Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Natascha Watercott
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Resolution reached between Union and Windemere Twp


August 2, 2018

At the July 7 Windemere Township meeting, Supervisor Pete Steen read a letter regarding the Global Resolution between Windemere Township and International Operating Union of Engineers (IOUE) Local 49 and Road Maintenance Supervisor Mike Buetow.

On June 25, the board held a special meeting to resolve the ongoing lawsuit between the township and Buetow in which it was alleged the Union and Buetow had engaged in unfair labor practices under the Public Employment Labor Relations Act (PELRA).

Steen stated they had come to a resolution that was agreeable to both the Union and the town board.

In the letter, it was stated that Buetow will immediately return to work as road maintenance supervisor “as it was found that he has done nothing wrong in carrying out his duties for the Township.”

The letter continued that the Union and Buetow had agreed to withdraw grievances with prejudice upon execution of the agreement referred to in the letter. The township waives and releases the Union and Buetow from any unfair labor practices and related claims; likewise, Buetow and the Union waive and release the township from any unfair labor practices and related claims.

The township will pay several lump sum payments to Buetow, including the amount equivalent to what it would have contributed to his health and welfare fund under the labor contract between the parties, to Buetow’s supplemental pension in the amount equivalent to what it would have contributed to supplemental pension under the labor contract between the parties, and the amount equivalent to the difference between the total wages it would have paid him at his regular hourly wage under the labor contract between the parties.

The township will also be paying Buetow a lump sum for the cost of his health insurance the township would have otherwise paid. Steen stated they don’t have Buetow’s pension contributions totaled yet, but will hopefully have it by next month’s meeting.

“I want to thank Mike Buetow for his service to this community,” said Supervisor John Wesley. “When I was out campaigning, I talked to a lot of people in this township, and I heard from a lot of people that they like having Mike on board. They like dealing with him. In the last couple months that I’ve been dealing with him, Mike, you’ve been very good to deal with, and I appreciate that and thank you for that.”

Palon Road improvements

The board gave an update on the Palon Road improvement project. At a special meeting on July 5, the board approved the bid for Casper Construction to do the dirt work for Palon Road for approximately $784,500.

“What the board have decided to do is authorize the road maintenance department to get an excavator, hire a couple dump trucks to dig out the soft spots before Caspar comes in. One as a cost-savings, so it will not be Caspar paying for that cost, because they’re likely to charge us a whole lot more than what it would cost for us to do it,” explained Steen.

“It is a big project. I mean by far it will probably be our biggest road project we’ve done in years, so we do want to do this right because it is a main thoroughfare for north-south for our township,” Steen continued.

“It is a lot of money; we are very much aware of that,” agreed Wesley. “We’d love to get it done for half the price, too … There’s been concern out there whether we’re getting a good road, a fair road or a great road, as Ron [Mossberg] put it, a Cadillac, a Chevy or a Hugo. I’m saying it’s the Chevy of the three.”

Wesley addressed questions of whether it would be better if the township kept Palon Road as a gravel road instead of paving it, as this would reduce the cost of the project. “If we turn the road back to gravel, we’re going to have to do the dirt work that we have planned to do now just to make it a good gravel road … [that] is going to cost us $784,500 just because of the shape it’s in, the soft spots out there,” said Wesley.

“So we can turn it into a gravel road for $784,500, or we could spend another approximately $200,000 and have a nice paved road … So I do feel this is a good way to go,” Wesley concluded.

Township duties assigned

The board assigned and approved township supervisor duties. Board members had discussed at a special meeting July 5 which areas the supervisors would cover. “What was proposed was road maintenance, facilities, environmental, zoning and public safety which would cover fire mostly and deal with law enforcement …There are other townships that divvy up the duties among the supervisors to allow a chance for work to get done more efficiently rather than waiting for a regular board meeting,” explained Steen.

“What was proposed at the July 5th meeting would be that I would be the road maintenance supervisor, John Wesley would do zoning and public safety and Dale Kirkeby, environment and buildings,” said Steen.

The board also approved a motion to allow any supervisors, along with Mike Buetow, to have the ability to spend up to $2,500 for maintenance or repairs as necessary without having to come to the full board.

“We’re behind on stuff. There’s no doubt about it,” commented Wesley. “I think giving Mike [Buetow] the leeway to replace a culvert when he sees it needs to be replaced and not wait until the next meeting is important,” he added.

Audit performed

Treasurer Ron Mossberg reported the township’s external audit had begun near the end of June. At last month’s meeting, the board had approved having an audit done by Abdo, Eick & Meyers LLP for the fiscal year 2017 to determine how the township could be more efficient, especially with record keeping.

A preliminary report should be completed sometime this July. They will produce a final report hopefully in August and will give an official presentation of the plan to the board in September. “I thought it went well. They were asking good questions, looking at everything and anything, and I trust we will be getting good information,” commented Mossberg.

Website host selected

The board approved signing up with Municipal Impact to host the township’s website. The township had been notified several months ago that rates would be increasing from $100 to $250 per month for management of their website.

Mossberg had been searching for a new provider that specializes in government web hosting. Some of the requirements the township was looking for included being able to more easily add content to the site, giving constituents the ability to sign up for emails and text alerts and having the new site be more mobile friendly.

“Municipal Impact would give us a very simple template with all the abilities we talked about: text alerts and mobile friendly, tech support, a small conversion fee,” explained Mossberg, who noted the site’s template is very simple, but very user-friendly. “It’s paint by numbers basically; fill in this box with a picture, fill in this box with an announcement,” said Mossberg. The monthly fee is $39.95 a month plus a one-time conversion fee of $349 to transfer all the content from the old site to the new site.


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