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Alleged ordinance violations tackled by Kelliher City Council

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Alleged ordinance violations tackled by Kelliher City Council
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

The Kelliher City Council met for its regular meeting Aug. 16 with almost a dozen residents present. Discussion centered around a resident's letter to the council requesting information and alleging ordinance violations.

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Linda Larsen had sent a letter of requesti for information and to voice a complaint about possible ordinance violations. She was informed that her letter was not on the agenda and due to this fact, it needed to be addressed during the Public Forum.

Larsen asked why it wasn't on the agenda, because she had sent the letter to the council in written form. Councilman Richard Skoe asked if she had received a reply to her letter because Mayor Darin Latterell reported that he had responded to the letter addressing her requests.

Skoe asked if she had any questions to his response and Larsen said that her questions in her letter were not addressed. Skoe stated that there were four points in her letter and the mayor answered all her inqiries.

Larsen had asked how she could get the meeting minutes since they hadn't been published in the paper. She was told that she would have to check the city's website for the minutes to which she resonded that she doesn't have Internet access. Skoe suggested that she go to the library to use the Internet or send in a request in writing for the minutes. He also explained to her the city is not required to inform everyone of a regularly scheduled meeting just special meetings.

Larsen then questioned the validity of the copy of ordinances she received because it wasn't a signed copy. After a lengthy discussion, Skoe asked that she send a detailed request in writing. Councilmember Laura Nelson eexplained that the minutes that are in the American newspaper are not the official minutes that it was the reporter reading over the minutes and creating a story for the paper. She also exlpained that the minutes from the previous meeting are officially approved at the next meeting and that it is not the city's responsibility or requirement to have them in the paper. Skoe added that most all of the minutes in the paper are not the official minutes of that meeting.

Kelliher City Clerk Shelli Krueth read from Minnesota Statute 412.191 subd. 3, which says that cities with a population under 1,000 are not required to publish the minutes of their meetings and on the Master Fee Schedule passed each year, state the minutes are available to the public for a fee of 25¢ per page.

Larsen asked if the city of Kelliher recognizes the public forum as a "request format" for the council to address the remainder of her letter and the concerns she had written in her letter.

Councilmember Dan Persons asked if the council should move on but Mayor Latterell felt that the council should look at the ordinance she referenced, even though there was no direct question on it, he felt that it was probably what Larsen is asking about.

Skoe asked Krueth what she found out concerning the city's law enforcement coverage. She informed them that she had received a reply from Deputy Chief Bakke stating they will enforce the city ordinances, however since they are not here all the time and would not be witness to the crime, it would be up to the citizens to file a complaint. He was asked specifically if a resident or the city gave them the information, would they follow up and investigate? The answer was yes, they would investigate.

Skoe said that it was law enforcement's job, not the councils to investigate the situation. Krueth agreed, stating it should be a civil matter and that Larsen should contact law enforcement and give them the information and the ordinance that was broken and let them investigate and issue citations if need be.

Larsen responded by asking exactly what does the council do then?

"You establish them and do nothing with them?" she asked.

The council agreed by saying that they are not the law enforcement. Council Vicki Rabe said she hoped all citizens would live within the laws. Nelson agreed, adding that this is part of living in a community -- "you will have noise from your neighbors."

Dorothy Schuh commented that it is very good to have a private land owner providing a place for the legal use of the lawn mowers her children and others around town, have built. The debate continued for another 15 minutes with other residents joining in. Nothing was resolved and the council moved on.

The following consent agenda items were presented and then approved:

• City council meeting minutes from July 19 and Aug. 4

• Receipts totaling $100,334.80

• Claims paid prior totaling $37,974.42

• Employee overtime report

• Delinquent water/sewer accounts

• Cash control statement

• Bank reconciliation report

Councilmen Skoe had a few questions about the Cash Control Statement.

He asked about the Debt Service Fund, as to why it is in the deficit. Krueth informed him that the city has only received the first half of the property taxes, but has had to pay the principal on the Debt Service loan, so it will be in the negative until the second half is received, however it did start out in the negative. Nelson said that the School Debt Service Fund also does this, based upon payments and receipts.

Mayor Latterell stated that when the 2011 Tax Levy was decided on, the council knew they should've levied more but was trying to keep the taxes low. It has been an annual problem for the last few years and will need to be addressed in the budget work meeting when the Proposed Tax Levy will be decided upon.

Then Skoe asked if the city still had any outstanding revolving loans. Latterell told him there is one loan still out for the Road Runner.

Finally he asked what the difference was between the General Fund and the General Cimma. Latterell explained that it is the same pool of money, only in different checking accounts at the bank earning different interest rates.

While the council reviewed the liquor store's July income statement Nelson asked if the inventory was higher than normal. Clerk Krueth said she knew he had made a couple of bigger purchases taking advantage of sales. Skoe stated that the year-to-date numbers were close.

Krueth informed the council that there have been some problems with the pull tabs lately and there will be a meeting scheduled with the Upper Red Lake Area Association to change some of the processes and controls that are in place. It was suggested to place automatic dispensing boxes on a wall, which would eliminate the possible error of miscounting when switching from the $1 box to the $2 box or possibly getting a scale to weigh the boxes before and after each shift (along with counting the money). Skoe asked if having a separate box for each employee would be an option. Krueth said she had been told that they used to have that set-up, however because of the employee's hours the games would be in play for over a month each and we would have to have game banks for each so that set-up didn't work very well.

The city's current employment policy states that the employee would pay the difference if a game was short more than $10 and that each employee has to sell pull tabs. Discussion was held concerning this policy and possible changes. The vouncil doesn't want this policy to create distrust and suspicion amongst the employees thus creating a bad work environment.

Latterell remembered when the policy was put into place, as the pull tabs were consistently short by a couple thousand per year. But he also thought there was $150 threshold before the employees had to pay the difference. After this policy was put into place, the problem ended.

There was some discussion regarding spot auditing the boxes by the URLAA and more training. Persons said that when he attended the MMBA training, this kind of policy was common practice among all cities who have employees selling pull tabs. Krueth said that the meeting with URLAA is mandatory for all liquor store employees and if conducted in a positive manner and by having the employees help find a solution, this will not erode the work environment.

City Maintenance Supervisor Chuck Schultz came before the council requesting Derrick Schuh be allowed to continue working for the city part time doing odd jobs.

At the previous meeting, Krueth was given permission to hire Schuh part-time until the August meeting and was directed to check with Minnesota CEP program to see if they had any funds available. Schuh was hired for 16.50 hours. Krueth had informed the council that she had heard back from Minnesota CEP and was told that there were no funds for an employee for the city at this time, however they will be looking at their year round program so there may be some funds at a later date.

Schultz informed the council that he really didn't need someone year round, but it would be nice. The council questioned the type of work he could do, since he is only 15 years old. Krueth was directed to get the Department of Labor pamphlet. Chuck clarified that he is requesting the ability to hire Schuh on occasion when he needs help, not as a set number of hours per week.

The counciul then voted to approve the continued employment of Schuh on an "as needed" basis.

The council received a print out informing them of what the final LGA funds will be for the city and the Market Home Value Credit reductions. Discussion was held concerning the proposed tax levy which needed to be submitted to the county by Sept. 15 and the budget work meeting. Since Widseth Smith Nolting wasn't able to attend the meeting, they requested to be at the budget work meetingset for Sept. 8.

Clerk Krueth presented the Council with claims to be paid totaling $26,743.43.

Mayor Latterell informed the council that Joe Corcoran was going to come and talk to the Council about Choice Therapy opening up an office in the Old School and possibly chiropractor business. He was going to ask about the Revolving Loan Funds and the Business Incentive Grant Fund to try to help coordinate their applications. Discussion was held concerning the qualifications.

The council was presented with Resolution 2011-06, accepting a grant for the First Responders of $1,000 for the disaster training they just completed.

They were also presented with a prepayment agreement from Northern Star Cooperative for the upcoming heating season with a per gallon price of $1.95. Krueth showed the amount spent last year, which was double what they had prepaid. Discussion was held concerning the cost to heat the maintenance building and where the cost was allocated to heat the building. The council directed that the cost be allocated to the water sewer since the main reason for heating the building is because the water treatment equipment is in that building.

The council then voted to approve the prepayment of 3,000 gallons at $1.95 per gallon.

Krueth presented the council with advertising costs for the Big Bog Festival, requesting the city donate the remaining advertising costs of $781.59.

Discussion was held concerning how the auditors regard the expense and what had been done in the past.

Most cities pay for advertising as it draws people to the town. This is the only expense the city has paid for in relation to the Big Bog Festival. The budget does have money for advertising. The 2012 budget will allocate a set amount for advertising the Big Bog Festival so they will know what's available. The request for the festival donation for advertising was then approved.

It has been suggested to set up an award or key to the city for volunteerism to give the citizens some recognition for all they do for the community. Discussion was held as how to set it up, what the criteria should be, how the people would be nominated and who would chose the years' recipient. Krueth said she would find out how other cities have set these types of programs up and if a neighboring city would be willing to make the final decision.

Krueth told the council that she had met with Diane Morey from Northwest Minnesota Foundation and received her comments on the wording of the city's grant application. Discussion was regarding all the suggestions.

Grant application rules will be changed to:

• Part-time employees will be defined as working 15-31 hours per week, averaged

• Full time employees defined as 32 hours or more per week, averaged

• Owners will be included as a employee,

• Employment must be for a minimum of 1 year,

• Ownership repayment will be prorated by 20 percent reduction per year,

• Maximum Grant funds for construction/acquisition $5,000,

• Maximum funds for jobs $5,000,

• If there is no real property to attach a lien to, a personal guarantee will be required,

• If the business is a start up, the grant will be for 25 percent of the startup cost up to the $5,000 maximum.

After the council voted to approved the changes, Krueth will meet with Morey and discuss all of the changes and possiblly others and have new application drawn up to be reviewed again by council.

Nelson informed the vity that the school district was looking at purchasing the property next to the school bus garage. The purchase will be removing it from the property tax roles and she just wanted the city to be aware.

Skoe suggested the city obtain a written agreement with the Beltrami County Sherriff's Department stating exactly what their policing will include. He doesn't believe enforcing the ordinances is the council's job, governing the city is creating the rules and enforcing them is a police matter.

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Pioneer staff reports
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