March 5, the Ostrander City Council held a regular meeting, with all members in attendance (Stephanie Start, Dan Hellerud, DJ Start, Vernon Thompson, Mayor Pam Kunert, and City Clerk Wendy Brincks).
The council heard from several parties regarding the Farm Animal Ordinance and related concerns. City Attorney Jennifer Gumbel stated, “Just to give a report from yesterday’s meeting, there were members of the public who came, and had a really good discussion… the zoning board has recommended to extend the moratorium for three months to allow further discussion between land owners and the zoning board to continue.”
Next, Dan Miller addressed the council on this topic, and he read from a letter to the council, which stated his belief that the ordinance could adversely impact the future of his family farm. His letter said he currently has 168 animal units, and that this is roughly the number of animals on the farm at least back as far as the 1960s. He stated that, “It would be an erosion of our landowner rights to further restrict us (to fewer animals).” He also stated that currently, 72 hours are allowed for the disposal of any deceased farm animal. Miller shared that the ordinance’s expectation of 24 hours is unrealistic since it can take up to 72 hours for Darling International to remove a carcass, after they are called.
Dan Hellerud shared his opinion that, “The only real problem was two years ago, the stench.” He said he’s lived next to the farm for 20 years, and hadn’t been bothered much at all, but, “Two years ago it was bad, and I don’t know why.” Miller responded, “We had some issues, and we’ve resolved them. We switched our ration… and it pretty much took care of it. It was much, much better this last year.”
Brincks summarized what was in the proposed Feed Lot ordinance, stating, in part, “He’s asking for 168 (animal units), the current feed lot ordinance we are proposing has 99. He’s asking for 72 hours for animal (carcass) removal, the current proposal is for 24. We’re asking that he doesn’t spread manure, but we’ve kind of discussed that maybe he could spread manure if he incorporated it and we put a timeframe on that.” The council voted to extend the moratorium by 90 days to allow time for further discussions between all interested parties.
City Attorney Jennifer Gumbel discussed her suggestion for a Conflict of Interest policy for the city. She said she’s not aware of any issues the city has currently that are concerns in this area. The council voted to approve it as submitted.
Andrew Forliti gave a summary of the annual financial audit performed by Smith Schafer & Associates. He explained that Ostrander received an unmodified “clean” report for 2018, with no Minnesota legal compliance exceptions. Forliti said Ostrander’s General Fund reserves are now at 177%, which he described as a “very healthy position to be in.” He also stated that debt payments are being made timely, and the water and sewer funds are generating sufficient cash flow to service debt and improve cash reserves. He added that a single audit will be required, and is due by September 15. The council will consider formally approving the audit at the April meeting.
Brian Malm, of Bolton & Menk Engineering, updated the council on the infrastructure project. He stated, “The lift station is finally up and running, almost flawlessly… The Phase Two project, which is the water tower and sewer and water piping the rest of town, we’re working on the design of that… The well project, both Well #3 and Well #2 are both up and running.”
Wendy Brincks asked about the projected timeline of starting actual work on Phase Two, and Malm replied, “That’s going to be dependent on Rural Development review of the plans and specs. The goals is to get going this summer on that project.”
Jeff Tart thanked everyone who helped with snow removal through the recent heavy snowstorms. There was discussion about some intersections where visibility is a concern due to snow piles. Citizens are asked to report any concerns to city hall, so they can be addressed.
Brincks will email the council with possible dates for a “skid loader work session” to decide what to do about this issue. The council discussed possibly canceling Uff Da Days in 2019 due to the street project that will be going on this summer. A decision was not made, but will be discussed at the next council meeting. The next regular meeting of the city council will be April 2 at 6:30 p.m. The public is welcome.