Mabel’s City Council met on January 12, with all members participating (Adam Wilder, Corey Wilson, Kirsten Wyffels, Terry Torkelson, and City Clerk Karen Larson). Mayor Jim Westby participated via phone, so Wilder led the meeting. Also in attendance were Deputy Clerk Kendra Spalla and Jeff Rein. Spalla addressed the council, saying, “I just want to say thank you to the council for hiring me. I really, really do enjoy it, and I love being in town.”
The council discussed the annual “tree program” and whether or not it should continue to be offered. Larson offered a list of trees and pricing from Plant Lady Landscapes, which listed a variety of trees, including Crabapple, Linden, Magnolia, Maple, and Oak. The council discussed the possibility of having interested residents pay for the entire cost of any trees they choose to have planted, rather than a flat fee, since the fee that has been charged to residents doesn’t nearly cover the true cost. The total price listed on the estimate from Plant Lady Landscapes was $21,084, for 50 trees and supplies and labor to get them planted.
The council felt that the city probably wouldn’t need 50 trees, and there was discussion of the advantages of knowing citizens’ tree choices before ordering. There was also discussion of how to have citizens indicate exactly where they want any tree(s) planted. The consensus was to send out information to citizens, asking their tree preferences. The council hopes to hear back from all interested citizens so that an order can be placed in February.
The council discussed the water/sewer billing for the Mabel House Hotel, which had been discussed by owner Cristal Adkins during the council’s December meeting. At that time, Adkins described an unusually high water usage (and resulting billing), and she asked if the city could forgive a portion.
Mayor Westby shared his opinion, stating, “My recommendation is just maybe waive the late fees, but she pays whatever usage she used, and I don’t think we should be forgiving anything because we haven’t done it in the past.” After discussion, the council voted in favor of Westby’s motion.
The council approved the list of annual appointments, including acting mayor (Wilder), city attorney (Nethercut Schieber PLLP), zoning administrator (Jeff Rein), fire chief (Jeff Rein), zoning (Torkelson and Wilson), website and Facebook page editor (Spalla and Larson), and official posting place (Mabel City Hall).
The council discussed proposed increases to ambulance employees’ pay. Wilder asked what impact the proposed increases would have on the budget, and Larson replied that she didn’t believe these increases would lead to budgetary problems, saying, “I do think these are feasible.” Modest increases were made to the on-call hourly rate, weekend base rate, holiday pay, and pay for transports to Decorah/La Crosse/Rochester. The council also discussed a possible pay increase for the ambulance director. After discussion, the council agreed upon a 3% increase in pay for the director.
Larson informed the council that Mabel’s annual financial audit will occur January 26 and 27, performed by Hacker Nelson & Company. She said Hacker Nelson is requesting electronic copies of forms audited, so that record keeping can be more efficient.
Rein spoke to the city regarding the Small Cities Development Program. He said Mabel qualified for the funding this year, but he recommended that Mabel wait until next year to pursue this funding. He said the funding will be available again next year, and holding off for now would allow Mabel to prepare more planfully, rather than rushing to get things ready this spring. The council agreed to this suggestion.
A reminder was given for pet owners in Mabel to get their pets licensed for 2022. Rein also voiced appreciation to the residents of Mabel for doing a good job complying with winter parking rules (alternate side parking).
A zoning permit was granted for Ruth Brett.
The next meeting of the Mabel Council meeting will be February 9 at 6 p.m. The public is welcome.