by Dave DeMars
By usual standards, the meeting of the Rice City Council ran long last on March 7, but the council dealt with plenty of issues and was able to finish its work just minutes before 9 pm. Several issues stood out and took the most time.
The council has considered employment of a part-time police officer and had undertaken a search to find a suitable candidate to fill the position. There was a good field of candidates with some coming from as far away as Minneapolis–St. Paul. After many interviews and pending completion of some further background investigations, the council moved to hire Brent William Curtis. The vote was not unanimous, and council member Voigt went on the record as opposing the hire.
“As all of you know, I voted against this in the beginning, so [I’m staying] true [by] voting against it,” Voigt explained. “It’s not against him, officer Curtis. It’s against the idea of how we did this and if this is the best thing for the city at this time.”
The council took the unusual step of calling for a roll-call vote instead of the usual voice vote. The vote was 4-1.
“The way this is worded, it makes it look like I’m voting against him,” said Voigt, addressing Rice Police Chief Ross Hamann. “I’m not. Can you make that clear for me? I’m simply opposed to employing another police officer at this time.”
RFP protection plan
Extensive discussion ensued on the RFP protection plan for the wellhead. Wellhead protection is a way to prevent drinking water from becoming polluted by managing possible sources of contamination in the area which supplies water to a public. Cost to the city if contamination were to occur would be considerable, so insurance covers some costs if contamination would happen.
Rice City Engineer Mike Rardin of Bolton-Menk said the protection plan was fairly standard in nature and was required by the state. Every city has the same requirements, though the plan might vary somewhat due to unusual factors. To complete the entire plan might require the hiring of a consultant.
“We’re small enough so the state did ‘part one’ for us,” said Mark Sauer of the Rice maintenance department, “and now we’re big enough to where we will have to do ‘part two.’ So we’ll have to get a consultant.”
There was some concern as to whether there would be enough time to advertise for and contract a consultant. Costs could run anywhere from $7,500 to $11,000. After some discussion, it became clear a final plan was not required, but some sort of report would be necessary by April 15.
In the end, council agreed to use Bolton-Menk to complete the RFP Protection Plan and the motion carried unanimously.
Building rental issues
The council took up the issue of building-rental to the Lions Club on March 27. In discussion, council member Kampa commented the unnamed Lion’s Club representative had apparently forfeited her deposit in December 2015 because of failure to clean the facility after use. Kampa went on to question whether there was anything in the rental agreement to ensure compliance with the rental terms. One suggestion was to raise the deposit fee for groups that failed to comply. Another was to implement a three-strike rule and double deposits to offending groups. It was agreed it can’t be done immediately, but it would be something for future discussions.
The representative did not attend the meeting despite being told the issue would be taken up at council. Several council members wished a representative would have attended in order to explain what had happened the last time.
It was explained while there was no damage to the facility, there was a considerable amount of clean-up of the building after rental the last time. Clean-up was done by the city and took about two to three hours on Christmas Eve to get the facility ready for the next group coming in the next morning. Cost of the clean-up was not adequately covered by the damage deposit.
Since the problem was not damages, but cleaning, some members of the council said they were willing to give the group a second chance, but if the problem persists, then that would be the end of rental privileges. Other members suggested damage deposits be doubled if the problem persists and after two strikes the group would no longer be qualified to rent. It was pointed out the issue is not damage; it’s the cost of clean up. If broken chairs and tables exceed the damage deposit, the council files a claim with the insurance company the lessee is required to have for damages in excess of the deposit. That cannot be done if the problem is simply dirty floors and garbage left strewn about.
In the end, the motion by Skroch, seconded by Kampa to go ahead with the rental was carried.
In other business the council approved a ball-field agreement for 2016, approved the cable franchise agreement and directed Mary Kay Muehlbauer work with the demolition company that will be demolishing a building for the city. Muehlbauer would like to re-purpose some of the siding on the house and wanted to remove it before the house was demolished.
Council also received the engineer’s report dealing with phosphorus and phosphate contaminants infiltrating and exiting the city ponds. Rardin said there would be some kind of treatment necessary since the levels were higher than state regulations allow. Phosphates and phosphorus are chiefly derived from residential and business use of cleaners and detergents that contain these contaminants. If voluntary reduction doesn’t work, then some kind of alum treatment program must be in place.
The council also received reports from city clerk, maintenance, water committee, recreation and park board.
With the night’s work completed, Mayor Dale Rogholt declared the meeting to be adjourned.
Author: Dave DeMars
Born and raised in Wisconsin – a “Happy Days” high school experience. Attended UW-River Falls and followed their motto – “Where the free spirit prevails.” Four years in the Army Security Agency (Spies), 31 years teaching English and directing plays. Other jobs – gandy dancer, counselor at mental institution, snowmaker, apple picker, concrete finishing, janitor, furniture mover, appliance sales, insurance sales, media sales, real estate, and writer. I am skeptical to a fault and like all human being I am more oxymoron than I am anything else. I blog at http://www.curmudgeonstwist.net/