Kathryn Wade was appointed to fill the seat vacancy left by Mitchell Walbridge on the Lanesboro City Council at their November 6 meeting. As the new city administrator, Walbridge administered the oath of office to Wade.
Before opening the regular meeting,the council spent time in a budget workshop reviewing and analyzing the 2024 budget for Lanesboro Public Utilities, the Street department, the Park department and the general fund.
The consent agenda was approved and included the accounts payable, Turkey Bowling, Resolution 2023-39 accepting a donation from Merchants Bank in the amount of $1,000 and another from F&M Community Bank in the same amount, and a renewed contract with CEDA for 2024.
Jerod Wagner gave the Lanesboro Public Utilities report. They are looking into having an ongoing grant writing and application process and are currently interviewing two companies to provide that service. The Kirkwood street project went well and all of the water main valves in that area have been replaced, which will help in isolating sections if there is an issue or a water leak. There are still many other areas in the city where that is a problem at this time. The MN Deptartment of Health has mandated that cities change from lead to copper pipe. Bolten & Menk is taking the lead on that project in Lanesboro. The new wastewater treatment plant has been operational for 11 months now and there have been a number of issues with it from the start, but those are being resolved. The annual sewer cleaning around town has been completed and video footage was taken of the condition of the sewer line infrastructure in every section of Lanesboro. Residents can see the footage by asking at the city offices. Tree trimming has been completed around the community. Three solar projects were completed at several locations in 2023, one of which was the school. New electric meters will be installed in town around the beginning of January. In regards to the budget, Wagner noted that conservation will be the best tool going forward for individuals and businesses to save money on electricity due to rising costs.
Mayor Jason Resseman gave the Planning and Zoning report. A house was torn down in Little Norway. The committee members are currently working on some protocols and procedures for accepting donations of memorial benches and things of that nature to the city. Jeff Lepper and Michael Seiler’s terms are both up for renewal.
Council member Mindy Albrecht-Benson gave the Heritage Preservation report. Andy Bunge attended their last meeting to talk about his development plans. Albrecht-Benson noted that the commission would like opportunities to partner with Planning and Zoning for that type of discussion so everyone is on the same page and can collaborate efforts.
Library Director Tara Johnson reported that 925 patron cards are currently held at the Lanesboro Public Library; 496 of those belong to Lanesboro residents while the rest are county or rural patrons. The library has about 16,000 items in its collection which includes everything from magazines to DVDs to books and more. Five of the seven library board members were also in attendance at the council meeting to introduce themselves and explain why they choose to serve on the library board.
The council reviewed the proposed personnel policy updates. As Indigenous Peoples Day is now a state holiday, a motion was approved to have the city offices closed that day starting next year. A change to the sick and safe time language in the policy as mandated by the state was approved and will only apply to part-time employees. There will be no change for full-time employees. The PTO policy was also revised. A $100 clothing allowance per year for city employees was approved.
The updated policy included the option for city employees to take a stipend if they choose not to accept the offered health insurance. The stipend has been offered for quite a few years now by the city, but was in the process of being phased out. Wade asked if there were many employees who were interested in it. Walbridge said that several have expressed interest as they are able to get health insurance through a spouse or other means and noted that offering it could potentially save the city money. Mayor Resseman said he was in favor of offering the stipend as it can sometimes be a struggle to find qualified people who want to work for a small community and offering a variety of benefits can be a draw. “This could be something that could be advantageous for the city to move forward with,” he said. “For me, it’s about retention and the ability to draw people who want to work here.” It was noted that employees would need to provide proof that they have insurance elsewhere in order to receive the stipend. A motion to reinstate the stipend for individuals that do not take the city’s health insurance was approved. The personnel policy was approved as amended.
The board and commission member appointments for 2024 were reviewed. Mayor Resseman noted that having input from those individuals is a very important aspect of the municipal government. Three seats are expiring on the Park Board and three on the Heritage Preservation Commission. A resignation from Walbridge on the HPC was accepted as well as a resignation from EDA member Phil Dybing. A list of open seats will be compiled and posted publicly.
The next Lanesboro city council meeting will be held on December 4 at 5 p.m. to accommodate the Lanesboro school’s holiday concert.