The May Canton City Council agenda was filled with unfinished business from its April meeting, but before the council could address those items last Wednesday evening, it first had to deal with a surprise resignation by Councilman Charlie Warner.
As Mayor Nick Prestby called the meeting to order, Clerk Brock Bergey informed the council he had an item to add to the agenda and a letter from Warner to share at the opening. With no explanation given, Warner simply wrote that he was resigning from his position on the city council, effective at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 12. He did not attend the meeting in person.
With the vacancy left by the acceptance of his resignation, City Attorney Greg Schieber advised the council that it could choose a replacement council member to fill the remaining time of Warner’s term. Bergey noted Warner was elected in November of 2018, taking office in January of 2019, meaning his four-year term runs through 2023.
“When there is a vacancy, the council would appoint someone to fill that vacancy,” Schieber reiterated. “The council can decide how to get candidates, but they would have to be 21 years or older and a registered voter in the city of Canton.”
The council decided to advertise the vacancy on social media and through the city’s newsletter, asking interested individuals to contact city hall with a statement of interest. Once the council has reviewed those statements, it could opt to hold interviews or appoint someone based on those statements.
The council opted to review the interest at the June meeting with the council likely appointing someone at the July meeting.
The council continued its discussion started at the April meeting regarding the city’s recreational vehicle ordinance. The matter was brought to the city’s attention last month during the public comment period when Josh Nordsving asked the council why ATVs were not included in the list of vehicles allowed to operate within city limits. Currently the city requires a permit for UTVs, side-by-sides and golf carts operating within city limits, but does not include ATVs.
Bergey reminded the council it had amended the ordinance in October of 2015 to exclude ATVs.
After reviewing the ordinance, Schieber noted that the city ordinance actually excludes all recreational motor vehicles, with a few exceptions. He recommended amending the ordinance to meet the city’s past practices and to include the ATVs, if the council chooses to do so. “The council needs to determine what it would like to allow in town,” he added.
Council Member Randy Gossman stated the city continues to be concerned for youth safety on these vehicles, but he also doesn’t see a huge difference in any of these types of vehicles, whether it’s an ATV, a UTV, a side-by-side or golf cart.
He recommended amending the ordinance to include ATVs to the list requiring a permit. Schieber and Bergey will review the ordinance, make changes and present a draft to the council during the June meeting.
Bergey noted, until the ordinance is officially changed, the city will not be issuing permits for the ATVs.
Proposed street repairs for 2021 also returned to the council agenda from the April meeting. Jim Davis from the public works department and the council discussed several intersections and several areas of concern that were deemed “tripping hazards.”
If all areas were addressed, the costs for the repairs would exceed $35,000. The budget for street repairs this year is $20,000, Bergey noted, which also includes funds for other supplies beyond repairs.
Davis and the council agreed that the two areas that would be most important to fix were the entrance to the town hall and the intersection between ZZ Tap and The Pub. These two areas would cost around $15,000.
After reviewing the condition of the pavement in front of the town hall, where the council meeting was being held, the council members and Davis recommended talking with Public Works Director Jon Nordsving about possibly replacing the area in front of the town hall as an employee project.
Gossman also added, “If we fix the tripping hazards out front, we don’t really need to fix the intersection.”
After further discussion, Gossman made a motion to approve the funding to fix the intersection between The Pub and ZZ Tap, which would cost roughly $8,900, and to ask city employees to fix the areas next to the town hall.
In regards to the updates at the softball field, Bergey noted once the costs for the electrical work are paid, the city will have $2,677.48 remaining from the funds taken out of the CD containing the Don Wilken donation.
Mayor Nick Prestby noted the field could use some fill to build up the pitcher’s mound and to even out some low spots. He also recommended leaving those funds for “what ifs” as the work continues on the field.
Councilmember Cindy Shanks said she was under the impression that those funds would be returned to the CD for future park and recreation needs.
Bergey explained that the CD has been renewed for another six months and the funds cannot be added back in until after that six months passes.
Gossman did not feel the field needed any fill and the field is ready for play as it currently is. He felt the funds should be used as they were designated – for electrical improvements – which could also include the costs of bulbs when they need to be replaced.
Prestby noted Mabel-Canton has scheduled an eighth grade game with Cresco to be played in Canton on June 3.
In the final item of unfinished business, the council once again revisited to the plan to reconfigure the city hall space to improve staff efficiency and increase work space.
With very little discussion, Shanks made the motion to add a wall in the current meeting space, extending the service window closer to the entrance, creating an additional work space for the deputy clerk.
The estimated cost for this option was about $3,000. Bergey also noted the city would be receiving additional COVID relief funds, which could possibly be used to cover this cost. The council approved this project.
Gazebo land parcel
The council discussed the boundaries of city-owned land in the downtown area, which features the city gazebo. The council had approved a land survey to confirm property lines at an August 2020 meeting. Since that time, he also obtained a legal opinion from Schieber and had talked to a couple of adjacent property owners, which include Robroy Kelly, Danny Whalen and Gary and Jackie Ward. He had also obtained a quote from Tri-State Surveying to conduct the survey for $2,100.
Schieber told the council that a survey would confirm or deny an encroachment issue by the northern adjacent property owners onto city land. It would also confirm or deny that a portion of the gazebo site sits on the land owned by the Wards. In that case, Schieber noted the city has maintained and used this property for more than six years, so it becomes dedicated to the public automatically. Jackie Ward was present at the meeting and told the council she and her husband are open to granting an easement or working with the city so nothing changes.
Councilman Randy Gossman interjected, “I think the north border is more of a concern.” He pointed out that a sidewalk/street running along the Whalen property prohibits too much encroachment in that area, but the Kelly property may spill into the city lot quite significantly. There is also concern of an abandoned car located on that area, for which the city has issued a citation and gained legal action for removal.
Schieber noted, “People cannot adversely possess governmental property. The city could tell him to move the building or at least stop putting stuff on city land.”
He also said a survey could “solve the mystery,” and also arm the city to be in a better position to control neighboring property owners from encroaching onto the city land.
Ward agreed, saying it was “time to get it right,” but that she and her husband were “fine either way.”
Gossman made the motion to accept the quote for the survey costs and to go forward. “It will just help us know what we are dealing with in the future,” he said. The motion passed.
Planning commission changes
The council accepted the resignation of Mike Shanks from the planning commission. This prompted a discussion regarding how the commission is not operating according to the city’s ordinance.
According to the ordinance, the commission should have seven members who hold a monthly meeting.
Schieber agreed the number of members and the required meeting schedule seemed a bit excessive for a city the size of Canton. However, the ordinances were based on a model from the League of Minnesota Cities and can be amended to fit the needs of Canton.
He recommended establishing an odd number of members – such as five or three – to prevent a tie vote and to change the meeting schedule to “as needed” rather than set a regularly scheduled session.
With the resignation of Shanks, the planning commission would have three remaining members.
The council agreed to have Schieber and Bergey review the planning commission ordinance and recommend revisions to be approved at the June meeting.
Long-range street planning
Daren Sikkink from the engineering firm of WHKS attended the council meeting to discuss long-range street and utility planning in the city of Canton. Sikkink was pretty frank in his assessment, stating the city’s infrastructure is in poor condition. “The utilities have served their useful life and your streets are in tough shape,” he said.
The biggest questions are always how a city can pay for these big projects, Sikkink said. “But there are funding options for small communities such as Canton and there is low-interest financing available.”
He also said the planning process will take awhile and the soonest the city would be talking about a project would be in 2023.
Bergey told the council he felt the long-term planning was needed so the city could know what should be fixed and what needs to be replaced or totally reconstructed.
Sikkink said he has worked with other small towns in the area which face similar concerns as Canton. He used Wykoff as an example where they established a 20-year plan where the city worked in five-block sections.
He also noted, generally, water mains drive projects like these as there are too many “bandaids” needed and it quickly becomes an issue of replacing old mains and lines. “It’s also a once-in-a-lifetime project,” Sikkink said. “These mains are going to last 50 to 100 years.”
No formal action was needed at the meeting, but the council did come to a consensus that a long-term plan was needed and asked Sikkink to put together a proposal to continue his work on this plan.
After reviewing costs to make repairs to the former bus shed, the council decided to table the matter until the June meeting to allow the council members to further assess the building. The cost of $27,000 for repairs include a roof, new doors and redoing the sides of the building. “Is it worth saving,” Gossman asked. “I feel we need to look a lot more at that building before we invest that kind of money into it.”
The council approved up to $250 for landscape materials to beautify the space by city office building on Main Street where the new little free library and flag pole will be located.
The council discussed modifying the flag pole area at the town hall, which was the original proposed site of the veterans’ memorial. Bergey recommended reducing the size of the retaining wall, which would make it easier to mow and improve its curb appeal. Some plants and bushes may also be added to make it more attractive.
The council approved the purchase of additional tables and chairs for the town hall to accommodate larger events. The cost was about $2,500 for 32 chairs, eight tables and a chair cart.
The city recognized the waste water treatment plant staff for commendations received from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for the fourth year in a row.
The city approved installing an additional railing on the Mitson House ramp so it meets requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Kathie Haynes from the Canton Historical Society also noted the historical society would like to work with the council and the city staff to create a short-term and long-term plan for maintenance of the Mitson House.
Bergey noted property inspections will take place during the first part of June and urged Canton residents to spruce up their properties before city staff takes its tour.
In his public works report, Davis requested the city approve $425 for the purchase of a sign to remind people about what is allowed and what is not allowed in the brush dump. The sign will read, “The City of Canton brush disposal site is for residential use only and is for yard wastes only: These items include grass clippings, leaves, tree limbs and garden remnants. Lumber, construction debris and trash is not allowed. Voluntary cooperation is essential in keeping the site open. Violators may be fined.”