During the Mabel City Council meeting on September 12, City Clerk Karen Larson said, “The EDA is actively working with someone to open a grocery store… I’m excited.” She went on to say that details are not yet finalized, but it looks very promising. Kirsten Wyffels shared her suggestion that if local citizens like the idea of having a grocery store in town, they should do business there so the store can succeed. Members in attendance included Liz Folstad, Gary Morken, Mayor James Westby, City Clerk Karen Larson, and Kirsten Wyffels. Also in attendance was City Attorney Gregory Schieber. Terry Torkelson was absent.
With information collected and shared by Deputy City Clerk Brock Bergey, the council discussed the topic of delinquent utility bills. Bergey stated, “We have a pretty significant delinquent rate,” and he explained that currently the city has no incentive for citizens to pay timely, other than the eventual chance of having utilities shut off. Bergey said that option entails a lot of time and work on the part of the city, so he recommends a 10% penalty on delinquent accounts. He added that this would be in line with what many other nearby cities do.
To give some perspective, Bergey shared, “Right now, we have 50 delinquent accounts, which total around $11,000. He recommends the 10% penalty would be compounded monthly, which would then create larger and larger penalties if the account stayed delinquent for multiple months. Mayor Westby agreed with Bergey’s suggestion, stating, “You gotta have enough teeth in it to make it worthwhile.” The council will hold a public hearing on the issue at 7 p.m. on October 10, to be immediately followed by the regular monthly council meeting.
The council approved zoning permits from four homeowners (David and Anne Stoen, Audra Bahr, Duane Falck, and Lloyd and Linda Swalve). There was agreement that the city needs to educate the public about the need to get zoning permits prior to starting any improvements that increase the square footage or value of a home. The council also held a public hearing at 7 p.m. on the proposed zoning ordinance amendment, just prior to the regular council meeting. No citizens attended the hearing. During the regular meeting, the council voted to approve the amendment as proposed. Larson said she will publish the entire amendment in the newspaper, so all citizens have an opportunity to be informed. The amendment includes allowing Conditional Use Permits (CUPs) to allow dwelling units on the first floor of buildings in the business district. This had been previously discussed as a possible way to encourage businesses to open in Mabel.
A request had come to the city, asking if the Fillmore County Active Aging program could use any city facility for free, for an exercise program geared toward citizens 55 and older. After discussion, the council agreed to allow the fire hall to be used for this. Staff will consult to determine the best days and times for this usage.
Jeff Rein (Public Works) spoke to the council about the continuing problem of citizens depositing large amounts of grass clippings onto city streets. He said it’s understandable that small amounts of grass will blow into the street, but he has witnessed many citizens who continue to leave significant amounts of grass in the street. Regarding the repeat offenders, Rein added, “These are intentional.” He said the concerns is that too much grass can easily clog the city’s storm sewer. He suggested the city check into making something enforceable to discourage this practice. The council will look into this for 2019.
After reviewing data shared by Karen Larson, the council approved the preliminary budget, and set the annual Truth in Taxation meeting for December 12. Kirsten Wyffels gave public thanks to everyone who helped make the annual Steam Engine Days a success again this year.
On November 19, KLM will be in Mabel for inspection of the water tower. The next regular meeting will be October 10, at 7 p.m. at the community center. The public is welcome.