Mayor Russ Smith commented on the state of the city and the community at Chatfield’s first council meeting of the new year held on January 9.
He listed a number of improvements in the city, including the care center, remodeling of the Center for the Arts, and other development projects, which will improve the quality of life for many residents. There are other issues to be addressed including storm water improvements. Overall, Smith said the state of the city is good.
Smith stated the state of the community is not as good due to politics, COVID, differences of opinions, and divisions. Civil discussions are the hallmark of a free society. He asked that members of the community strive to live and work together, to move forward together.
Approval was given of a list of appointments to boards and commissions for 2022. There is one open seat on the Library Board.
Liquor and beer licenses for 2022 were approved.
Curt Sorenson explained the Charter Commission met in November. During that meeting a motion was approved unanimously to recommend that the city council by ordinance eliminate Section 21 of the Chatfield Charter entirely. This section authorizes the position of City Health Officer. No one has served in this position for many years. Sorenson said the city relies on county and state health departments for guidance and regulation.
The council approved a resolution to schedule a public hearing for February 28 on the recommendation to eliminate Section 21.
Sorenson went on to explain the need to change the way people are identified in this organization, specifically the position of city clerk. City Clerk Joel Young has been functioning as a city administrator for some time. The Charter Commission has recommended that the city council change the title from city clerk to city administrator/manager four times now. This will not involve any additional people or positions; it will just be identifying how the city actually operates today. The title of city clerk does not accurately describe the position Young fulfills. It would be hard to find a qualified candidate to do the job Young currently does under the current job description. The Charter Commission unanimously adopted a resolution recommending the City Charter be amended to develop and install the position of City Manager/City Administrator. The commission recommended the city council adopt this proposal by ordinance.
City Attorney Fred Suhler agreed it would be simplest to make the change by ordinance. This will require a unanimous vote by the council. There was some support from the council to make this change by referendum if a unanimous vote is not attainable.
A resolution was approved by the council to schedule a public hearing on February 28 to consider the recommendation to amend the City Charter to change the city clerk position and job description to that of a city administrator/manager.
Other business in brief
• Brian Burkholder informed the council about the findings of a recent energy audit from the Minnesota Rural Water Association. With adjustments already made and the installation of Variable Frequency Drive (VDF) at Well # 2 the city can be expected to save $3,500 on energy costs annually. Payback for the cost of the VDF will be achieved in about two years.
• City staff was authorized to communicate to house and senate legislators a recommendation for special legislation on Tax Increment Financing requirements. The special legislation could specifically exempt a possible hotel project in Chatfield from a 15,000-square-foot restriction that is now in place. Legislators are also asked to modify the small city exception so that 15,000-square-foot standard only applies to the first floor of the building. Legislation will allow the city to assist the hotel project development through Tax Increment Financing.
• Approval was given to submit a pay equity report, which is required to be submitted to the state every three years to ensure pay equity for female employees. It appears the city passes the pay equity test and will be found to be in compliance with the law.
• The 2022 $5,000 investment to Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc. (RAEDI) was approved.