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Rushford City Council: Mierau leaves big shoes to fill in Rushford

Fri, Jan 26th, 2007
Posted in Government

RUSHFORD - The January 22nd meeting of the Rushford City Council began with a moment of silence honoring the memory of former Council member Ron Mierau. His chair remained empty throughout the meeting as the council attempted to fill the vacancy he left and continue with the work in which he'd been so instrumental. Since the council had recently been through an application process when T.S. Roberton had resigned, they decided to appoint Herb Highum to fill the position for the rest of Mierau's term (until Jan. 2008). Highum had come within a coin toss of serving on the council at the time Laura Deering joined the council.

Council member Larry Johnson agreed to accept the position of acting mayor while Mayor Les Ladewig agreed to take Mierau's place and attend the EDA tour of Riverside Electronics in Lewiston and Winona on Tuesday. A new citizen representative will be needed on the Planning Commission to replace Highum as he joins the council.

Fire Department

Attention turned to the fire department and its relief association as the council reviewed the state auditor's audit of the volunteer fire relief associations. In an evaluation report summary document released January 22, the key recommendations were made that all volunteer firefighter relief associations invest their pension funds through the State Board of Investment and that such associations be required to develop investment policies incorporating best practices.

City administrator Windy Block presented a comparison of the defined benefit plan, under which retiring firemen are paid a set dollar amount per year of service, and the defined contribution plan, under which the firemen are paid the amount in their account at retirement. Rushford firefighters are in the defined contribution plan; Block gave an example payout of $14,632.12 for 21 years of service, less than the $16,000 that a Houston firefighter would receive for 20 years under their defined benefit plan. Currently, the city of Rushford contributes a total of $2,250 per year to the relief fund. This has been the case for several years, but, years ago, the city had contributed nothing at all. The administration expense for the relief association has been quite high ($1,907 in 2005 and $2,571 in 2006); the rate of return was 2.96% in 2005 and an estimated 7.48% in 2006.

Fire Chief Mike Ebner told the council a Twin Cities group has been pushing to dump all out-state relief funds into a pool for investment for quite some time.

Block reminded the council the trustees of the relief association were setting themselves up for the possibility of being sued if they did not take care to ensure a good rate of return for the investments. He encouraged putting the money into a pool for investing. No decisions were made at this time.

Ebner presented the new slate of fire department officers, noting Paul Engrav had stepped down as an assistant chief but remained with the department. Dave Lombard is now first assistant; Paul Corcoran is second assistant. Ebner also presented the schedule of events and training sessions for the department.

The council approved raising the 2007 fire call rate to from $200 to $300 per hour, following the lead of the DNR and the Tri-County Firefighter's Association. In addition, the hourly rate of reimbursement for firemen was raised to $8.00 per hour, $4.00 per hour for standby, and $9.00 per hour for the chief and two assistants. Ebner recommended considering raising the city's contribution to the relief association by $25 for each fireman starting in 2008. This would result in a $3,000 contribution from the city and could be included in the budgeting process starting in July.

In closing, Ebner reported signage for th e 1924 fire display garage would be done by Rush Creek Ltd. and paid for by donations from the R-P Booster Club and, hopefully, the Lions' Club. Donations of old fire extinguishers and other fire department memorabilia have been coming in and will be added to the display as time and funding permit.

Other business

In other business the council:

• endorsed the idea of hiring Heather Larson full-time - three hours a day would be spent working to revitalize the Chamber of Commerce (including the Get Broadband project); this would allow for cross-training of city staff and keep city hall open from 8 to 4:30 each day;

• received an invitation to attend the February 5 public library fact finding meeting on the possibility of co-locating with the R-P school library;

• discussed the hiring of the city prosecuting attorney and chose to wait with a decision until after the county board met and determined whether full-time county attorney Brett Corson would be available for such duties;

• directed city staff to continue with the enforcement of city ordinance prohibiting the installation of newspaper boxes on city boulevards, noting the postmaster had responded that unmarked paper boxes could be installed below mailboxes.

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