TOWER— The city council here, on Monday, appointed David Setterberg to fill the council seat left vacant by the recent resignation of Steve Abrahamson. Setterberg was one of two candidates who …
TOWER— The city council here, on Monday, appointed David Setterberg to fill the council seat left vacant by the recent resignation of Steve Abrahamson. Setterberg was one of two candidates who had filed for the opening, but the other candidate, Dick Larmouth, who already serves on the city’s economic development authority and is treasurer for the Vermilion Country School, read a statement during public input recommending the appointment of Setterberg.
Setterberg, who lives on Eales Rd. in Tower, has a background in mechanical engineering and information technology and has worked on numerous private sector projects. Setterberg and his wife Deb, have become regular attendees at Tower City Council meetings over the past year or so and Setterberg said he felt the time was right to get involved. “I believe I can help in some ways, with an open mind and opinion,” he said. “I’m at most of the meetings, and felt there was no reason I couldn’t’ step up and take a more active role. We’ll see how that goes.”
Setterberg and his wife have been coming to the area since the 1990s and purchased a house in Tower in 2000. They become full-time residents of the city in 2017.
Under the city’s ordinance, Setterberg will serve in the position until the next general election, set for Nov. 3, 2020. Anyone elected to the position in November would serve only the remaining two years of Abrahamson’s term per the city’s ordinance.
In related business, the council reviewed a new resolution for council appointments to city committees and commissions developed by clerk-treasurer Victoria Ranua as part of the city’s annual reorganization. Ranua developed a new format for the resolution and researched the original authorizations for various committees and commissions to ensure that they are being consistent with council intent. Ranua said she found several deviations, including commissions with no apparent authorization, which she is recommending for abolishment. Those include the police commission, public utilities commission, liquor commission, budget and finance committee, and the gambling commission. The storefront loan committee would also be eliminated as a city committee because the oversight of the loan program is expected to be transferred to the Tower Economic Development Authority.
Ranua cited several other city commissions, boards, or position that are authorized by resolution or ordinance but do not appear to be filled. She said the city does not appear to have a designated blight officer, animal control officer, landfill authority officer, or airport zoning administrator, all of which are authorized by prior council action.
Ranua noted that other committees appear to lack the required number of members or have restrictions on membership that aren’t included in the original authorization. She noted that the authorization for creation of the airport commission calls for eight members, while the city has been appointing only five in recent years. She also noted that the authorization for the city’s forestry board requires membership by the mayor, which had been ignored in some prior years. At the same time, she said the length of terms for many city offices remains unclear based on her review of city records.
Ranua asked council members to give her feedback on the format and her recommendations for changes prior to the council’s Jan. 27 meeting, when the council is expected to make its annual appointments and designations.
In other business, the council spent considerable time trying to address concerns raised by the ambulance commission about the lack of information on the ambulance service, which has been a recent complaint from township residents on the commission.
Tower City Council member and commission member Rachel Beldo motioned to have Ranua direct ambulance director Steve Altenburg to develop a summary description and inventory of the ambulance service, including current mileage and ongoing costs of maintaining the service’s ambulances.
Others on the council argued for a more comprehensive analysis, such as a business plan, but Ranua said that city hall currently lacks the capacity to develop a more comprehensive look at the status of the ambulance service unless a third-party reviewer is brought in to conduct the analysis. She also questioned the value of conducting a forensic audit of the ambulance spending, to determine where surplus ambulance funds from prior years were spent. “We pretty much know that the community spent it on something else, so in the end, what does it get you to have that information?” she asked. Mayor Orlyn Kringstad appeared to agree, noting that the fund was unlikely to be rebuilt in either case given the city’s current financial straits.
After considerable discussion, the council agreed that the summary description and inventory would be the first step in a broader review of the ambulance service. They asked to have the initial report available for their review by Feb. 6.
In other business, Ranua introduced a consent agenda into the council meeting for the first time. Ranua explained to the council that the consent agenda allows the council to approve any number of non-controversial or routine matters with a single motion, improving the efficiency of council meetings. Ranua said council members can pull any item from the consent agenda if they think it warrants further discussion. The consent agenda, this week, included approval of a letter of support for the Lake Vermilion Trail, a ski trail grant application, the establishment of a temporary committee to remake the city’s website, and acceptance of a review of lease options for the cell tower on the city’s north hill. It also included final approval of the Tower harbor plat and the council quickly approved all the items in a single motion.
In other action, the council:
Approved a motion by council member Mary Shedd to create a hiring panel to review three applications for the city’s open maintenance position and bring a recommendation back to the city council. The council will ask current maintenance staff Tom Gorsma and Ben Velcheff, along with council member Setterberg and airport manager John Burgess, to serve on the hiring panel.
Approved a request by the Tower-Breitung Wastewater Board to serve as the fiscal agent for interim financing for development of the new drinking water treatment plant.
Reviewed the police contract proposal from Breitung Township and approved a motion to accept the new contract amount, including an increase that is slightly higher than the budget approved by the city council in December. The council approved a motion to dedicate fire department gambling funds toward the extra expense. The council also approved a related motion to accept a temporary suspension of on-call police service during the winter months, when activity tends to drop significantly.