Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Council hosts dozens at most recent meeting, moved to civic center

Jodi Summit
Posted 4/11/19

TOWER- Eighty-eight-year-old Jack Burgess, of Tower, had never attended a Tower City Council meeting before. Not once, he said. But he and his wife Carol were among the 60-plus people who gathered at …

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Council hosts dozens at most recent meeting, moved to civic center

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TOWER- Eighty-eight-year-old Jack Burgess, of Tower, had never attended a Tower City Council meeting before. Not once, he said. But he and his wife Carol were among the 60-plus people who gathered at the Herbert Lamppa Civic Center for this week’s meeting, which included a presentation by the city auditors on the 2018 audit report (see related story on page 1).

“I really appreciate the extra hassle it took to have the meeting down here,” said Mayor Orlyn Kringstad. City Clerk/Treasurer Linda Keith had objected to moving the council meeting from city hall, but the only hiccup in the entire evening was the fact that the mayor had forgotten to bring his gavel. The first hour-and-a-half of the meeting were spent on the audit report, and then after a short break (with coffee and cookies provided), the rest of the meeting got underway.

The city did adopt a new public input policy, which is simpler than the policy presented at last month’s meeting. Anyone wishing to give public comment will be asked to place their name on a sign-up sheet prior to the start of the meeting. Speakers will be recognized in the order their names appear and will be limited to three minutes. Speakers who bring written remarks are asked to bring 10 copies, or else bring one copy to city hall prior to the meeting and have the clerk’s office make copies. Speakers shall be civil and may be declared out-of-order by the mayor if not.

Mary Shedd asked that the city post the meeting agenda on the city website prior to the meeting. She also asked the city to advertise for openings on city committees and commissions, noting there appear to be many residents and community members interested in city affairs.

Diane Meehan had a question about funds from the Miss Tower-Soudan account that were supposed to be transferred to the Fourth of July account. Keith said that the money was still set aside, and the Tower-Soudan Lake Vermilion Events Board, which now oversees the Fourth of July, needed to present invoices to the city and they would be paid from that account. The account currently has almost $7,500 in funds. Keith explained the city cannot simply transfer those funds to the events board but needs to pay it out on actual invoices.

Steve Wilson once again addressed the council asking them to move beyond the current complaints against the mayor and focus on building up the town instead of tearing it down.

The council received a thank you note from an ambulance patient, singling out Steve Alwtenburg, Dean Dowden, and Tammie Ellison for the care they provided during a recent emergency call.

The council received a letter from the Minnesota Department of Health stating that testing of the city’s water supply showed of Trihalomethane (THM) and Halocetic Acids (HAA5) had both tested below the allowable levels. In the past several years, the city water has exceeded these levels. These contaminants are formed as byproducts of the water treatment disinfection process. The city will continue to monitor the city water supply for these contaminants. A copy of the report is available at city hall for review.

Other business

In other business, the council:

 Went into closed session at the close of the meeting, around 8:30 p.m., with attorney Andy Peterson, to discuss employee misconduct allegations relating to the city clerk/treasurer. When the meeting reopened, the council voted to table the issues under discussion for further review.

 Heard from city engineer Matt Bolf that the harbor plat is still not finalized but the city has made progess in gathering the information required by St. Louis County to complete the document. A finalized plat is required before the Tower Harbor Shores development group can start sales on the town home project.

 Keith gave a financial report noting the city has approximately $303,000 in savings and CDs, although most of that money is legally earmarked for equipment replacement or pensions. The current bank statement shows $134,987 in cash available in the general fund.

 Authorized the purchase of new accounting software for the city to replace the 2004 software currently in use. Keith reported the current software cannot be updated and the city is having numerous issues with data being lost (though noted that everything is always backed up). The cost of the new software is $7,279 which will come from the city’s reserve fund. The software is based on Quickbooks but was developed for use by small cities, and includes the ability to do payroll, utility billing, generate reports, and other needed functions. The purchase includes converting the city’s data to the new program, as well as five hours of support time a month.

 Voted to increase the hourly rate for paid-on-call staff from $11 to $11.50 per hour.

 Approved a request from Kringstad to attend the Cities on the Lake training offered by the Minnesota League of Cities in Duluth. The cost is $295 plus mileage. The council discussed the importance of such trainings and the networking opportunities provided. The council tabled a request from Kringstad to give him a set monthly amount of spending authority of up to $500 per month for things like conferences and travel expenses. The council also discussed mileage reimbursement policy and whether or not travel needs to be approved in advance by the clerk.

 The city’s Local Board of Appeal and Equalization is set for Tuesday, May 7 from 6 – 7 p.m.

 The next council meeting will be held on Monday, April 29 at 5:30 p.m. at Tower City Hall (instead of April 22).

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