The Houston City Council met for its regular meeting in the council chambers of Houston City Hall at 6 p.m. on Monday, December 11, 2017. In attendance were Mayor Olson, Administrator Peterson, Deputy Clerk Hegland and Council members Sanden, Schutte, and Knutson, with Council member Krage arriving at 6:18. Following the Pledge of Allegiance, the council opened the meeting up for public comment, hearing from a citizen asking about any possible future repairs at the newly purchased house at 206 Lincoln Street. The council said they are expecting the new owners to repair the property, but if nothing is done following some time they will draw up repair orders.
Olivia Niday spoke to the council representing Houston County Emergency Management regarding the county’s Hazard Mitigation Plan. Niday presented the plan and noted that the plan is available on the county website, asking the city to pass a resolution approving the plan. According to Niday, the report concluded the two biggest disaster risks for Houston are summer storms, followed by winter storms, and that the city has been dropped from the FEMA Flood Plain Zone due to a new levy. By approving the resolution, the city would have county and FEMA funds made available in the case of a disaster. The council approved the resolution unanimously. The council then opened a public hearing on the 2018 budget and the tax levy collectible in 2018, of which there was no public comment. Administrator Peterson presented the levy, detailing the budget and noting that the numbers had not changed since the initial September meeting. Peterson reported that the levy as presented will allow $6,000-$8,000 more into the city’s general fund for 2018, and the council approved both the budget and the levy unanimously.
The city then certified 2017’s delinquent utility bills, allowing for the balances to be placed onto property tax bills for collection. Next, the city discussed state building code enforcement. All builders in the state must abide by the building code, but a city adopting enforcement would result in extra oversight, monitoring, inspections, and hours payable to city staff for the work. Peterson offered that the enforcement would require a separate part- or full-time employee to administer it, and that the official enforcement program was unnecessary for a city of Houston’s size. The city would still operate and authorize zoning and planning, but citizens will be able to speak with the state directly if issues arise with building code. Peterson offered to put the issue on the next council agenda as a public hearing, and the council agreed to put the public hearing on the January agenda.
Next, the council looked into the language of the city’s zoning ordinance concerning the term “meat locker.” Last year a potential business owner had talked to the city about opening a meat processing business in town, but the current ordinance did not expressly define what was allowed in such an operation. Peterson reported to the council that she had talked to the state regarding new zoning language to include slaughter. Currently the language includes meat locker among retail outlets like shops and stores, but adding new language would make it easier to set up a full spectrum meat processing business. Peterson also noted a third option of conditional use, which would ask more of the potential applicant but would be conditional just to this one instance. Houston Maintenance Superintendent Randy Thesing raised questions regarding the sewer plant processing what could be a large amount of fat and blood, and the council agreed that language would have to specify special disposal of those products. Sanden spoke in favor of adding the language for a slaughterhouse, and Krage cautioned that while this buyer may abide by stated rules, other future businesses may take advantage of any permanent zoning language. The council adopted a change to the zoning code to adopt the definition of retail meat market to include slaughter, processing, and drying while also referencing the Minnesota state statute. The city also discussed possible ordinance updates for 2018 regarding signage, annexation, right of way, franchise agreements, fees, weeds, number of pets, flood plain, water and sewer policies, golf cart permits, and the keeping of chickens in town.
Police Chief David Breault addressed the county about the need to have a local attorney on call for prosecution matters, stating that an attorney coming from farther away would result in higher travel fees. The city’s former attorney Jed Hammel is closing his operation, and so the city moved forward to hire Mike Murphy for city prosecutions on petty misdemeanors and misdemeanors. The city also discussed the removal of ash trees in town stricken by the emerald ash borer beetle currently in areas where a falling tree could damage city property. The city also approved their yearly snow removal bid, a second pay estimate for the improvements at Elm and Stoddard streets, the employee health insurance renewal, and waste water training for Thesing in March. The Houston City Council will meet for its next regular meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday, January 8, 2017 in the council chambers at Houston City Hall.