Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Greenwood delays vote on ambulance subsidy

Jodi Summit
Posted 4/11/19

GREENWOOD TWP- The Greenwood Town Board, at their Tuesday meeting, declined to vote on a new three-year ambulance subsidy contract with the Tower Area Ambulance Service. The contract, which calls for …

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Greenwood delays vote on ambulance subsidy

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GREENWOOD TWP- The Greenwood Town Board, at their Tuesday meeting, declined to vote on a new three-year ambulance subsidy contract with the Tower Area Ambulance Service. The contract, which calls for almost doubling the per-capita ambulance subsidy rate, from the current $15 per person to $29.30 by 2022, goes into effect in 2020.

“Everybody else so far has okayed it,” said Supervisor Larry Tahija, who sits on the Tower Area Ambulance Commission representing the township. But John Bassing said Vermilion Lake Township has also held off on approval of the new contract. The Breitung Town Board has yet to approve the contract, although residents did approve a 2020 levy that included the extra funding at the township’s annual meeting last month.

Bassing, a former township supervisor, argued against moving ahead with the agreement without further information. Bassing questioned the financial operations of the ambulance department, and whether funds were being used to cash flow other city operations.

Treasurer Pam Rodgers said while it can be fine to move money between general fund accounts, she would like to have a better idea of what it costs the city to run the ambulance service.

“My guess is it is very expensive,” she said. “But before you agree to a big increase, it would be nice to see what it is costing.”

Bassing noted that all the profits from the ambulance service currently go to the city’s general fund and are not shared with the townships who contribute to the subsidy.

“The ambulance service is not a stand-alone entity,” noted Mike Ralston.

Broadband

planning

While the board had approved moving forward with a plan for a public computer station at the town hall last month, as part of a regional broadband initiative, Supervisor Byron Beihoffer questioned whether the township should continue at this time, citing the lack of a formal proposal with the Blandin Foundation.

The computer station would be part of a larger grant proposal to Blandin and would include other smaller projects in the Tower-Soudan area, explained Joanne Bassing, who has been working on the project as part of the broadband planning group. The township was not submitting a stand-alone grant request, she said.

Chairman Carmen DeLuca said he had a problem allowing the public to be in the town hall building using a computer. Clerk Sue Drobac said she thought having a computer for public use was a good idea, and she didn’t mind the idea of monitoring it. Rodgers noted that the computer would be provided at no cost to the township, and also approved of the idea.

Joanne Bassing noted that this was just the first step in the broadband project. The next step—securing financing for a feasibility study— is also underway. She noted that it was likely there would be as much as $85 million provided by the state Legislature this year for increasing access to broadband in rural areas. Fiber optic cable is already in place in many parts of the township. The final step is connecting individual homes and businesses to the cable. The Greenwood Town Hall has fiber optic cable running into the fire hall at this time, but it isn’t yet connected to the township office computers.

Beihoffer motioned to take no further action on the project, but it died for lack of a second.

Public input

Marilyn Mueller, who served many years as the township’s planning director, asked the town board to take time to listen when constituents have questions or concerns. She noted that the spouses of elected officials need to stay out of official township business.

“Mr. or Mrs. Spouse,” she said, “your spouse was elected. You were not elected as their assistant.”

Mueller urged township officials to treat each other with kindness.

“We expect the best from our township officials,” she said. “We need to treat them with respect. I have had more than my fill of the bashing. It is time for it to end.”

She urged board members to cultivate the positive.

“Tonight has been a very good meeting,” she said. “Let’s see if we can keep this up.”

The board failed to act on a proposal made at the annual meeting to move public input back to the front of the agenda. Currently, public input is allowed at the end of the meeting.

DeLuca noted that at a recent Association of Townships meeting, it was suggested that townships not have any public input “because of stuff like this.”

In other business, the town board:

 Heard that Tony Sikora will be recording video of the meetings and putting them on the lakevermilion.net website. Sikora has been placing video of the regular Tower City Council meetings online also and was asked by a resident to do the same for Greenwood. He noted they are unedited and that “they are not professional video recordings.”

 Approved liquor license renewals for Gruben’s, Vermilion Club, BayView, and Shamrock Landing. St. Louis County has the ultimate approval over the licenses.

 Will advertise for summer lawn mowing services.

 Donated $100 to the Tower Cemetery Association. At the annual meeting, township residents had asked that a donation of $500 be considered. Treasurer Pam Rodgers told the board that the Minnesota Association of Townships recommends that such donations be limited to $100. “We are collecting people’s taxes,” Rodgers said. “People should make their own donations.” She added the decision was up to the board.

 Approved spending authority of up to $1,000 a month for the fire chief, clerk, and maintenance supervisor.

 Did not comment on many of the suggestions that were voted on by residents at the annual meeting, including that all supervisors attend training, that board members give the reason for their vote after voting, that the township send a letter to St. Louis County to pave Breezy Point Rd., that the personnel policy be put into place, to research costs of putting in a well at the pavilion, and to create a list of volunteers for work at the town hall and grounds.

“These are just recommendations,” said newly-elected Chair Carmen DeLuca. “We are the town board. We do what we think is best. People can recommend anything they want. That is why there are elections every year.”

DeLuca noted that MAT recommends supervisors attend training every other year, and that Byron Beihoffer and DeLuca just attended a recent training session that was very informative.

 Heard that the issue with 2019 minutes not be ing posted on the website had been resolved.

 Will have the clerk create a digitized copy of fire department training records (for state-mandated trainings like Firefighter I and II) for township records.

 Approved the first reading of some minor changes to the fire department SOGs and POCs, and approved a new fire department/EMR member, David DeJoode, pending a background check and physical.

 Heard kudos for the fire department and their members from Supervisor Mike Ralston, who noted it was nice to see the department roster growing when other area departments are having trouble recruiting members. DeLuca noted that 20 members had attended the last department meeting. The board heard that the computer in the fire department office was serviced and found to be full of multiple types of malware and hacking programs. Clerk Drobac said she is not sure who has been using the computer. Chief Fazio said that department officers do not use the computer, and instead are using their personal computers, and there was probably no need for the computer and it could be removed.

 Will be scheduling a township cleanup day once the snow is melted.

Discussed the need of reading off correspondence received by the clerk. DeLuca said he had been advised that all correspondence does not need to be read, but should still be kept on file. Clerk Drobac noted that some of the correspondence did require action by the board.

 Approved a $100 donation to Northwoods Partners.

 Accepted payment of $8,000 for providing fire coverage to part of an unorganized township on Pine Island.

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