By Bethany Helwig
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Sturgeon Lake city council seeks to improve fire hall, city hall


March 21, 2019

The Sturgeon Lake city council discussed possible improvements for the fire hall and city hall during its regular meeting on March 14. Fire Chief Mike Mikrot said the fire hall has numerous issues and wanted to know if they should be looking at temporary fixes or something more permanent depending on if the city plans on keeping that building as the fire hall for the foreseeable future. Councilor Adam Langhorst said he anticipated remaining in their current building but if the city were to potentially get more funding, that would change things.

Mayor Todd Danelski described the fire hall as a “dark, dank, dungeon, and decrepit. The insulation, the drywall that’s up there, the lighting is totally—everything, you know, is inadequate.” He suggested trying to get volunteers to fix up the fire hall. The fire chief said he believed the last two additions to the hall were made by volunteers, but the fire department has had difficulty getting volunteers lately.

Fire Chief Mikrot was concerned where the money for repairs would come from. Councilor Jessica Langhorst recommended putting together a strategic planning committee to address the funding issue with the fire chief and city engineer. The council was unsure of the regulations for forming such a committee so Councilor Helfman suggested receiving free training from the League of Minnesota Cities to help them better understand what they can do.

When it came time to approve the minutes for the last meeting, Clerk Carole Lahti stressed how difficult it was to create the minutes due to how the last meeting was conducted. She also reminded the council of the two-hour time limit for meetings in their bylaws.

“We’ve got to be able to communicate our ideas. We’ve got to be able to get along,” said Mayor Danelski. He later added, “When we first got elected, it was almost like a joke. ‘Boy, did you inherit a pile of manure.’ And in the last two months … it’s not a pile of manure. It’s a barn that hasn’t been cleaned in decades. And what happens is, when you don’t clean the barn of the manure, it gets packed pretty hard. And so some of that, you know, maybe we’ll have to clean out. Hopefully get it all cleaned. And once the barn gets cleaned out, then we’ve got a pile of manure. But the positive thing is that the manure is used as fertilizer. Fertilizer promotes growth.”

Councilor Adam Langhorst had 25 changes to be made to the minutes. The council decided to table approving the minutes until the next meeting after the changes could be thoroughly reviewed.

A proposed contract for snowplowing was presented by Councilor Jessica Langhorst. Councilor Helfman and Scott Williams both expressed concerns over the length of the contract and how it might dissuade potential contractors from bidding. Councilor Adam Langhorst, who drafted the contract, argued against whittling down the language as it provided clear terms in case of issues in the future. Mayor Danelski stated the city attorney should do the contract. The matter was not further discussed.

Scott Williams, the current contractor for snow plowing, appeared at the meeting and wanted to clarify for the council that he is covered by insurance for his contracted work.

Two citizens brought forward a complaint of a neighbor taking it upon himself to plow a city street and ending up causing blocked driveways for others by leaving ridges of ice chunks. One of the citizens attempted to clear it but their vehicle was damaged and their repair estimate was $1,200. They wanted clarification from the city as to how to handle the situation. Councilor Rick Lewis suggested they contact their insurance company. Councilor Jessica Langhorst said the city would approach the individual to see if they could sort the situation out.

Vern Anderson of the public had numerous questions about water and sewer for a commercial property he owns. He also said the city could consider purchasing the building to operate as a municipal as a revenue stream and incorporate a new city hall. Councilor Lewis said he would look into his questions with help from Tim Korby and Scott Helfman. City Engineer Tim Korby said the city would need to conduct a developer meeting with Mr. Anderson in regards to developing the property.

Joe Pelawa of Bolton & Menk made a presentation for serving as city engineer and finding funding for the city. Tim Korby, the current city engineer, followed with a presentation of his own for work he is doing for the city including a bill he will be introducing to the senate on a road improvement project (the cost of which is approximately $2.5 million).

Councilor Helfman reported that their storage units are currently sold out, and she would like to implement an online system for the units in the future.

She reminded the council to be cautious of what they post on the city’s Facebook page. Mayor Danelski brought up getting a city website. Due to the commitment and responsibility of such an undertaking, Councilor Helfman proposed holding off on a website for the time being.

A proposal of receiving free specialized training from the League of Minnesota Cities was brought by Councilor Helfman. The council agreed in their interest. A special meeting open to the public would be held for the training. A date will be set once discussed with the League.

City employee Scott Helfman reported no issues with the water system, that hydrant flushing will happen when the weather allows, and the water meters will be calibrated soon. He also reported issues with snow covering fire hydrants in the city and some people even piling snow on neighboring hydrants. He requested to hire help for the lift station cleaning. The matter was tabled until he could contact his hire and see if additional help was needed.

In other business, City Clerk Carole Lahti gave the figure for the workers compensation insurance premium which had been recalculated and reduced.

She said the township wants to be included in the annual fire department meeting. Fire Chief Mikrot said it was up to the city. The city would be looking into the contracts to determine what should be done.

Sturgeon Lake Township requested the complete financial report from the City, and they also sent a bill for maintenance on Moose Horn Road that they wanted paid. The council decided they needed to meet with the Township to sort out the matter.

Councilor Helfman requested that copies of the reports discussed at the meetings be distributed ahead of time so the council could have time to review them prior to the meetings.

The council agreed to give two of their old tables to Scott Helfman to use at the ponds and the rest to be stored at the fire department.

After consideration, the council decided not to implement a consent agenda.

The contract with Ledin, Hofstad & Troth for legal services was approved and a motion was passed with all in favor with the exception of Councilor Helfman.

A motion was passed to accept the financial report for February and pay outstanding claims.

The council passed a resolution requesting comprehensive road/transit funding which will be given to the Speaker of the House, governor, and senator.

A resolution regarding signatories for the procurement card was passed to include the fire chief, mayor, treasurer, and clerk.

A motion to set aside $10,000 in the budget for repairs of the city hall was tabled until the council could look into other funding options.

The council passed a resolution to have the streetlights on Highway 61 be replaced with LEDs. All but one will be replaced for free by MN Power.

Keys to city hall were assigned to various council members.

The next regular meeting is scheduled for April 11 at 6 p.m. at the city hall.


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