SUNFISH LAKE SPECIAL CITY COUNCIL MEETING – DECEMBER 3, 2013
5:00 P.M. - ST. ANNE’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Mayor: Molly Park
Councilmembers: Mike Hovey, JoAnne Wahlstrom, Cathy DeCourcy and Steven Bulach
City Attorney: Tim Kuntz
City Building Official: David Neameyer
City Planner: Michelle Barness
City Engineer: Don Sterna
City Forester: Jim Nayes
City Treasurer: Ann Lanoue
City Clerk: Cathy Iago
1. CALL TO ORDER: Mayor Park called the meeting to order at 5:00 p.m.
2. CONSULTANT REVIEWS: Mayor Park explained the purpose of the special meeting was to conduct reviews for the consultants. She advised that each consultant would review their work plan for the past year and discuss any upcoming issues or concerns they foresee for next year.
CITY CLERK/ADMINISTRATOR: Mayor Park stated that in her opinion Cathy has continued to do an excellent job serving as City Clerk /Administrator.
The Clerk reviewed her work plan for the past year, as follows:
- Election Updates – The clerk has been reviewing options for new voting equipment and serves on a “Forms
& Procedures” Committee with other Dakota County Clerks to streamline election activities
- The Codification of the Sunfish Lake City Code was successfully completed
- Assisted with production of the City newsletter
- Work continues on compiling the list of Joint Powers Agreements and Contracts
- Work continues on the records purge and merging building files with other records for residential addresses
within the City – This was delayed due to the Clerk’s hip surgery
- Continues to attended recycling meetings and prepared grant application for recycling funds
- Continues to maintain an excellent working relationship with Council, staff and residents
In discussion relating to the codification of the City Code, Councilmember DeCourcy pointed out that in her opinion swimming pools and tennis courts should not be considered “accessory structures”. The Clerk suggested that Council could hold a joint meeting with the Planning Commission to discuss such items or Council could direct the Commission to study these matters and make a recommendation. She noted that the Commission had also discussed differences between fencing and landscaping enhancements; such as constructing a small wall to enclose a patio for seating purposes. She suggested that item could also be reviewed by the Commission.
Councilmember Hovey suggested that types of siding could also be reviewed; he questioned if it was appropriate to limit the products that could be used. Clerk Iago indicated that other cities stipulate what materials may be used for building construction; however, she explained that usually the materials are limited due to terms of an “association agreement” when developments are platted.
Councilmember Bulach questioned what was involved in the merging of City files. Clerk Iago explained that the Building Official files for permits and septic information are not combined for individual addresses within the City; therefore any searches conducted on residential inquiries are time consuming. She stated that she would continue to work on providing a file for each address within the City that includes all pertinent information relating to that address. She further explained that the previous clerk combined minutes, resolutions, ordinances and staff reports into booklets, so it is sometimes difficult to find historical information in those files. She advised that there are files kept at her home and other files stored at the Lilydale offices; she explained that she proposes to combine all these files to be stored at the Lilydale city hall.
The Clerk explained that annually she copies her computer files and stores copies of these files at the City Attorney’s office, the Lilydale City Hall and at her home.
Clerk Iago stated that in 2014 the City would conduct an election with new equipment and that she would continue to merge files and purge records to prepare the files for scanning for records retention purposes. She further stated she would continue to monitoring what is happening with other government entities that will affect Sunfish Lake and she would keep Council advised of any upcoming issues affecting the City.
Council concurred the Clerk has done an excellent job and thanked her for her work during the past year.
The Clerk stated she has enjoyed this past year working with the entire Council and staff..
BUILDING OFFICIAL: Mayor Park explained the information Council is requesting the consultants; review their work plan for the past year, discuss any upcoming issues for next year and point out any challenges they foresee in 2014.
Inspector Neameyer advised that building permits for three (3) new homes were issued this year and that permit activity was very busy. He stated that in his opinion the residents receive better service than in surrounding communities. He noted that in neighboring communities it may take up to five days to receive an inspection and that that he is able to provide same day inspections in Sunfish Lake. He explained that he had established a goal to have a 4-hour return phone call policy and that 99 percent of calls received were returned within two-hours. He explained that he keeps a phone record of all calls and inspections. He stated he has been punctual with inspections and has not received any complaints.
Mayor Park asked Inspector Neameyer to name the other communities where he provides inspection services. The Inspector responded that he is employed full-time by Inver Grove Heights and works part-time for Lilydale and Mendota.
Councilmember Bulach asked if his full-time employer had any issues with his work for the other cities. The Inspector responded that he takes vacation or personal leave to perform the inspections in the other communities and that there have been no issues with Inver Grove Heights.
Mayor Park asked if there was anything the City could do to make his job easier.
Clerk Iago pointed out that the Inspector wished to make a small change to the website information to make it easier to obtain permits.
The Inspector explained the minor change to the permit section and Councilmember Hovey agreed to make the requested changes.
Council concurred that they were very pleased with Inspector Neameyer and thanked him for his work during the past year.
CITY FORESTER: Mayor Park explained Council is requesting the consultants to review their work plan for the past year, discuss any upcoming issues for next year and point out any challenges they foresee in 2014.
Jim Nayes stated that he was pleased with the outcome of the Boy Scout project at Harmon Park and that there were no dramatic issues that arose during the year. He stated he improved the sightlines along the roadways by clearing vegetation and that he continues to remove invasive species from City parks and along roadways.
Mayor Park commended the Forester’s educational information he provided for the website and newsletter and asked if he had received any feedback from residents. The Forester responded yes and stated he had spoken with several residents regarding the information.
Councilmember DeCourcy asked if the Forester position has an actual “job description” and if it was available for Council review.
Forester Nayes explained that he has certain duties that are defined in areas of the City Code; such as identifying diseased trees, removing vegetation along roadways for site-line purposes, etc. He explained that he uses the Forestry Work Plan identified by the Tree City USA program as a guideline for his work and he distributed copies for Council.
Councilmember DeCourcy commented that in her opinion there was no reason to plant seedlings in Harmon Park and that it would be better to plant larger trees. She also stated that she did not see the reason for spending money to mow pathways in the park. She asked what could be done to control Buckthorn in the park.
The Forester explained that the Buckthorn could be managed at various levels in the park and that taking out the old plants and mowing are two options for its removal. He indicated that Council could determine the method they preferred for removal of Buckthorn and he would utilize that method. He noted that ninety percent of the plants removed from Harmon Park were Buckthorn.
Councilmember DeCourcy questioned if Cottonwood trees were also removed. She asked why the park was being mowed if it is a wildlife preserve. The Forester responded that most of the vegetation removed from the park was invasive species and that mowing provides a better chance for the smaller trees to grow. He indicated that the City could plant larger trees; however, a percentage of what is planted would be lost.
The Forester advised that he has completed most of the trimming along the roadways and the removal of small Ash trees, therefore, the monies used for these purposes could be directed to larger plantings in the park. He noted that he wished to continue removal of invasive species to the driveway located at the entrance to Harmon Park so that it appears consistent.
Councilmember DeCourcy stated that in her opinion it would be appropriate for Council to determine what should be removed from the park prior to the Forester removing anything.
The Forester agreed and explained that it is not his intent to continue removal of trees from Harmon Park.
Councilmember DeCourcy stated she does not mean to be confrontational and that in her opinion the Forester has done a good job.
Mayor Park stated that she appreciates the educational component added to the Forester’s duties and thanked the Forester for his work this past year.
Council concurred that the Forester has done an excellent job and thanked him for his report.
CITY ATTORNEY: Mayor Park stated that Council has been very pleased with Attorney Kuntz and his sound advice on legal matters. The Mayor explained the information Council is requesting from the consultants; review their work plan for the past year, discuss any upcoming issues for next year and point out any challenges they foresee in 2014.
Attorney Kuntz reviewed the items that have worked well in his opinion during the past year:
- Good transition with new Councilmembers – The old and new members have developed a sense of cooperation
- Good transition with new Treasurer – The new Treasurer has experience and a willingness to learn the City’s
- Adopting the Deer Management Plan early in the year - Council addressed this issue in a timely manner
- Adopting the CIP and Maintenance Plan – Council identified and adopted the plan and proceeded with the
proposed improvement for 2014 in a timely manner
- Developed an Informal Dispute Resolution – Council proceed to resolve the issue of tree removal on Acorn
Drive and the clean-up of the Dobrantz property in a pro-active manner
- Strong interaction with Staff – Staff continues to work well together and provide necessary input to each other
to insure Council is well-informed
The Attorney explained that in his opinion the following items could be considered by Council in the upcoming year:
1) Adopt a 5-year plan for Parks – this would provide direction to the Forester and an opportunity to have a reference for utilizing parkland within the City;
Councilmember Wahlstrom and Mayor Park agreed it would be good to have guidelines for a work plan and use of the parks, Attorney Kuntz agreed and explained it would also establish Council expectations for the Forester and could provide a tool to measure the goals established in the plan.
2) Keep on schedule for public improvement projects listed in the CIP;
3) Adopt an attitude of consumer outreach to residents and provide information materials on the website and in the newsletter – The Attorney explained that Council could request staff, member to provide information to residents such as the Fire Chief advising them on fire prevention or hazard issues. He suggested the City could conduct a contest for residents to win a property assessment to be conducted by the Fire Chief to indentify fire hazards.
4) Provide information to residents on upcoming issues – He noted that landscaping issues will arise in spring and staff could begin providing information to residents relating to tree removal guidelines, ordinance requirements and permits needed for fencing, and general information relating to landscaping projects.
Councilmember DeCourcy agreed that these are excellent ideas.
Councilmember Hovey asked if the City would be wise to hire an attorney for representation regarding the R-NAV issues. Attorney Kuntz explained that although the City cannot regulate “airspace”, it may be possible to find that an entity has not done “due diligence” relating to the issues. He noted that at this time there is nothing to be done and this may require more discussion in the future.
Council thanked the Attorney for his excellent service to the City and for his report.
RECESS: Mayor Park called for a brief recess for dinner at 6:00 p.m. Council reconvened at 6:15 p.m.
CITY TREASURER: Mayor Park explained the information Council is requesting from the consultants; review their work plan for the past year, discuss any upcoming issues for next year and point out any challenges they foresee in 2014. She noted that Treasurer Lanoue has only been with the City for a few months.
Treasurer Lanoue explained that she has extensive experience in governmental finance for larger cities and that she has been willing to learn the accounting methods used by Sunfish Lake for smaller cities. She noted that she is still learning the accounting programs and software used by the former treasurer. She asked Council to let her know if they wished to make any changes to the amount of materials they receive prior to the meeting or if they wish to change how the process works. She distributed a “Task List’ of her duties that was provided by the former treasurer.
Mayor Park asked if the former treasurer has been available to answer questions. Treasurer Lanoue responded yes but pointed out that the reporting system is somewhat difficult to figure out.
Councilmember Bulach suggested that the treasurer should revise the reporting system as she sees fit as long as the outcome remains the same. Councilmember Wahlstrom agreed.
The Treasurer explained that it is her wish that the reports be understood by Council and useful to them.
Treasurer Lanoue advised that it is her goal for next year to keep the City on budget, to work with the City Attorney and Bond Counsel to sell bonds for the upcoming street improvement project and to keep up on accounting regulations for smaller cities. She advised she would also review other accounting systems used by smaller cities to determine if they would better suit her needs for reporting. She stated she is excited to work for the City and with the staff.
Mayor Park commended the Treasurer on her flexibility and the ability to begin half way through the year. She asked if there was anything Council could do to make her job easier. Ms. Lanoue responded no.
Councilmember Bulach commented that the Treasurer should put her own “stamp” on the accounting reports and to ask Council if she needed anything to make the job easier. Councilmember Wahlstrom agreed.
Councilmember Hovey asked if the Treasurer backs-up the City files and if the Affordable Care Act would affect the City. Treasurer Lanoue explained that she uses two back up methods; “drop box” and also to a “flash drive”. She further explained that the only two City employees are both eligible for Medicare next year so the City is not affected by the Affordable Care Act.
Council concurred that they are pleased with the work of the new Treasurer and thanked her for her report.
CITY PLANNER: Mayor Park explained the information Council is requesting from the consultants; review their work plan for the past year, discuss any upcoming issues for next year and point out any challenges they foresee in 2014.
The Mayor stated she was very impressed with Michelle’s work and also with Emily Shively’s work when she filled in for Michelle during her maternity leave.
The Planner reviewed her memorandum dated November 27, 2013. She stated she enjoyed taking the lead on projects, becoming more knowledgeable on City ordinances and getting to know the Council and residents. She further stated she was glad to work with Council, staff and residents to resolve issues that arose during the year.
Planner Barness explained that she proposes to stay on top of construction visits to application sites to insure all conditions of approval are met. She noted that there were some new homes constructed this year, as well as several major additions to homes in the City and she would work to insure that all conditions associated with approval of the applications were completed.
The Planner advised that she would assist the City in responding to the Met Councils’ 2040 Preliminary Forecasts for population, households, and employment. She noted that the Met Council projected growth in the community beyond the development capacity provide for in the 2008 Comprehensive Plan. She explained that she would continue to work with staff to insure all site inspections are completed and also work with the City Treasurer to close out escrow accounts for completed projects. She stated that in the upcoming year she wished to discuss issues, opportunities and goals for the Community with the Planning Commission and Council. She advised that she would assist in creating any ordinance changes as necessary to accomplish identified goals and would continue to provide quality representation to residents and response to all inquiries received.
Mayor Park thanked the Planner for her contribution to the City newsletter that defined construction review and regulation in the community.
Councilmember Wahlstrom commented that in her opinion the Planner has done a great job.
Councilmember Bulach commented that Sunfish Lake is a unique city and asked how the current building process compares with other unique cities in the metro area; he asked if Sunfish Lake’s process was more complicated than other cities and if it could be streamlined.
The Planner explained that currently the type of review required for projects is defined by the number of cubic yards excavated. She pointed out that some home additions are slightly over the defining amount of excavation and thus require a substantial amount of additional information. She suggested it would be possible to review the current regulations with the Planning Commission and have them submit a recommendation to Council. She also noted that the current regulations in Sunfish Lake are not out-of-line with those other communities require. She also pointed out that there was some discussion relating to the regulations pertaining to attached versus detached garages and this could also be reviewed by the Commission.
Mayor Park asked if a joint meeting was required to address these issues. The Planner responded that Council could hold a special joint meeting or just direct the Commission to review the issues.
The Mayor stated she was very pleased and impressed with the Planner’s work and was happy to have her on staff.
Council thanked the Planner for an excellent job and for her report.
CITY ENGINEER: Mayor Park explained the information Council is requesting from the consultants; review their work plan for the past year, discuss any upcoming issues for next year and point out any challenges they foresee in 2014.
Engineer Sterna stated that the groundwork for the proposed 2014 street improvements was accomplished and that all signage within the City was upgraded. He explained that water quality will be an issue in the upcoming year with the new regulations that will be forthcoming.
Mayor Park advised that this Thursday she would attend a meeting at the Mendota Heights City Hall from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. with representatives from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Lower Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (LMWMO) to discuss water quality issues and asked if the Engineer wished to join her. The Engineer agreed to attend. He noted that alum treatment was done in Spring Lake in the City of Prior Lake, which is considerably larger than Sunfish Lake, but the cost was $1 million dollars.
The Engineer explained that the 2014 assessments for the street improvement were fairly well received at the public meeting, although he noted that there were two property owners who may oppose the assessments.
Mayor Park commented that she and the Engineer could schedule to discuss the proposed assessments with those two property owners who expressed concerns.
Engineer Sterna advised the two major areas he oversees during the year are snow plowing and maintenance of Charlton Road. He commented that the next challenge for the City would be to determine what if any improvements should be made to Charlton Road. He commented that if some easements were dedicated to the City it would be easier to determine what type of project could be done.
Councilmember Hovey suggested that the City may chose to review possible improvements on a “phased” basis for the street versus improvement of the entire road. The Engineer agreed and indicated that work could be done on the north end of the road where it is most needed.
Councilmember Bulach asked what amount of money the City spends on maintenance of the street over and above general maintenance and plowing. Engineer Sterna advised that the City spends between $6,500 and $7,500 per year for dust control and grading.
There was discussion relating to previous estimates for improvements on Charlton Road. Mayor Park pointed out that next year’s budget contains $9,300 for maintenance of Charlton Road. Engineer Sterna explained that drainage along the roadway is also a problem.
Councilmember Bulach asked when the matter would come up again for discussion. Mayor Park explained that if the residents request an improvement to the road a strong majority vote by Council is not necessary, but if Council raises the issue, a strong majority is required to pass any action taken.
Engineer Sterna commented that he does not foresee any major issues in the upcoming year. He noted that the City infrastructure is controllable.
The Engineer stated his strengths are years of experience with the City and that he understands the unique culture of the City; he further advised that his firm has an extensive background working with municipal transportation projects and an excellent working relationship with other government entities. He noted that Sunfish Lake was his firm’s first client.
Mayor Park encouraged the Engineer to submit his reports in a timely manner and thanked him for his work during the past year.
Council thanked the Engineer for his report and service throughout the year.
Mayor Park asked if there were any further comments and there was no response.
3. ADJOURN: Mayor Park called for adjournment at 6:58 p.m.
Molly Park, Mayor Catherine Iago, City Clerk