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Rushford Village updates sticky ordinances, policies

By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Aug 8th, 2014
Posted in Rushford Village Government

The Rushford Village Council discussed the need for modification to existing policies and ordinances at the Tuesday, August 5 meeting. Spurred by questions from Public Works/Maintenance Director Bob Thieret, City Clerk Kristina Mart suggested the city consider updating the 1994 ordinance regarding utility off.

“We need to make sure procedures are well-established,” said Mart. It was noted that the current ordinance requires a letter be sent to delinquent properties. The letter states a shut-off date and that bills past 60 days must be paid. Mart stated that currently, Thieret makes an attempt to approach the property owners prior to shutoff to allow for payment, but that the situation isn’t always a comfortable one. “There’s a couple that he’s scared to go to the door. Some have kids. It’s personal. It makes it hard.”

Councilor Dennis Overland suggested that there shouldn’t be door to door contact. “He’s there to shutoff.”

“You have to follow the policy,” echoed Councilor Chad Rasmussen, noting that making exceptions for particular residences can’t be done, lest the perception be that the city is allowing favoritism.

“Certain things have come to light and it lets you recognize that it’s out of date,” added Mayor Gordon Johnson. “If he [Thieret] can collect great, but we’re not asking him to do that. It’s a courtesy. People have to contact us and make arrangements before the shutoff date.”

City Attorney Tom Manion will look into League of Minnesota Cities recommendations on how best to address the issue and state the procedure, within the ordinance, for both the city and property owners.

Another hiccup for policy includes how to handle reimbursement and purchases for and by city employees. The issue apparently stems from a current practice of reimbursing some purchases immediately and some quarterly. Public Works/Maintenance Director Thieret was previously granted authority to expenditures under a specific amount. However, purchases on items like mower fuel and used culverts have presented some question, as did employees buying items from the city, such as used skid steer tires.

“Eventually, you’re going to run into some controversy, some second guessing that will unravel your policy,” suggested Manion, who noted the use of provisional approval granted by municipalities. “You need a policy. It won’t take long until public perception erodes public confidence in the city,” he added, noting the slippery slope of selling municipal items looking like there are side connections and deals at taxpayer expense.

“Expenditures should come through the council if possible, which makes it easier to explain to the auditor,” noted Johnson.

Attorney Manion will research options for the city to upgrade the policy as well.

The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Tuesday, August 19, at 7 p.m., at city hall. The public is encouraged to attend.

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