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Emily City Council

Web posted January 23, 2024
(Editor’s note: The following article was written from the unapproved minutes of the December 20, 2022 regular monthly meeting of the Emily City Council.)

The Emily City Council met for their regular December monthly meeting on Tuesday, December 20, 2022 in the Council Chambers and was called to order by Mayor Tracy Jones at 6:00 p.m. Present was Mayor Tracy Jones, Councilmembers Bryce Butcher, Mary Eppen, and Gerhart Hanson; Councilmember Wes Friesner was absent. Cari Johnson, City Clerk/Treasurer, was present.

Truth in Taxation Hearing
Mayor Tracy Jones recessed the regular Council Meeting immediately and opened the Public Hearing for the Truth in Taxation. Written public comment from a property owner was read: including a complaint regarding the proposed City property tax rate from Crow Wing County; a complaint regarding Clean Up Day costs; a request for better snow removal service; and a request for education on services and benefits provided to property owners without City sewer.

Public comment was received regarding a property owner’s proposed City property tax rate from Crow Wing County, which is higher than the City’s proposed 12 percent increase. Rebecca Kurtz, Ehlers, City Financial Municipal Advisors, stated homes classified as seasonal are taxed at a higher class rate than homes classified as homestead. Kurtz stated the difference in property tax rates is probably due to Crow Wing County assessment of the property value.

Jones closed the Public Hearing at 6:37 p.m. and reopened the regular council meeting.

Consent Agenda
Council approved the Meeting Agenda, and Consent Agenda as presented that included: Minutes of the September 13, 2022 Council Meeting and the Treasurer’s Report from November 2022; Checking Beginning Balance $837,867.23 and Ending Balance $746,324.22; Receipts to General fund $53,472.17, Sewer fund $4,668.86, Total $58,141.03; and Claims for Approval: $208,551.46 including Pine River State Bank checks #59975 to #60115, and automatic withdrawals #330647 to #330657; Investments $370,756.94; Total Checking/Investments $1,117,081.16.

Roads Feasibility Study Approved
Council approved a request from City Engineer Jeff Ledin of S.E.H. for a Roads Maintenance Project feasibility study for 2023. Ledin had brought forth a proposed road overlay project in 2023, and explained that the City of Emily is responsible for 30 miles of roads, of which approximately 20 miles are paved, and the condition of some of the roads requires more than standard maintenance.

Feasibility studies identify recommendations on which roads need what level of improvements, such as thin overlay, chip sealing, full thickness overlay, etc.

Ledin recommended bonding instead of using cash reserves to pay for the project, as that will lessen the city’s annual tax levy burden.

In the past, Emily has assessed half of the new road pavement project costs to the parcels most benefited by the improvement and bonded for the remaining half, but the assessed portion may need to be reduced for an existing road maintenance project.

Following the Feasibility Study, two public hearings ill be held, and affected property owners  will be contacted with potential assessment amounts before a final hearing.

Rebecca Kurtz, Ehlers, stated the Council would need to decide the scope of the project and the project amount that would be affordable for the community. Kurtz reported the City is in a good position and there are no concerns with the amount of debt the City may issue from a legal standpoint.

She told council that bond interest rates have increased, but are still reasonable, and that Ehlers has seen good bids from issued debt. Kurtz told council that any debt issued would be callable, which means for a 15 year bond the City would have the ability to call the bond and pay in full or refund and reissue the debt due to lower interest rates in 7-8 years.

Kurtz noted that City bonds are considered tax-exempt. Ehlers will work with S.E.H. on development of the Feasibility Study.

Public Safety
Emily Fire: Emily Fire Chief Chad Genz reported the November Fire Department meeting was held with 15 members present and reported 2 fire calls. Equipment and SCBAs were checked and a water rescue drill was conducted.

• Council approved the purchase of a refrigerator, stove and microwave from Home Depot for the Fire Hall in the amount of $2,938.66 to be paid out of the Fire Equipment Fund. Also approved was the purchase of cabinets from Progressive Forest products for the Fire Hall at a cost not to  exceed $6,500, also from the Fire Equipment Fund. Council tabled a motion to discuss the Fire Hall meeting room floor replacement as a second quote is needed. Council accepted a donation from the Fireman’s Relief Association for the Fire Equipment Fund in the amount of $5,000.

• Council tabled a motion regarding lawful gambling due to a possible conflict of interest as some council members are firefighters.

Emily First Responders: Emily First Responders Council Liaison Eppen reported 105 calls for the year. Eppen reported the First Response Unit December meeting was held with nine members present, and reported 11 calls in November. Training was conducted, which included variances. There was a recommendation for the future Council Liaison to be a council member that is not a member of the First Response Unit.

Emily Police: Chief Damien Stalker reported 48 ICRs in November. Stalker cautioned there are motorists driving faster than is reasonable for road conditions during severe winter storm weather, adding that a citation may be issued for persons driving too fast for road conditions, even if driving within the posted speed limit, if there is a potential hazard to public safety, law enforcement officers, or tow truck drivers.

Council renewed the 2023 Law Enforcement Contract with Little Pine Township for 4 hours per month at $50 per hour.

Wastewater
Lee Bundy, PeopleService, is the City’s new Wastewater Operator. Bundy had reported annual checks were completed on the three lift-stations by W.W. Goetsch and PeopleService and that lift pump handles were replaced.

Planning and Zoning

Planning Commission Vice Chair Dave Johnson reported the Planning Commission approved a permit extension for an accessory structure.

• The Council had reduced the after the fact permit fee for Todd Proctor’s unpermitted septic  system installation from $2,500 to $750. Johnson reported the City has not received payment after invoicing. Council then motioned to notify Proctor with a 30-day deadline for Proctor by certified mail or the fine will increase to it’s original amount of $2,500

• Council and also approved the second amendment to the Sourcewell Shared Services contract for Community Development, extending it until March 31, 2023, so a new agreement can be worked on.

City Attorney
Pearson had reported contacting and corresponding with Jason Quilling’s attorney regarding the after the fact permit fee and penalty for an un-permitted septic system and they are waiting for  payment. Pearson is working on initiating a conciliation court action for a judgment regarding an unpaid invoice from a road vacation, and will be sending invoices to the updated address for an unpaid sewer bill, receiving no response, the conciliation court filing drafts will be changed to Cass County, and that action will be filed.

Maintenance

Maintenance Supervisor Brian Foster reported plowing and sanding roads, cutting down trees, putting up Christmas lights, and general maintenance. There are many trees down from the recent winter storm. Foster requested an addition to the City Budget for Seasonal Maintenance Workers to work up to four days per week during spring and summer due to the amount of tree damage from the storm.

Manganese Update

City Attorney Pearson had reported that he and Planning and Zoning Administrator Brittney Cotner contacted an attorney representative of North Star Manganese (NSM) regarding whether NSM needed any City permitting under the City’s Land Use and Subdivision Ordinance for NSM to conduct exploratory drilling activities within City limits for manganese deposit exploration.

After reviewing and verifying the information provided by the NSM attorney, Pearson provided the opinion that NSM is correct in saying that no City permitting is needed for exploratory drilling activities, apart from the dual oversight of the Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Rick Sandri, North Star Manganese, reported NSM is proceeding with their manganese exploration activity at the sites in Sections 20 and 21 in Emily. NSM plans to initiate exploration at the sites in late January or early February and they expect to utilize the facility at the site. NSM will be working with a local drilling company as well as Minnesota service companies.

Sandri reported NSM is putting up sound batting to prevent and minimize most, if not all, of the sound associated with drilling activities as part of their community responsiveness plan. He told council that NSM is continuing exploration of the property and will be drilling down 600-800 feet into target areas to determine if manganese is down there. Sandri expects the activity to continue for 3 to 4 months.

FEMA Reimbursement

The damage and administration reports for the May 30, 2022 storm damages have been submitted to FEMA. The damages portion is a total of $23,497. The funds are anticipated to be received in 2023. An additional spreadsheet is needed before submitting total costs for the June 20, 2022 storm damages to the State. The December 13, 2022 storm has been declared a local emergency and the City is eligible for 75 percent reimbursement from the State for eligible expenditures.

Levy and Budget Approved
The council approved resolutions 22-48 to adopt the 2023 Final Tax Levy in the amount of $1,311,247.84, that included: $1,153,256.21 for the General 100 Fund, and additions of $64,500 to the 303 Debt Service Fund (City Hall Bond); $33,000 to the 304 Debt Service Fund (2014 Road Project); and $60,491.63 to the 602 Sewer Fund (Refunding the 2013 Sewer Bond).

Before the 2023 Budget and Tax Levy were approved, the council approved, with revisions, the 100 General Fund Final Budget at $1,793,789.84; and the 602 Sewer Fund Final Budget at $173,092.13.

Council approved the following year end transfers: $485.29 from General Fund to Recycling Fund; $4,090.60 from 302 Debt Service Fund (2007 Roads Project) for the 304 Debt Service Fund (2014 Roads Improvement Bond); $951.13 from 305 Debt Service Fund (2004 Roads Project) to the 304 Debt Service Fund (2014 Roads project); and $6,390.51 from the 306 Debt Service Fund to the 304 Debt Service Fund (2014 Road Project).

There was a discussion regarding a requested raise for firefighter wages from $25 per call to $25 per call and $10 per hour after the first hour. The additional cost to the City was estimated at $3,300, which was not available in the 2023 Budget.

Correspondence
Discussion included Ehlers regarding status report on refunding of existing bond issues, League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust regarding 2022-23 coverages, rates, and dividend amount, and ELRA regarding thank you for support of management and preservation of Emily lakes and rivers.

In other action, the council:
• Accepted Greg Koch’s resignation from the Planning Commission, effective December 31, 2022;

• Approved the hiring of Kira Floisand as a First Responder pending screenings and background check;

• Approved the purchase of a winter coat for Chief Stalker;

• Learned the December 13 severe winter storm was declared an emergency by Crow Wing County. The Emily City Hall is an emergency shelter. People without power may call and request to use the City Hall as a shelter. The City Hall does not have shower facilities;

• Approved newly elected council members Koch and Andy Hemphill to attend the 2023 Elected Leaders Institute program for $350 per person, up to two night lodging not to exceed $500. Koch and Hemphill were also approved to attend the Advanced Elected Leaders program with the same terms;

• Approved Clerk Cari Johnson and Foster were approved to attend the Dept. of Public Safety, Dept. of Homeland Security and Emergency Management courses for senior and elected officials, department heads, and management staff at no charge with reimbursement for meals and mileage;

• Council approved Emily City Hall as the designated polling place with the city for 2023;

• Council approved the engagement letter from Clasen and Schiessl CPAs for audit services not to exceed $11,250.

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