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Rushford Village starts year trying to nip issues

By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Jan 10th, 2014
Posted in Rushford Village Government

The start of a new year prompted some annual housekeeping, appointments, and review of rates, funds, indebtedness, and more at the Tuesday, January 7 council meeting. Along with this, the city reviewed a conversation between City Treasurer Judy Graham and PFA (Public Facilities Authority) regarding the option to pay down loans. According to Graham, the lengthy discussion ended with the two parties agreeing that it’s best not to pay down the loan, at least for now. “There’s only just a few years left on sewer loan,” said Graham. “When that’s done, then the PFA restricted loans will be available to us. It’s better to accept $2.50 rate increase instead of paying off the other portion. It’s best to not pay down on loan.”

“Raise rates and let money sit in the bank? That makes no sense,” responded Councilor Dennis Overland.

According to Graham, the sewer fund is barely breaking even and the city is going to have a sewer deficit in the coming years, per fiscal planning model projections, and it may be wise to hold off on any pay downs. A part of this projection seems to be due to the number used by PFA being applied over the whole village instead of just the service district, which is limited at 124, 104 of which are being used currently.

Mayor Dale Schwanke suggested the council seek assistance from Senator Miller to help mediate the issue. “How it got set up that way is a big, big mistake,” he cautioned.

The council voted to make no changes to the rates currently. In regards to the sewer district, now that the city knows the costs, account balances, and projections, they intend to keep everything in place until 2016, when the loan is up, and reflect back before approving anything. It was suggested the city meet again with fiscal planning consultant Mike Bubany and review results before making any decision.

City Public Works and Maintenance Director Bob Thieret is nearing retirement and the city is trying to proactively nail down any issues that might come up. One of these is his replacement. “We won’t be able to replace him for what we’re paying,” sighed Schwanke. “We’re going to be in for a sticker shock.”

The city is currently paying Thieret $20.04/hour over approximately 1840 hours. The hours include some both 30 and 40-hour work weeks, depending on the season. After reviewing the state wage scale, Schwanke noted that cities pay anywhere from $35,000 to 60,000 for the work Thieret is providing, including holding specific water and sewer licenses. “We need a 2 to 5 percent increase annually. We need to look for the middle of the road. We need to be realistic that we’re not going to replace him for that cost unless we get someone off the street.”

Insurance costs are also an issue. “We have to pay for more services we don’t want, don’t need,” stressed Schwanke. “We know insurance isn’t going to go down.”

Councilor Overland suggested the city recommend Thieret look into MNSure. “Other municipalities have opted to go MNSure route and set up a HSA for the difference of what they were paying, saving themselves and the employee money,” noted Overland. “At least check it out.” The council unanimously approved a three percent increase for 2014.

The issue of a nuisance with dog again came before the council at the meeting. Lee Humble presented a formal complaint regarding an incident at rental property he owns the afternoon of January 6. Two large dogs at the adjacent property took charge to him as he attempted to check the LP tank while fixing a heating issue at the property. “They were extremely aggressive,” said Humble. “I have significant concern for safety of the tenants. They are in danger of physical harm.”

The same dogs have been an issue for the council before, in reference to nuisance barking and alleged running at large. The owners have been issued letters from city attorney Tom Manion in the past regarding those complaints. “It’s time to update and enforce the ordinance,” continued Humble. “I fear that nothing will be done. Is there something that can be done? Something needs to be done immediately.”

According to Humble, the owners of the property in question have an enclosure for the dogs, but it is insufficient. Because of this, he says the tenant’s son is restricted access to the outdoors. The dogs, in this instance were on top of the fence, scratching to get over, but apparently can gain access over the fence by climbing over a pool. Humble stated that he believed people are reluctant to come forward because they’re afraid of retaliation. “It’s gone on long enough,” he stressed.

The previous dog ordinance was not enforceable and the Village has spent considerable time over the past few months making sure it will be legally enforceable. “It’s time to take the next step,” said Councilor Gordy Johnson.

City Attorney Tom Manion suggested a criminal complaint and a civil restraining order. “Under the ordinance, it’s a dangerous animal. It’s a civil matter as a public nuisance, but we should pursue criminal at same time; go both directions. I think we should use everything in our disposal. The attitude obviously hasn’t changed,” noted Manion.

The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Tuesday, January 21, at 7 p.m., at City Hall. The public is encouraged to attend.


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11:20:47, Feb 6th 2014

Don't tread on me says:
Rushford village has no proof these dogs are dangerous or not do they have proof that these dogs have ever attacked a person. This is absurd, The committee is trying to bully the dog owners. Shame on Fillmore journal for posting this story when it is not true. The fence is sufficient enough to contain the dogs. Read more on the Winona Post to get the other side of the story!


1:38:24, Feb 6th 2014

Hey the journal is reporting what happened at the council meeting. They aren't saying this is this or that is that in their opinion. Its what happened at the meeting. I would think the dog owners would want to know what's being said at the meetings. They're just reporting what happened they aren't saying they know it happened or not. What is with people dang.


7:26:11, Feb 7th 2014

Austin Millbarge says:
Maybe if the dog owners had shown up at the meetings regarding this issue it wouldn't have gone this far. The word on the street--which more than often is true in the Village where no one lies,steals or cheats at euchre--is that the dog owner only attended one meeting regarding this issue. I have a hard time believing that Mayor Schwanke went out of his way to hire a lawyer and go after Mr. Williams' pets...Schwanke isn't exactly a ball of energy, unless it comes time to trim that Amish style beard he shows off. I do believe that the Village has an ordinance pertaining to troublesome canines and when Mr. Williams or his significant other refused to show their faces at these city council meetings Schwanke and his minions were forced to go with the ordinance. Only after the death sentence was passed down did Mr. Williams start a facebook and campaign to appeal said sentence. I put this on lazy homeowners that forced a lazy mayor to be proactive in a situation that involves over active dogs that might be better off in a more rural setting (yes I did refer to South Rushford as not rural enough). Don't blame other people as dog killers when you didn't care enough for your dogs to attend the meetings that held their lives in the balance. "these are the type of people you want to live here these are the type of people you are gonna get" Jay Sommers


7:45:34, Feb 7th 2014

brewHA says:
Sounds like we have a "dog fight" on our hands. :)

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