Crosslake Council chooses to contract Planning and Zoning with Crow Wing County
Web posted October 1, 2013
By Paul Boblett, Editor
The Crosslake City Council, by a 4-1 vote, eliminated the jobs of Community Development Director Ken Anderson and GIS Planner Bryan Hargrave by contracting Crosslake’s Planning and Zoning (P&Z) duties to the staff of Crow Wing County (CWC) Land Services department on Tuesday, September 24.
Tuesday night’s standing room only meeting was a continuation from Monday night’s regular meeting, when the issue was introduced to council.
Council members Mark Wessels and Gary Heacox brought the proposal forward Monday after meeting with CWC Land Services staff twice, as part of a four-person committee that included city admin/consultant Dan Vogt and city attorney Brad Person.
Wessels and Heacox voted in favor of the action, along with council member John Moengen and Mayor Darrell Schneider. Voting no was councilman Steve Roe.
Earlier Tuesday, the CWC Board of Commissioners approved offering the Memorandum of Understanding [MOU] to the City of Crosslake.
During council discussion Tuesday night, Vogt told the council that it was questioned as to whether or not Wessels and Heacox were authorized by the city to request the county proposal.
Mayor Schneider then suggested that council ratify the work done the appointed committee. That vote also passed 4-1, voting no, Roe.
As reported in last week’s Northland Press, the MOU’s administrative provisions include the county agrees to be responsible to review and approve all planning and zoning permit requests within the city. Permit fees for review, approval, inspection and enforcement of SSTS would be according to the most recent fee schedule approved by the council.
It also stated that CWC Land Services will hire adequate staff to provide planning and zoning services to Crosslake and said staff shall be located at the City Hall.
The county will manage the public hearing process related to variances, plats, conditional use permits and zoning map amendments according to the City Zoning Ordinance and Minnesota Statutes 462.
It also includes enforcement, and taking appropriate action to bring parcels into compliance with the City Zoning Ordinance. The city would remain responsible for pursuing any civil or criminal violations.
If CWC agrees to the Memorandum of Understanding, the cost will be $15,834 per month for the remainder of 2013 and all of 2014.
There is also a provision for either party to terminate the memorandum with no less than 120 days notice. The party that terminates is responsible for associated costs such as unemployment insurance.
The MOU is contingent upon the County and City agreeing upon a budget for subsequent year(s) of services to be provided by the County for the City. If a budget is not agreed upon by September 30 for the following year of service, this MOU becomes null and void.
Tuesday night, Anderson and Hargrave were afforded an opportunity to address the council.
The memo to council stated that Crosslake’s planning and zoning department was reported to have a 2014 requested budget of around $327,000.
Anderson argued that there are no cost savings, and no benefit financially.
He challenged the math of the annual savings of $140 thousand noted in the memo and explained that some information was misleading, namely the inclusion of a $35,000 vehicle and GPS locator as stated to be in the department’s 2014 budget.
Roe confirmed those items were not part of Anderson’s proposed 2014 budget.
The department is $55,000 under budget for 2013, as former planner Edy Asell’s position was never filled.
Anderson added that the county’s proposed budget didn’t include line items such as legal fees, publishing of legal notices and travel expenses.
Anderson thanked staff members and coworkers from the time he worked at the city and added, “If this goes forward, there is a lot of unfinished business in the department. It will be difficult.”
He also asked the public to be patient to allow the county to provide the services.
Anderson said this whole process was “an orchestrated assassination” and added, “there is no justice in this recommendation for the citizens of Crosslake or [city] staff.”
Hargrave said he enjoyed his time in Crosslake, “[But] one of the greatest frustrations in the P&Z dept. is that there are no consequences for people that chose to disobey.”
He also echoed Anderson’s statement that the department could only act on ordinance changes and violations if directed by council.
Hargrave asked Wessels, “How many ordinances did you put forward so we could start the process?”
“We could have done it in a month,” said Hargrave. “We never received that direction.”
Hargrave closed by saying, “This is not going to solve anything for you, but only time will tell and with that I say farewell.”
There were nine people that addressed council during the public forum session. They included ASCFME Council 65 Labor Representative Ginger Thrasher, who told council that she was both surprised and a little astounded that this is the way she had to find out what the Council was planning.
Thrasher added that the Union will demand they meet to bargain the effects of this change, as is required of the employer. Having received no information, Thrasher also stated there would be requests for information that the City will be required to provide.
Thrasher told council, “that the devil is in the details."
Thrasher, who represents Hargrave, said by phone Thursday, “The city must bargain [with the union] on the impact of the effects of the reorganization and Crosslake did none of this. I have been with Crosslake since around 2005 and I never heard anything about this plan. I was never contacted, until Bryan Hargrave called me late last Friday.”
“The city has missed the mark by not coming to the bargaining table to negotiate the impact of the effects created by these changes,” explained Thrasher, who also represents Crow Wing County Land Service employees. “By not notifying the [union] rep, they avoided the process that should occur. The union is considering all options available on how to proceed forward.”
"Minnesota law requires that the employer negotiate with the union about any jobs that are being contracted out," added Thrasher.
Anderson is a non-union employee with over ten years of service to the city.
Also addressing the council were former Mayor Darrell Swanson, former P&Z chair Peter Abler, WAPOA president Dave Fischer, and residents Alden Hardwick and Pat Netko. All were opposed to the action.
Of the nine who spoke only resident Richard Novak was in favor of the change.
After the public forum session, Wessels said, “I had my numbers checked – [there’s] still a $140 thousand cost savings to city. Crosslake’s P&Z has deteriorated. I work with builders and surveyors. [CWC’s] service [in Brainerd] is phenomenal.”
Roe asked the council to “back up a few steps… and to consider an option do what we should do as a council and make recommendations as to specific ordinances to change and methodologies… we’re elected by community, to work with community. We’re not elected to go out and shoot people and find fault and blame others.”
Heacox said, “I have been gathering a lot of information so I can make the best decision for the community. I thought we could make changes with current staff.
“[Option] C is still the answer,” said Heacox, “I don’t want to get into specifics, but I have received numerous complaints.”
Moengen said, “There is no question that we need a change here… We need this change - I have a lot of questions - but there is enough evidence that we need to change,”
“This council has worked very hard and put a lot of time in to make a good decision to move forward…” added Moengen. “I believe it’s the right move for today.”
The action prompted three members of Crosslake’s Planning and Zoning Commission to resign on Wednesday, including long time member and current chairman Dave Schrupp.
Schrupp said by phone Wednesday, “I don’t agree with the way this was handled. The council needs to put their heads together with what their expectations are. I don’t agree with what [the council] has done. Ken and Bryan both have done a good job.”
Commissioners Dale Melberg and Mike Winkels, a former P&Z chairman, also resigned.
Melberg’s letter to Mayor Schneider states, “I feel I can longer be a part of the dismantling, and marginalization, of this City’s governmental operations. I also fail to comprehend how the rancor of a few people towards the one individual could possibly get us to the elimination of the City’s Planning and Zoning Department.”
The council, as recommended by city labor attorney Steve Fecker of Duluth, placed both Hargrave and Anderson on paid administrative leave for 30 working days to address vacation time, sick days and any possible severance items.
Moengen stated he hoped the council would have that presented at the next regular meeting on Monday, Oct. 14.
Northland Press | P.O. Box 145 | Outing, MN 56662 | (218) 692-5842