Friday, September 4, 2009

September 1, 2009 Council Meeting

It's been few meetings since I last wrote about one. Summer life is busy, and I'm kind of lazy. But here's my account of the latest council meeting.

The mayor started off by reading a nice letter from parents of a Buhl baseball player. The parents thanked Buhl, but mostly the baseball coach Jessie W. for the fun positive season.

Next, George from Northland Securities talked to the council about refinancing two of our bonds. The terms would stay the same on the bonds, but the interest rate would lower enough that the City would save @ $27,000 over the next decade. The council approved moving forward with a more detailed study, and if all is as George said I suspect the council will approve the refinancing of the bonds.

We approved a change order for the Frantz St improvements. The contractor needed to replace a culvert that goes under Presidents Ave. The cost for the change was $1827.00.

Then we paid a partial payment for the road and improvements projects going on in Buhl for a total partial payment of $147,160.01.

Next we discussed the fiscal 2010 budget and tried to set a preliminary levy. In the end we did not set the levy because the request was for a 21% increase from last year. The preliminary levy setting is strange to start with. A proposed levy is set to meet a State of MN deadline (Sept 15 this year). Then we go through each and every dollar of the budget to try to trim wherever we can. This year, with a preliminary request 21% higher than last year, our two new council members decided that they would not vote for the levy. Good. I have tried every year since I have been on the council to set a more realistic preliminary request, and I have failed every year to get more than 2 votes. I am glad to see that Jessie and Colin want the same thing.

We will get together 1 hour before the next council meeting and try to work out a better, more realistic preliminary levy request. Believe it or not, the council has done a good job of keeping spending down. We spent less last year than we did in 2006 or 2008. The request this year is for less than either of those years or 2009. But our revenue goes down every year, so we need to continue to find ways to cut.

One very interesting thing is, if you go to this web site and select Buhl, every year available, and put in $100,000 (or any home price), you can see that the taxes in Buhl are MUCH lower now than they were in 1997. Still, we need to keep taxes low so we can continue to being new homeowners to Buhl.

Next we passed a Resolution to give $165,000 in loan money to St Louis County. The reason we did this is a bit complicated. Buhl gets $893.83 per month from Kids Peace, and in turn Buhl must loan that money out to private companies for things like infrastructure, loan guarantees, interest buy downs and other things a private company may need. The problem is that with only two people working for the City in administrative positions, we just don't have the staffing and knowledge to make these loans. So, we gave the money to the county, and they will make the loans. We couldn't use the money ourselves (I asked), so it was best to let the county run the program.

The water tower needs work, so we worked out a way to use some Mining Effects funds to get the inside of the water tower fixed. Then next year we will pay to have the outside of the tower painted. The total is $41,000 for inside and out.

Next, we okayed a new City warehouse for $33,900 that will be located just west of the #2 pump house. It might seem crazy to spend money on a new building now, but with many thousands of dollars of equipment and parts sitting outside in the weather, we need another storage building. If we can increase the life cycle of our equipment and make each of them last one or two years longer, then the new building will be well worth it.

We approved $1008.00 for new rubber mats on the skateboard ramps at the park. The old mats are worn out through use, not abuse. It's good to see the kids using the park.

We paid $33,014.00 to the League of MN Cities for our insurance.

We talked about starting a new program for administrative traffic citations. This would allow the Sheriff to give citations of $60 to speeders, stop sign runners etc instead of tickets. Then the City would collect $40 of that. The council took no action. After hearing the discussion and reading the materials provided, I am not all that positive on this program.

Next we briefly talked about a curfew ordinance, but it was tabled do to lack of support.

We approved a grant proposal for the senior center for automatic doors. The bid for the doors is $1950, and a grant should pay for that.

We reviewed the Long Range Planning minutes and made a recommendation to have the City Attorney pursue lien forfeiture by the lien holders of the old nursing home. If they will forfeit their liens, then we can tear the old building down. It needs to be torn down because it has quickly become a hazard.

We approved the receipt of a $100,000 grant from the Central Iron Range Sanitary Sewer District. We will use that money and another $100,000 CDBG grant to fix sanitary sewer lines in Buhl. The council approved going out for bids on those sewer lines.

Finally, we approved a $15,870 contribution to the Buhl Fire Relief Association to be paid next year. This is the first time I can remember approving the payment of a bill for the next year, but we did.

That was it. Come to the meeting on September 15, 2009 at 5:30 and let us know what you think about next years levy.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Council Meeting June 2, 2009

The meeting started 30 minutes early so that we could review the 2008 Fianancial Audit. Sterle and Company did our audit as they have every year since I have been on the council. The audit is available to anyone at City Hall, so I am not going to review it here. However, the audit was positive for 2008 without any real concerns. Buhl still has a fairly substantial amount of cash reserves and the auditor did not find any real problems.

Gene P spoke for Public Works to start the regular meeting. He told us that the boat landing was in, the camp ground is open, and alley cleanup was going well. He also let us know that he hired 4 people for summer help at $7.50/hour.

Mike L. spoke for the Fire/Ambulance and let us know that hydrant flushing would take place the week of June 7. Mike explained that there are 60 hydrants and it takes a lot of time and effort. So, two individuals would be paid the regular hourly rate for this work. Mike also asked for an additional $921 for the new fire truck for chassis wiring, radio install and wheel protectors. The council approved this spending and the new fire truck should be delivered this month. The final cost is @$120,000. I did not write down the exact cost but you can phone City Hall to find out.

Next up….the Rec Board asked to spend $1100 on new swings for the playground equipment. This amount was in the Rec Departments budget request for the year, so the board approved this purchase.

The meeting then went into a series of resolutions for improvements to East Monroe Drive, Frantz Street, President's Avenue and South Memorial Drive. Each project had three resolutions, and they were:

A resolution approving plans and specifications and ordering advertisement for bids.
A resolution declaring cost to be assessed and ordering preparation of proposed assessment.
A resolution for hearing on the proposed assessment.

Each project’s resolutions were passed, with the hearings to be held June 30 at the Senior Center starting at 5pm.

The total costs of the projects are estimated to be:

East Monroe Drive - $130,765
Frantz Street - $324,000
President’s Avenue – 120,000
South Memorial Drive - $75,000

The total cost estimate is $649,765, with $480,000 filled by various grants.

Next was final payment for the Stubler Pit project of $18,922.76. I asked the city engineer about the large rocks still in a pile down at Stubler and I told him that the walking trail had still not been repaired. Early on in the project, we had assurances that the “trail” would be repaired after the project was complete. There was some misunderstanding on this, as the engineer thought we were talking about the Mesabi Bike Trail, not the walking trail. An agreement was reached that will have the City Crew repair the walking trail using funds withheld from the final payment. The rocks were left, as the engineer did not believe that the contract enforced moving the rocks from the site.

I walked the trail last week, and the repairs have been completed.

Next up the council approved the purchase of a new lawnmower for $5628.52. The old lawnmower finally gave up, so the purchase was needed.

During the summer months there will be only one meeting a month….so next up the council had to approve the payments of certain regular bills for the months of June, July and August. These bills are telephone, waste, energy etc….normal monthly bills. The council approved this.

Last on the agenda was the City’s membership dues for the Minnesota Association of Small Cities. The total for the year is $562.35, which the council approved. This association lobbies the State Legislature on behalf of small cities, which gives us a larger voice in Minneapolis.

That was it, let me know what you think.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

April 21, 2009 Council Meeting

This council meeting was highlighted by the new Animal Ordinance, which I will review later in the post. The meeting started with the reports from the department heads. The Long Range Planning committee accepted Gene Mathews as a member as nominated by Mayor Pulford.

The Sheriff reported that it is time to get busy on blight enforcement again. Also, the Sheriff Department wants to rent the BEDA room for $150/month. The council voted to except that proposal.

The first order of business was Mr Troutwine from C&B Warehouse. Mr Troutwine has purchased the property at the corner of HWY 169 and Forest from the City. The term of the purchase was that Mr Troutwine would have until the end of 2009 to build a new Short Stop on the site, or the City would get the property back. Also, the cost of the site to Mr Troutwine ($14000) would be kept by the City even if the new Short Stop was not built. Mr Troutwine informed the Council that he did not think that he would be able to meet the timeline for the new Short Stop due to the current economic issues. Mr Troutwine will keep his option until the end of 2009, but he said that if the City were to find another buyer for the property, he would give up his option. So.... no new Short Stop for now.

Next up was a new Animal Control Ordinance. Buhl has a current ordinance that I think is not well written or specific enough to enforce. We need a better ordinance. However, the current ordinance is 2 1/4 pages, and the new ordinance is 11 1/2 pages. I think that the new ordinance is too long, too intrusive and I don't think it can be enforced. Some of the things in the new ordinance that I don't like are

  • The penalty for a violation is $300 + prosecution costs + a separate offense for each day. This is the same as the current ordinance, but it could be a huge cost to a Buhl taxpayer if they violate the ordinance for a couple of days.

  • If an animal is running at large, impounded and the owner is not found, the animal will be sold or disposed of (destroyed) after 5 days. This is almost the same language as the current ordinance but should be changed to give more time to find the owner and to allow for adoption of the pet.

  • Any police or Animal Control Officer may enter upon private property and seize any animal provided certain things of the things is that the seizure will not involve the forced entry into a private residence. I guess my problem with that is, the animal can be seized if the front door is unlocked, or a youth answers the door... I can think of a couple of other problems with that. Seizing dangerous animals needs to happen, but seizing barking dogs or animals at large (off the leash) is going too far.

  • The owner of a dangerous animal must have a hearing before the City Council. It would be better if the hearing were before a judge. After all, the person is guilty of a misdemeanor as an act of the City Council. They should not have to have a hearing before the same body.
  • Any animal is subject to seizing if it is considered a nuisance. A nuisance can be habitual barking, a dog urinating on the lawn, a dog or cat in any way harming property. I'm not sure we should go that far.

There are other problems I have with the ordinance, and I will propose a separate ordinance or a re-written ordinance at the next council meeting.

The vote on the new animal control ordinance was 3-2 for passage, with Councilor Swanson and myself voting against. However, later in the meeting the Council agreed to rescind that vote and wait until the next meeting to discuss the ordinance in greater detail.

Next up was the posting of the ordinance in the newspaper. By law, all new ordinances must be posted in full, or they can be posted in summary if 4 out of 5 council members agree to the summary. Both Councilor Swanson and myself voted against a summary appearing in the newspaper, forcing all 12 pages of the animal ordinance to be printed in the newspaper. Since none of the council members wanted to spend that much money on posting the ordinance, we all agreed to wait until the next council meeting for both the passage and posting of the new ordinance. It was generous of Councilors White and Gramm to rescind the ordinance vote and agree to delay the vote until the next meeting. 6:00pm on May 5, the Council will discuss the new Animal Control Ordinance in an open meeting. Hopefully a representative of the St Louis County Sheriff Dept will be able to attend. Get your copies of the ordinance at City Hall.

Next up was the confirmation of an RLK work order for Frantz, East Monroe, Presidents Ave and South Memorial. The total cost of engineering for these four projects would be $43,100 if all four are approved. The public hearing on these projects is scheduled for April 28 at 5:00pm at the senior center.

The next agenda item was a donation request for the St Louis County Fair. The council agreed with a 4-1 vote to donate $100.00 to the fair for 2009.

An announcement of Pay Equity training was next. It was decided that any council member that wanted to attend the training May 15 in Duluth could go. The cost is $29/attendee.

That's it. I'm looking for some feedback.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

April 7, 2009 Council Meeting

The meeting started with Public Works Gene P. telling about the summer help application process. The summer help workers will be able to submit applications to the City of Buhl by May 15 for summer work at $7.50/hour. The City will also be accepting bids on a white pickup for a minimum of $6500. Also, Spring Cleanup is June 1-4 with more details at City Hall.

In the Citizen's Forum, Thad H. from Buhl talked about a proposal for a new Disc Golf Course in Buhl. The course would be 18 holes, designed and paid for by the Hibbing Disc Golf Association (HDGA). This organization is a non-profit that receives grants to build courses. The course would be owned by Buhl, but mainly maintained by the Association, with Buhl responsible for mowing only. The HDGA would like to build the course around Judson Pit, but they are open to other areas for the course.

HDGA believes that the course would be of a large benefit to Buhl, and could be a potential money maker in the long term for the City. I have not made up my mind on this, and I have a lot of questions about the course and the long term ability of the City to maintain the course. I could use some feedback from you, so let me know what you think.

The first order of business was a Resolution supporting bills in the State of MN Legislature establishing the Central Iron Range Sanitary Sewer District. These bills really just re-established the district with new rules and guidelines. If there ever is a sanitary sewer district, Buhl will be part of it so that we don't have to build and maintain our own sewer plant. The resolution passed unanimously.

Next, the Buhl/Kinney Ambulance and First Responder Contract was approved. It provides guidance on how Kinney residents and Kinney City employees will work on the Buhl ambulance.

The next piece of business was a request from a Buhl citizen to purchase all 18 lots available in the Stubler development. The individual offered $161,000 for all 18 lots or $8900 each. To break even on the project, the City needs $325,000, or $18,000 per lot. The council invited the individual to the next meeting to discuss the issue.

Next up we talked about 2009 projects and which ones might be feasible. The City decided to move ahead with public hearings on each project. The projects are Frantz Street, East Monroe Drive, Presidents Avenue and South Memorial Drive. Each project will be completed if funding assistance is available from alternative resources such as the Federal Gov, State Gov, IRRRB etc.

There was also a discussion on assessments for the Presidents Avenue project, and it was decided that assessments of $2,000 were already completed on the homes on the south side of Presidents Ave. Those funds are in an account previously set aside for the paving of Presidents Avenue.

So we hade resolutions calling for public hearings on the improvements I mentioned above.

There was another resolution approving a community development block grant with St Louis County that gives Buhl $100,000 that will be used for sewer and water projects.

The City Clerk and City Finance Director were given raises equal to that of the City Contract employees. The raise was $.70/hour.

We paid two invoices to RLK. One for the East Monroe Street project for $262.50 and one for the Stubler Pit Project for $241.25.

We tabled a discussion on Quest high speed Internet. The person that had made the request rescinded the request.

There is an Economic Stimulus Resource Workshop on April 17, 2009 that the is being put on by IRR. This is open to all City workers and council members.

Before the meeting the personnel committee met some of the city workers and talked about the new Personnel Policy and the new Pay Plan. It has been and will continue to be a long process in getting these new policies in place. But the meeting went well and I hope to continue with the process in the next month or so.

Your feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

March 17, 2009 Council Meeting

I am almost too late on this post, but here it is.

John M. started the meeting by telling us why State St is dark at night. The underground electric cable is damaged/broken and needs replacement. Johnny is working on a temp fix to get the lights on, then he will finish with a permanent fix.

The City Attorney (Al) let us know that the League of MN Cities did not find a problem with the ambulance contract between Kinney and Buhl. That should be finalized (finally) in April.

The agenda started with a discussion on the 2009 budget and the loss of $40,000 in LGA for Buhl. We decided to restrict spending as much as possible this year, and if there is a budget shortfall at the end of the year then we will transfer money from Buhl's savings to cover the shortfall.

Mayor Pulford gave us a copy of a Bill (HF 17) that will cover the Central Iron Range Sanitary Sewer District if it is passed. This District will provide sewer service to Hibbing, Chisholm, Buhl and Kinney. The cost of the sewer lines and work on the Hibbing sewer plant will be paid for by State, Federal and local dollars. Both Buhl and Chisholm need new plants, and this District will allow our sewer lines to be connected to Hibbing's plant. A new plant just for Buhl is @$2 million. So, either we use Hibbing's plant or build our own.

John M. gave us bids for electrical work in the City for the summer. This work is spread out mostly over the north side of Buhl. The total cost of the project is $103,726 and will be completed by Minnesota Power, with the money coming out of the Electric Fund.

Buhl's Clerk Mike then asked if we wanted him to put in for more CDBG grants for 2010. The discussion was centered around the fact that Buhl will lose another $40,000 in LGA next year and may not be able to match the CDBG grants as required. We decided that Mike should request additional CDBG grants for 2010, and we will see what we get. Then we will try to find the additional money within the City to match the grants. These grants are for community development, and we use them to fix our infrastructure problems.

The next discussion was on the Stubler Pit project and whether or not to pay the final payment of the contract. The final payment is $18,922, and we did not make the final payment yet. During our initial discussions on Stubler we were assured that the walking trail around Stubler would be repaired after all of the construction and as of now it has not been fixed. Also, there are dozens of very large rocks that should be removed from the site. This payment was tabled.

We paid an invoice for Frantz St improvements for engineering for a total of $806.

We talked about sending employees to water license training. The discussion was whether or not we should use training that is free, or use training that we need to pay for. We decided that the free training provided by Minnesota Rural Water Association was just as good as the fee for service training. Buhl employees will use the free training.

We paid the invoice for the new defibrillators that was purchased for the Fire/Ambulance Department. The Fire Department received a FEMA grant for $11,875 for this purchase. The entire purchase was $12,239.25, so the total cost to Buhl was $364.25.

Last was the resignation of a rec board member.

That was the entire meeting, let me know what you think.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

March 3, 2009 Council Meeting

The last meeting took about 20 min, without any real hard issues. I quickly followed that up with the meat raffle at Billy's. Here goes.

The Buhl Fire Chief (Mike L) told us about a possible grant from the MN Board of Fire Fighters to help supplement the training of our fire fighters. He will let us know if we get any money from that grant.

The Sheriff report included praise for Buhl's Deputy Brock K. for his time spent at the Buhl skating rink during the recent winter fling. There was also a report on the Buhl squad car, and that it had to be repaired twice last month. Both times were electrical problems.

The first agenda issue as a handout that shows the cuts for LGA that Buhl will be facing in 2009 and 2010. For 2009 the cut will be @$40,000. In 2010 we expect a $90,000 cut. We will have to make some changes to the budget due to those cuts. The handout was for the council to look over and form some ideas.

Next we talked about changing the council meetings to just one day a month for June, July and August. We decided that we will do that if we can, and we will wait until May or so to make that decision.

We approved the Local Board of Appeal and Equalization meeting for May 5, 2009 at City Hall from 10-11 am.

We tabled an invoice from RLK for the Frantz Street improvement project. There was not enough information to determine what the invoice included.

That was it. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

February 3, 2009 Council Meeting

Gene P. spoke for Public Works, and told us that the City is still working with MP&L on the electric service for a home in Buhl. The home owner has found that the power is typically low by about 13 or 14 volts.

The Recreation Board asked for $750 for a winter party called the Winter Frolic. The Council approved this.

The Sheriff told us that the Buhl Squad car is deteriorating, and we will need to purchase a new vehicle soon, most likely before next winter. The cost should be around $27,000. The current vehicle is a 2005 and has nearly 96,000 miles on it.

The Mayor informed everyone that Northland Village is open and taking new residents. Northland Village is an assisted living center located on the south side of Buhl near Hwy 169.

The agenda started with Shari informing the council that she spoke to the Police Chief for Chisholm concerning police protection. Shari had a few discussions with the Police Chief concerning service with their department and what the cost would be. The Chief told Shari that the total cost per year would be about $90,000, although he would need to know exactly what the Sheriff contract consisted of before he could give a specific bid. The Chisholm Chief of Police attended the meeting, but before he came to our meeting, he asked permission from the Chisholm City Council to attend and to come up with a bid package if the City of Buhl requested one.

This was the only real discussion of the meeting, and it ended with a vote to keep the Sheriff Department as the sole provider of Police protection for Buhl. The vote was 3-2 to keep the Sheriff and not accept a bid from Chisholm. Voting for Sheriff only protection was the mayor, Colin G. and Jesse W. Voting against was Shari S. and myself.

My issue was.... lets get as many bids as we can and take the lowest/best bid. In my opinion, nothing could be lost by asking Chisholm to bid on police protection. The Chisholm Chief said that it would be 24/7 service for $90,000/year. We currently pay the Sheriff Department $85,000/year for 40 hours of service. Additionally, we purchase a $25,000 vehicle every 4 years for the Sheriff, and the City of Buhl provides computer and other expensive ancillary equipment for the Sheriff that we would not have to provide to the Chisholm Police.

My point is this.... it is always in the best interest of the public to investigate competitive bids. We should not always accept the lowest bid, be we should always accept the best bid. The Mayor and other two council members decided that Buhl should not accept other bids.

As to the reasons for the vote. Colin G. did state his reasons for his vote, I disagreed with him, but that's ok. At least he told the public his reason for not wanting another bid. Jesse W. had a conflict over what he wanted to say, and what he wanted to state in public. He explained his vote to me in private after the meeting. I still think that we should have accepted a bid, however Jesse's reasons are valid and would have seriously influenced my decision to accept Chisholm as our police provider. The mayor though gave no reason for his vote.

I have been a Union Representative for 15 years. In that time, I have learned that you should never enter negotiations with a position on the subject. You should only have issues that need to be resolved. Our mayor always has a position, but rarely is open to discuss the issues. I'll continue to work on him.

Next we reviewed the 2008 budget and found that there was $12,404 left over at the end of 2008. Thanks to Mary, Mike and the whole City of Buhl crew, we once again ended the year with some money left over. If you see any of the crew, thank them for not over spending taxpayer money.

We briefly talked about the 2009 budget, and I have no reason to think that we will over spend in 2009.

We next talked about SWOP, the Summer Work Outreach Project. In the past, Buhl has given SWOP $500/year to do work around Buhl. For 2009, due to the current budget issues, we voted against giving money to SWOP.

Next we voted against giving money to the Chisholm, Buhl, Balken Summer Recreation program. Previously, we gave $1200/year to this program. A few years ago 8 or more Buhl children would attend this program. But last year only two attended daily. We decided that the money would be better spent on Buhl's summer rec program, if it is spent at all.

We did get some comments on the police issue from a concerned citizen, but the comments were after the vote, so there was no impact to the vote from this citizen.

Let me know what you think.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Buhl Personnel Policy and Salary Structure

I am currently working on the Buhl Personnel Policy and Salary Structure. Three years ago the Council decided that Buhl needed a written personnel policy, and Shari and I volunteered to work on it. The draft of that policy, along with a new salary structure and pay plan has been given to the City Council. It is available to anyone that wants to see it at Buhl City Hall, or email me and I'll send you a soft copy of the current draft versions.

The personnel policy is needed to protect the employees and their benefits, along with protecting the City from potential litigation. After working on the policy for some time, we found that we couldn't complete it without incorporating a more formal structured pay policy. This structure will allow the City to place a new employee within a salary area, and will allow the employee the chance to move to a higher pay area after the employee meets certain conditions. This salary structure/pay plan will give the City a greater degree of flexibility when dealing with employee's salary.

Please give me any comments that you may have.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

January 20, 2009 Council Meeting

John Markas started the meeting with a list of five requests. First was a change in the sewer rates from $.0158/cubic foot over 100 cubic feet to $.0250/cubic foot over 100 cubic feet. The sewer fund lost money last year, so a rate increase was needed. The City of Buhl needs to keep the sewer fund making some money so that we can continue to maintain the sewer treatment plant. The Council approved this request.

The next thing John asked for was a new lawn mower to replace the 2003 mower Buhl owns now. The expected cost is $9000 with the trade in of the old mower worth about $4500 for a total of $4500 to the City. The Council approved this request.

John’s third request was for to put out a bid for rebuilding 7 blocks of power lines in Buhl. He expects the cost to be @$200,000. This money will come from the electric fund that currently has a balance of @$800,000. The Council approved the bidding process.

The forth request was for a sewer line jetter, with an estimated cost of $10,000. The Council approved this request.

Finally, John wanted to spend $2400 for auto dialers for the three sewer lift stations in Buhl. If a station fails, the auto dialer will call a pre-programmed number to let the City know that the station is broken. Last year, the lift station on East Monroe St failed due to a lightning storm, and some flooding occurred. These auto dialers should prevent another flooding from happening. The Council approved this purchase.

Buhl Fire Chief Mike L asked that the City join the North East Co-op for emergency equipment (I made up the emergency equipment part, Mike couldn't remember the entire Co-op name) for $75/year. This allows the Fire Department to purchase emergency gear for a reduced price. The Council approved this request.

The Sheriff asked for @$300 for a back lit keyboard for the Buhl squad car. This will keep the deputy from having to turn on the interior light to find the correct keys on the laptop in the squad. The Council approved this request.

The City Attorney Al gave a brief update on a couple of issues. The Waste Management contract was completed. The Kinney/Buhl ambulance service meeting is scheduled for Jan 29 at 4:30pm at the Buhl City Hall. Al reminded the Council about the proposed agreement/meeting with the boy scouts concerning Lake Leander. We need to schedule a meeting for that issue.

First on the agenda, Buhl’s fire chief Mike L asked for money for a new defibulator. The City of Buhl will initially pay $12,239.25 for the defibulator, and will be reimbursed for all but $612. So the total cost will be $612, and Buhl will receive a small portable defibulator to go along with the normal one. The Council approved this request.

Next was a discussion of an ambulance training policy. After some confusion (on my part) concerning the title of the policy “Ambulance Training Reimbursement Policy”, I made the motion to approve the policy, but to leave out the Reimbursement part in the title. Basically, the policy allows the ambulance employee that goes to the training to receive the cost of the training as payment. The policy calls for the payment to be treated as payroll by the City. For instance, if the cost of the training is $450, then the City pays for the training, is reimbursed by Minnesota’s Emergency Medical Services Board, then passes that $450 on to the employee as pay for their time. The cost for this comes out of the ambulance fund.

Next up was the City of Buhl Personnel Policy. When Contract negotiations took place last, the Council appointed Shari and myself to be the personnel committee for those negotiations. The Council also tasked the personnel committee to come up with a Personnel Policy for all City of Buhl employees. Not an easy task. Shari and I have worked with the City Attorney and the City Clerk to come up with the Personnel Policy and also a Pay Plan for City employees. These two documents were presented to the Council at the meeting.

Jesse White wants a more formal structure to what the personnel committee does. For instance, how long does the committee serve, how many council members are on the committee? So he and I will sit down and try to come up with a more structured plan for the committee. In the past, the committee was appointed by the Mayor to negotiate the City Contract with the Union. A new committee was appointed each time the contract negotiations took place.

The Council approved the new Waste Management contract, which provides garbage pickup for Buhl until Dec 14, 2014.

The Council agreed to an easement with Ziegler on the haul road near Whiteside. Ziegler will pay Buhl $4000 for 10 years of easement. This is a significant increase over the $100 for 10 years we received last time. The City Clerk and Mayor did a good job getting a large increase in this contract.

The Council approved the contracting of RLK as Buhl’s contract engineering company for 2009. The terms are the same as they were in 2008.

St Louis county asked Buhl if we wanted a voting machine to own for future elections. After I teased the City Clerk about the last election (all in fun), the Council approved the voting machine. The annual maintenance charge for the voting machine will be $40-50.

The Council transferred some money from a City capital fund for payment of the East Monroe Drive sewer improvements. The total transfer was $1926.07.

Finally, the Council approved a Knights of Columbus Bingo request for two dates in 2009.

Lots of typing, but the meeting was only 1 hour. Try to catch it on TV and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

January 6, 2009 Council Meeting

Well, not much happened at the last meeting. Jessie White wrote it up at his blog here

The thing at the meeting that was not just bills and housekeeping was the snowblower for the rec department. Early in the meeting Gene P. spoke about the current snowblower that the rec department has for the hockey rinks. That snowblower was broken (not the first time), and Gene told us that the sewer plant had an extra one that the rec department could use while the regular snowblower was fixed. In the end , we voted to buy a new snowblower from Sears, a 33 inch Craftsman Professional for $1799.99. A lot of money spent at a time when we are trying to cut back.

Initially, I was not going to vote for a new blower. The more that I thought about it, and the more Jill from the rec department talked about the old blower, the more I changed my mind. My thought on this was the old "right tool for the right job". The old blower did not get the job done, and it takes a lot of man power to shovel out all that snow. Extra man power means extra people working at $7.00-$8.00/ hour. Two or three extra people 7-8 times a year and that turns into real money. Plus, the old snowblower just isn't made for cleaning that much snow. That was my thought process during the discussion. More staffing = more money in wages.

Besides the snowblower, the only other thing that I am really looking for input on is the Buhl Economic Development Agency (BEDA) that Jesse, Tom H. and myself were named to. I have been on BEDA for 4 years now, and I find it a difficult board to be on. Really, every person on the board tries hard, but we are all amateurs at economic development. The question is.... what is the best way to get some new businesses into Buhl? We have some land to sell, we have the South Industrial Park to fill up and the Whiteside Industrial Park too. We also have some commercial property in the City, but finding businesses to come to Buhl is not easy.

I thought that BEDA could offer financial incentives to people to find businesses that would come (and stay) in Buhl, sort of a "finder's fee". Say you were to find a business that would move to Buhl, that business came to BEDA and we were able to find them a building or building site, and the business stayed in Buhl for 1 year. Maybe BEDA could pay a finder's fee to the person that brought the business to BEDA. What, maybe $1000.00? It couldn't be a home business, and it would have to stay open in Buhl for some specified amount of time (no finder's fees to members of the City Council).

I could use some ideas here. What do you think?