief Deputy is equivalent to an office manager. Norman stated that the Chief Deputy is rated a G class. She would be paid at Step 2, Class “D”, during the interim. Norman stated that he would meet with Gabrelcik to ask if she’d be interested in serving as the interim County Recorder. Sawatzke noted that this position would be advertised externally, however, this does not suggest that the County would not be open to an internal candidate. Norman stated that the County has a long standing practice of hiring at Step 1 for any new position. Unger stated that he has heard that there may be one or two qualified Recorders interested in applying for his position. RECOMMENDATION: Authorize Barb Gabrelcik to serve as interim County Recorder as of 7-1-10 at Step 2 pay scale of Class “D”.
II. FLEX-TIME REQUESTS (HUMAN SERVICES BOARD ITEM).
(End of 6-09-10 Personnel Committee Minutes & discussion)
Fred Naaktgeboren, Mayor, City of Buffalo, brought forth discussion on participation in the Long-Distance Transit Study being completed by the Met Council. This issue was laid over from the 6-01-10 County Board Meeting as an opportunity for review of the Transit Study completed for Goodhue and St. Croix Counties and to see whether additional letters were received from Wright County cities expressing interest in the project. Naaktgeboren said his arguments in support of the Study are the same as those presented at the 6-01-10 Board Meeting. He referenced the perception that the Met Council may try to take over control of Wright County if Wright County participates in the Study. Naaktgeboren contacted a Met Council staff member, Mike Mechtenberg, who performed the survey work for the Goodhue and St. Croix County Study. Mechtenberg knows of no plans to expand by the Met Council, and the purpose of his work was to determine transportation needs. He indicated that once the cars leave Wright County and arrive in the metro area, it is their problem. Naaktgeboren also spoke with Arlene McCarthy of the Met Council. She conveyed that they understand the political and economical difficulties with the expansion of the Met Council and that they understand the feeling of collar counties that this is something that is not wanted. Naaktgeboren said McCarthy said it was not the intent of the Met Council to do this. They do not have the staff or money to do so. McCarthy stated that once the cars leave Wright County and enter the metro area, those vehicles add to the congestion. Naaktgeboren said from his point of view, as Mayor of Buffalo, there are many people who commute to the metro area by themselves. He supported the Study which comes at no cost. Residents deserve this look to the future to see what could be available for bus transit. He referenced the letters of support from Wright County Cities and stated that the City of Otsego just took action to support the Study.
In response to Sawatzke, Naaktgeboren confirmed he had reviewed the draft Study for Goodhue and St. Croix Counties. Sawatzke asked Naaktgeboren whether he felt bus transit was viable for those two Counties, based on his analysis of the Study. Naaktgeboren stated it is viable if someone underwrites it. Regarding the study of those two Counties, he was unsure whether the timing was right because of the amount of people who would ride the bus. He viewed the Study as a marking point to reflect amount of interest and methods available. He was not sure if the Met Council would support it at this time. Sawatzke said it comes to a point where transit is not economically viable. Sawatzke asked whether Naaktgeboren felt bus transit is economically viable for those two Counties. Naaktgeboren said neither would be viable at this point but that would also depend on how much money people wanted to put into it. Sawatzke said he may vote in favor of the Transit Study as cities he represents support it. If he does vote in favor of the Study, he wants an understanding on what will happen in the end. If Wright County decides to participate in the Study, someone will at some point determine whether bus transit is viable. His concern is what will be done with that information in the end. The Goodhue County Study showed 17 people would ride the bus. Sawatzke has learned that for a bus system to work there must be two buses. In Goodhue County, they will raise $19,000 in fare revenues (annual subsidy of $194,000). That means for every $1 that someone pays to ride the bus, someone not riding the bus has to pay $10. He cautioned those reviewing the results of Studies. When people receive something for nothing, someone else pays. Sawatzke is not afraid of the Study but rather what happens with the results. He hoped those reviewing the Study would apply common sense. It was Sawatzke’s opinion that bus transit did not make sense in Goodhue County. He was unsure where that County would come up with funding given the economy. Sawatzke does not want to raise property taxes. He referenced the train running from Big Lake to the metro area. Prior to that project being completed, the view was that the train would take traffic off the roadways. The last few times Sawatzke has driven to the metro area, the roads were congested and the train was 46% empty. He said an extra lane could have been added to the highway for less. He said the reality is whether people will use the modes of transit offered and whether it makes sense economically.
Russek stated the Goodhue & St. Croix Transit Study reflects that Park & Ride lots would be built at $3,500/stall. He suggested spending the money instead to encourage businesses to move to Wright County. That would allow people to work and shop where they live. Russek felt the Study is a waste of money.
Thelen supports the Study. She said part of building economic infrastructure includes the availability of mass transit. It is part of what attracts business to the area. She referenced Sawatzke’s comments on subsidies for mass transit. She did not feel it was fair to compare a closed system (mass transit) to an open system (other forms of transportation that have a lot of subsidies and costs). She did not feel these costs were easily added up and compared. Thelen said every infrastructure costs the public money. She cited the subsidies to large oil companies (tax breaks, low cost leases, liability caps on oil spills), the subsidies from income and sales taxes to pay for keeping DWI offenders in prison, subsidies from property taxes to the traffic portion of local police, and subsidies to the highway patrol from the general fund). She suggested looking at using vehicle taxes to treat respiratory illnesses caused by air pollution from cars, trucks and oil. Thelen said there is a lot of cost to continuing as we are under the current structure. She assumed that those at the table are interested in reducing the dependence on gasoline and the one person per car structure currently being used. Thelen was in contact with Arlene McCarthy who indicated that the Met Council is willing to complete a Memorandum of Understanding that would establish Met Council’s position not to take any legislative action to compel Wright County to participate in subsequent mass transit or bus transit legislation. She said 10 out of 16 Wright County Cities are interested in this Study which makes it compelling to move forward. She felt it was one of her charges to work with the mayors in her District to advance their wishes and desires. Thelen said the mayors in her District support this Study. She stated that Wright County is fast paced in comparison to Goodhue County. She said there may not be as much of a need in other areas of Wright County. Thelen understands that the Met Council has done some things that could be viewed as empire building and problematic. In looking at their website, one of their charges is to address the forecasted needs for transportation, aviation, water resources, parks and open space. Thelen referenced the pollution alerts issued along I-94 which relate to the vehicles on the roads. She felt the Met Council was doing a good job reviewing where traffic comes from, how it impacts residents, and what the full cost is of continuing with business as usual.
Russek felt it was better to look at spending resources to bring business to Wright County instead of removing vehicles from the roadways. Less fuel will be burned if people work and shop close to home. Thelen responded that bus transit results in five times less impact on the environment (in terms of energy/mile/person). Buses can also test alternative fuels. She asked Noel LaBine, Economic Development Partnership, to speak to the economics of locating business in Wright County with no transportation. LaBine stated he had the privilege of listening to a report by the Met Council in St. Louis Park a few weeks ago. Information provided indicated that the reverse commute is higher than expected. A significant number of people would use transit to come to jobs in this area as well. Transit service in the future is important for the sustainability of the economy for Wright County. He knows there is a lot of stress in the budget at this time. LaBine felt the Study will provide facts and figures and put Wright County on the path for consideration. Although the results of the Goodhue County Study show that transit is not reliable, LaBine said Wright County doesn’t have any data.
Eichelberg said the buses will run both directions. He felt some consideration should be given to the fact that many city councils are supporting the Study. He did not feel the County would be committing to anything by completing the Study. He hoped those in charge would interpret what will be best for the community. This Study could be performed and then maybe another Study could be completed in 2015. Eichelberg supported the Study including the reasons brought forth by the other Commissioners.
Mattson said he has not lobbied anyone one way or the other. He looks at facts. He talked with one of the Planning Commissioners in Carver County. The person indicated that Carver County was offered a “free lunch.” Now the Met Council has control over Carver County. All Planning Commission decisions go to the Met Council for approval. They have 12 hours to change anything if the Met Council doesn’t like it. Mattson referenced future construction projects including those on Highways 55, 25 and 10 (projected to 2013 to 2025). Mattson said the Met Council ignored the Highway 55 Corridor Coalitions efforts. District 3 acknowledged the fact that the metro area and Hennepin County are still holding with the Met Council’s concerns. Mattson said there could possibly have been a four-lane road but that may never be seen. He spoke of the lack of funding for construction projects. Mattson stated he has not lobbied the mayors in his District in either direction. However, the mayors are only one person in the District and constituents have not come forward supporting this.
Wayne Fingalson, Highway Engineer, referenced the comments made by Mattson on the Met Council. He felt the Met Council has been supportive even though they have not attended all of the Highway 55 Corridor Coalition Meetings. Without the support of the Met Council, Fingalson said that Highway 55 would not have been reclassified which will help in the future with funding. He agreed that everyone is frustrated not to have a four-lane highway but he did not feel this was the Met Council’s fault. Mn/DOT will not allow expansion to a four-lane in Wright County until it happens in Hennepin County as well. He felt there is an overriding fear of being pulled into the Met Council if the Study is accepted. Fingalson referenced comments by Thelen that the Met Council is willing to put together a Memorandum of Understanding. He viewed participation in the Study as an opportunity to obtain facts. Wright County will then be able to see if they are in a similar situation to Goodhue County. If needed, they could look for ways to subsidize through Mn/DOT. Fingalson referenced Russek’s idea to bring jobs to Wright County, but he felt that would not happen for a number of years. Sawatzke questioned Fingalson’s suggestion that subsidies for transit will be offset by Mn/DOT, not by Wright County or others. Fingalson said it was his understanding that Mn/DOT would look for subsidies for transit programs. Sawatzke asked whether Mn/DOT is supporting the collar counties completing a Study. Fingalson understood this to be the case. Sawatzke felt a letter should be obtained from Mn/DOT indicating their intent to fund bus systems in the future. He voiced concern on the completion of the Study and people supporting proceeding with bus transit even if the numbers don’t support it. He said sometimes the economics just don’t make sense. He referenced Thelen’s comments on the environmental aspects and he did not discount those. However, he felt only so much can be spent. He questioned subsidizing a system over 90% and felt there was not a good reason to do so. He restated that he would like to know if Mn/DOT will subsidize bus transit. Fingalson said determining funding sources is part of the Study. They would look for subsidy from Mn/DOT. The Study can be completed to find out if bus transit is worthwhile. If the data reflects the situation such as in Goodhue County, then the decision could be made not to pursue going forward. Fingalson said they view the Study as a tool for the future. Sawatzke felt the funding was an important factor. Fingalson said this is a Mn/DOT Study that is being completed by the Met Council as the Met Council has some of the best planners in the country. For the benefit of the Wright Citizens, he felt it should be determined whether there is a need for a long-range bus study. If it is determined that it is an option, then the options for subsidy through Mn/DOT could be looked at. Mn/DOT has subsidized transit programs and the Met Council would help identify those. Sawatzke said the last time there was discussion of some type of transit system operating in Wright County, Mn/DOT indicated that every dollar given to that bus system would be taken away from the River Rider System. That would have resulted in having to raise property taxes to subsidize the River Rider System. Currently, no levy dollars are spent on River Rider. Fingalson asked whether we know that would happen in this case. Sawatzke said that is the information he would like from Mn/DOT. Fingalson was unsure whether Mn/DOT would provide this type of information at this point as the viability of the system has to be determined. Mattson referenced a DVD he obtained reflecting a Channel 11 investigation of mistakes made by the Met Council and their planners.
Russek made a motion to deny Wright County’s participation in a Long-Distance Transit Study. The motion failed for lack of a second. Sawatzke made a motion to send a letter to Mn/DOT asking them how they would perceive funding for a bus system in Wright County pursuant to Mn/DOT’s funding policies for transportation. The letter would reflect there is the opportunity for the Study and Fingalson could convey this to them. Mn/DOT could reply by letter with their best analysis of how they would participate. Sawatzke said obviously the hope in the end is that there will be bus transportation. If people didn’t want it, they would not complete the Study. He asked Thelen if she agreed that the hope is if the Study reflects that bus transit is needed, that it would be done. Thelen said the hope is a plan for the increased needs for public transportation and to find alternatives for building more lanes and creating more roads. She agreed that if the Study reflects it is needed, she would hope there would be some effort to meet that need. Thelen referenced Sawatzke’s comments on cost. She felt the cost of not doing the Study was almost unfathomable the cost environmentally, to people, and the lost dollars in terms of lost productivity due to the time spent idling in traffic congestion. She felt Sawatzke was not factoring in these things when he addresses how it will be paid for. She did not feel that Wright County would be able to obtain a letter from Mn/DOT at this point saying they would pay for it. She felt the project would go into a pool of requests for transportation funding in the area. She asked what he would expect in the letter from Mn/DOT. Sawatzke responded the letter would reflect Mn/DOT’s expectations on how funding will occur. He assumed there are systems such as this all over the place and questioned how much those are funded. He did not feel there would be a new transit scenario for Wright County. He wanted the letter to reflect a general analysis on how bus transit would be funded. The motion failed for lack of a second. Fingalson said in response to Sawatzke, his understanding is that the Study will include Met Council evaluating the opportunity to subsidize the bus service. Fingalson said the Study is needed first to determine whether bus transit is needed. Mn/DOT would need those facts to make a response. They could possibly provide a general answer. Sawatzke said the River Rider System and other systems include an 80/20 funding split (80% from State for operations, 20% from fares). He questioned whether the funding would be the same for bus transit and said this is an unknown.
Thelen made a motion for Wright County to participate in the Bus Transit Study sponsored by the Met Council. This is with the understanding that the County will have a Memorandum of Understanding from the Met Council that establishes that there will be no obligation and no legislation coming out of it that would adversely affect Wright County’s participation and implementation. The motion was seconded by Eichelberg. Eichelberg said once the Study has been done, the County will have more information to move forward. The motion failed 2-3 with Sawatzke, Mattson and Russek casting the nay votes.
Greg Kramber, Assessor, presented the 2010 State Board of Appeal and Equalization document. This is the eighth consecutive year that there were no changes at the State Board of Appeal and Equalization. Kramber extended appreciation to the staff of the Assessor’s Office and the local Assessors for all of their hard work over the past year. He also thanked other departments for their support by assisting the Assessor’s Office in the assessment process. The Board extended thanks to Kramber and his staff.
Steve Jobe, Surveyor, requested transfer of a vehicle from the Highway Department to the Surveyor Department. The vehicle is a 1998 Dodge Pickup, Unit #125. The Surveyor Department is in need of a vehicle for the Senior Survey Tech to make trips to the field to assist with survey projects. Some of the projects include the removal and replacement of section corner monuments, painting targets for aerial photography, and other surveys when they are able to split the crew. The pickup is scheduled to be sold at the County auction. Transfer of the vehicle would provide an opportunity to determine whether this type of vehicle fills the needs of the Surveyor Department. Norman inquired how many miles are on the vehicle and its maintenance record. Jobe said the vehicle has 95,670 miles and has some minor repair issues. Jobe spoke with Brian Jans, Highway Maintenance, who indicated they would be willing to repair the items. Russek moved to authorize the transfer of Unit #125 from the Highway Department to the Surveyor Department, seconded by Thelen. Russek said if a vehicle is needed by the Surveyor, this is a better option than purchasing a vehicle. The motion carried unanimously.
Brian Asleson, Chief Deputy Attorney, asked the Board to consider a Tobacco Ordinance penalty to be imposed on the Clark Gas Station in Montrose. During recent tobacco compliance checks conducted by Wright County Public Health, in conjunction with the Wright County Sheriff’s Office, the Clark Gas Station of Montrose was cited for its fourth failure in the past 24 months for selling tobacco to a minor. The Wright County Tobacco Ordinance states that with a third or subsequent violation within a 24-month period, an administrative fine of “not less than $250” shall be imposed and there shall also be a suspension of the tobacco license for “not less than seven days”. Staff is seeking input from the Board on the appropriate penalty to be imposed in this instance. Present for discussion at today’s Board Meeting were Joel Torkelson, Public Health, and Eric Leander, Sheriff’s Office. Asleson stated that 90% of retailers passed the tobacco compliance checks. Two retailers are subject to some type of suspension of their license. Asleson stated the Ordinance does not address a specific penalty for the fourth violation in a 24-month period. Discussion followed on what action the Board took when other businesses failed their fourth check. Asleson said this occurred with Roger’s Amoco in Maple Lake. He recalled that the Board took action to impose a fine of $250 plus a license suspension of 14 days. The owner of the Clark Gas Station in Montrose, Dhimant Mehmi, spoke to the issue. He indicated that he did not sell the cigarettes. A friend of his was in the store and sold them. Sawatzke responded, stating that employers have the liability of their employee’s actions. All employers have that responsibility.
Torkelson stated that the Clark Gas Station in Montrose was checked five times since this person became the owner and they passed only one check. This is the third time where a business has failed this many times. He referenced another business, the Quik Stop in Delano, who failed previously. They were fined $500 and their license was suspended for two weeks. Torkelson did work with the business to provide training to the staff at that establishment. He also provided training at Roger’s Amoco. He was unsure if that was a wise use of his time. Torkelson felt it was the responsibility of the business to make sure their staff is trained. Public Health sends notice to the business and the clerk involved describing what is expected of them.
Sawatzke referenced the $500 fine and 14 days that Torkelson spoke of. He asked whether that was consistent with the previous penalties that were imposed. Torkelson said that last year, Irene Hudek from Rogers Amoco was present at the Board Meeting and explained that they had already implemented processes to prevent the situation from happening again. He felt that was why there was a difference in the fine imposed. There also was a time when the Ordinance language required a step to allow them to charge a higher fine. Sawatzke asked if the most recent fine was $250 and 14 days. Torkelson confirmed this to be the case. Asleson referenced the 9-08-09 County Board Minutes which reflect, “Eichelberg made a motion for Roger’s Amoco to be charged an additional $250 for the 4th Tobacco Ordinance violation and to impose an additional 7-day suspension for a total of 14 days. The timing of serving the suspension is to be determined between the business owner and the County, but the two 7-day suspensions must be served consecutively and completed prior to 1-01-10.” That motion passed 3-2. Asleson requested that the Auditor’s Office research whether the County receipted $500 or $250.
The meeting recessed at 10:02 A.M. and reconvened at 10:11 A.M. Torkelson stated that the situation with Rogers Amoco last year was unique in that they received a third violation and it was not processed prior to their failing the fourth compliance check. The business was notified after the third violation. Eichelberg questioned whether the policy is currently a $250 fine with a third violation. Torkelson stated that was correct. Eichelberg asked what the policy is when a business pays their third violation and then fails a fourth time. Torkelson said the Ordinance is not specific. With Rogers Amoco, he understood they paid their $250 fine but had not served their 7-day suspension associated with the third violation when the fourth one occurred. The Board decided to lump the suspensions together for a 14-day suspension. Sawatzke said it appears the penalty the last time for a fourth violation was $250 and a 7-day suspension. He felt the fourth violation should be stricter than the third but that is not laid out in the Ordinance. Torkelson confirmed that the Clark Gas Station has paid their $250 fine and served their 7-day suspension for the third violation. He stated that what factored into the decision last year with Rogers Amoco was that the owner came in and explained how they had already implemented procedures to prevent this from happening again and that she would be training her staff. He felt that was a factor in the outcome of the penalties.
Sawatzke said what needs to be determined today is what penalty will be imposed. He asked Dhimant Mehmi whether he recognized there was a sale. Dhimant Mehmi responded that he did. Dhimant Mehmi restated that the person who sold the cigarettes is not his employee but is a friend. He sometimes helps when he is in the store. Thelen asked whether any measures have been taken to assure this doesn’t happen again. Dhimant Mehmi stated that they have a system where they are able to enter the date of birth for the customer, but his friend did not do this so the sale occurred. He said he could not promise that it won’t happen again as he cannot work all of the hours himself. He will do his best so that it does not happen again. Sawatzke asked Torkelson if he knows who was working that day. Torkelson understood it was not an employee. The way it was described to him was that this person used to own a gas station in Rockford and he was moving out of the State and stopped at the business. Under the Ordinance any clerk, employee or friend is the responsibility of the business owner (person that has the license). Torkelson said tobacco licensees change frequently and it is hard to keep track of them. The owner of the Clark Gas Station was the previous owner of a gas station in Clearwater. Torkelson said that gas station is out of business but he did not recall any problems at that location. It is difficult to keep up with this constant change. In talking with the business, they indicated they will take this seriously and check identifications. However, there have been five checks with four failures. The station has a machine to punch in the date of birth to identify whether the purchaser is of age but this did not happen when this sale occurred.
It was the consensus of the Board that they need to be consistent with the penalties imposed. Asleson said that with Rogers Amoco, they had a violation in July, 2009. A little over a month later, another compliance check occurred and they failed. When they received their fourth violation notice, they had already paid the $250 fine but had not served the 7-day suspension. The County Board ordered an additional $250 fine for the fourth violation and a 7-day suspension (for a total of 14 days). They could have served a 7-day plus a 14-day suspension but did not. The Ordinance reads that the third and subsequent violation is a fine of $250 or more and a suspension of 7 days or more. Asleson did not see a need to change the Ordinance language. He was unsure whether the Board should set a specific policy for the fourth violation as each situation differs. There may be situations where the Board decides to suspend/revoke the license. Sawatzke recalled that in the past, there was a problem with timeliness of notices sent to retailers about failure of compliance checks. The process was discussed and notices are now sent by Human Services. Sawatzke feels the penalty for the fourth violation should be more in the future. He supported a $250 fine and 7-day suspension for the Clark Gas Station in Montrose. Russek agreed with the suggested fine to be consistent but felt an increased penalty could be imposed for future fourth violations. Sawatzke made a motion to impose a $250 penalty and a 7-day suspension for the Clark Gas Station in Montrose for their fourth offense. The retailer can choose the 7-day period but it must be served prior to 10-01-10 and the 7 days must be served consecutively. The motion was seconded by Russek. The retailer was instructed to work with staff so they are informed when the 7-day period will be served. The motion carried 5-0.
Russek suggested potentially discussing increasing the penalties for 4th and 5th offenses at an upcoming Ways & Means Committee Meeting. Asleson restated that the Ordinance language can be left as is. The question would be whether staff can just impose a penalty. Each situation that arises may be different. Ultimately, the County Board has the authority on these penalties as that is who grants the license. Not changing the Ordinance will provide flexibility to impose penalties based upon the situation. If the Ordinance is to be changed, it will require a public hearing with publication requirements on the notice of the hearing. Mattson suggested that Asleson and Norman review the situation and possibly bring discussion to the Ways & Means Committee Meeting if they see concerns.
Albertville/City of. $1,745.60
American Institutional Supp 123.43
Ameripride Linen and Apparel 423.90
Annandale Rock Products 518.46
Aramark Services Inc. 6,518.44
B & B Products - Rigs and Sq 954.18
Barker Co./Bob 5,596.09
Batteries Plus 256.46
Boyer Truck Parts 435.75
Buff N Glo Inc. 241.68
Center for Education & Emp 159.00
Center Point Energy 2,041.22
Chamberlain Oil Co. 2,319.45
Climate Air 1,961.82
Collins Brothers Towing 174.48
Crop Productions Services 1,780.73
Design Electrical Contract 362.38
Dingmann Marine & More LLC 138.00
Employers Association Inc. 1,400.00
Ernst General Construction Co. 726.00
Felger Ramos LLC/Maria 100.10
Gopher State One Call 155.15
Gould Towing 587.82
Granite Electronics 40,835.00
Greenview Inc. 14,018.59
H & H Sport Shop Inc. 108.00
Hardings Towing Inc. 480.95
Hillyard Inc. - Minneapolis 405.45
HR Specialist Employment 188.00
Interstate Automotive 213.74
J & J Marine Inc. 401.36
Klatt True Value Electric 176.32
Labor Relations Information 250.00
Lawson Products Inc. 238.78
Loberg Electric 664.08
Lostetter/Carol H. 100.00
Mini Biff LLC 509.64
MN Department of Labor & In 500.00
MN Elevator Inc. 13,205.26
MN Resort and Campground 762.00
MN Safety Council 785.00
MN State Bar Associaton 2,133.64
Morries Parts & Service Group 3,751.45
Office Depot 2,802.66
ORyans Conoco 180.00
Prairie Lakes Youth Program 5,588.00
Ray Allen Mfg. Co. Inc. 105.75
Sand Creek Group Ltd. 5,625.00
Scharber & Sons Inc. 160.91
Silver Creek Township 784.40
Skillsets Online 3,900.00
Smith Publishers/M Lee 397.00
State of MN-Office Enterpr 965.00
Stephens Jr. Inc./Walter F. 258.16
United Parcel Service 104.47
Vance Brothers Inc. 2,340.78
Viking Coca Cola Bottling Co 360.50
West Payment Center 949.52
Wright Hennepin Coop Elec 3,121.38
Wright Hennepin Electric 158.53
Zack’s Inc. 947.50
33 Payments less than $100 1,540.25
Final total $246,743.05
The meeting adjourned at 10:28 A.M
Published in the Herald Journal July 26, 2010.