SUNFISH LAKE SPECIAL CITY COUNCIL MEETING – DECEMBER 2, 2014
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: Mike Andrejka
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 – Continued review of options for new voting equipment and served on a “Forms
& Procedures” Committee with other Dakota County Clerks to streamline election activities
- Assisted with production of the City newsletter
- 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 volume of planning items and conducting the election
- Continues to attended recycling meetings and prepared grant application for recycling funds
- Continues to maintain an excellent working relationship with Council, staff and residents
Clerk Iago explained that she plans to focus on working at the City of Lilydale to merge the building permits and septic files for each individual address within the City. She stated that some files are kept at her home and some files are stored at the Lilydale City Hall. She noted that eventually she plans to combine all files to be stored at Lilydale with the exception of informational files for each year that she uses. She advised that once the file merge is accomplished, she would seek bids for the records to be scanned for electronic storage.
Council suggested that the Clerk research hiring an intern to assist with the project. The Clerk agreed and stated she would discuss this with other clerks and vendors at the March, 2015 Clerk’s Conference.
Clerk Iago stated that she continues to review new election equipment with all cities in Dakota County and that purchase of the new equipment would be done as a cost-share with the County. She noted that monies have been budgeted for this purpose.
The Clerk explained that she would continue to monitoring what is happening with other government entities that could impact Sunfish Lake and she would keep Council advised of any upcoming issues affecting the City. She stated that she would continue to use available resources, such as the League of Minnesota Cities and the Minnesota Clerks and Finance Officers Association to research updates to procedures and other issues related to her job.
Clerk Iago commented that she enjoys working with the Council and enjoys working for government.
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 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 2015.
Inspector Andrejka explained that he was still learning the permit procedures and that he was working to insure that any outstanding permits were taken care of in a timely manner. He noted that permit activity had been busy this year.
The Inspector explained that he plans to store all permit information electronically and to provide electronic reports to Council and staff. He commented that stated he receives a lot of information via email and he was unsure how to respond to some of the information or requests.
Clerk Iago stated the Inspector could forward those emails to her and she would work with the Inspector to determine how best to respond or how to process the requests. “
Mayor Park asked if the Inspector found any difficulty working with residents.
Inspector Andrejak responded that he has a good working relationship with the residents so far and that he attempts to respond promptly to inquiries and to provide inspections in a timely manner. He indicated that the process works faster in Sunfish Lake than in larger cities and that in his opinion the residents receive better service than in surrounding communities due to his ability to respond quickly. He stated that he delivers permits directly to the job site once he has issued the permit and explains where the permit should be displayed. He pointed out that this provides him an opportunity to meet and review the job with the contractor at the site.
Mayor Park commented that meeting at the site with the contractor is a “nice touch” for staff and that in her opinion staff members are the City “gatekeepers” and present a professional persona on behalf of the city. She thanked the Inspector for his service to the City and stated that Council looks forward to working with him in the future.
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 2015.
Forester Nayes stated that this has been a busy year for the City due to the improved economy. He advised there has progress with the clean-up of the property at 6 Acorn Drive and that he had offered thanks to Kevin for the work accomplished so far. He noted that the property looks much better than it did a few weeks ago, however, there are still brush piles on approximately 25% of the rear property.
Councilmember Hovey commended the Forester on the improved the sightlines along the City roads and his pro-active approach relating to tree removal.
The Forester stated he has a list of trees, mostly elms that need to be removed due to disease. He noted that he was planted disease resistant elms on his property and would advise other residents to do the same. He further stated he continues to remove invasive species from City parks and along roadways. He discussed the fact that he receives occasional questions about the sightlines on the sharp curve on Charlton Road and had been asked if he could mow down the plants to a reasonable height. He explained that because this is private property, he only mowed to the fence and the sightlines were somewhat improved.
Forester Nayes explained that it may be appropriate to consider regulations that do not allow any plantings on private property less than 10 ft. from any roadway surface or drainage area so that sightlines can be maintained. He also advised that Emerald Ash Borer would be an issue in the upcoming year and that it had been somewhat delayed due to cold weather. He noted that he had scheduled a Fire Wise Committee meeting to talk about issues relating to emergency vehicle access on property and staking wood too close to a home.
The Forester explained that he asked to hold the Fire Wise meetings at St. Anne’s Church and was advised he would not be charged for this year but may be charge a fee for next year.
Councilmember DeCourcy asked if the meetings had to be scheduled so close to Council meetings. The Forester responded no, but explained that was the date that was available. He stated he would try to keep the meeting short and not schedule it so close to a Council meeting date.
Councilmember DeCourcy asked if the Metro Bowhunters had finished their hunt and the Forester responded yes, but explained that the residents are allowed to hunt until the end of this year.
Mayor Park thanked the Forester for his work on educational components for the City website and newsletter relating to environmental issue commended him on a job well done 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 2015.
Attorney Kuntz stated it has been a privilege to work for the City of Sunfish Lake and Councilmembers. He discussed four items that in his opinion have worked well during the past year or should be discussed next year:
1) Public Improvement process worked well – Staff began the process early in the year and it was brought to a
successful conclusion with no on-going issues.
2) Increased Planning Activity – In his opinion this may continue with applications for expansion of existing homes
and possible tear-down/rebuild of older homes. He noted the demographics in the City are changing and with
limited vacant building sites remaining the trend may be to upgrade existing homes.
3) Council may consider meeting with the Engineer early in next year to discuss a 3-year outlook and identify
possible improvement projects; this would avoid Council being caught unaware of proposed improvements
The discussion could be held during a regular meeting and would take a minimal amount of time.
4) Strong interaction with staff – Staff continues to work well together and meets once a month prior to the Council
meeting to provide necessary input to each other and to insure Council is well-informed
Mayor Park asked if citizens ever contact the Attorney directly.
Attorney Kuntz responded that he does not receive calls directly and that most residents first contact the Planner or Clerk with questions. He noted that the Clerk does a good job of directing calls to appropriate staff members.
Councilmember Bulach commented that in his opinion the Attorney does a great job and provides excellent information to Council. He asked if the City has a fiduciary responsibility to request other bids for staff positions.
The Attorney explained that the law does not require Council to do so and it is his personal opinion that it may not be appropriate to solicit bids for services unless there was good cause to do so. He noted that the current staff are top flight people and they all pay attention to details and get things done. He commented that because the City does not create a large amount of work, it may be difficult to sustain the experienced level of personnel that currently work for the City. He pointed out that Council monitors staff annually and if a problem arises they could discuss the bid process.
Mayor Park asked if Council could hold a closed meeting to discuss salaries for staff members. She noted that usually the salary increases are done in January each year and it is uncomfortable discussing this with the staff members present.
The City Attorney responded that salaries are public information and cannot be discussed in a closed meeting. He advised that Council could assign two members to meet individually with the Clerk, Forester and Treasurer prior to the January meeting to discuss their respective salaries and make a recommendation to Council at the meeting.
Councilmember Hovey noted that the recent planning applications submitted for Council review were lacking full sets of plans that had been approved by staff. He questioned if Council could tell the Planning Commission they would not review the applications until all the plans have been submitted and approved by staff.
The Attorney commented that applicants are very aggressive when requesting their submittals be approved promptly. He noted that staff attempts to appease the applicants and provide some flexibility in submitting the complete application. He noted that the majority of the review fall to the City Engineer for grading and drainage and usually the landscaping portion of the plans are the last submission. He pointed out that Council has the authority to delay the review process until a full set of plans has been submitted and reviewed or they may approve the plans but delay issuance of a building permit until all plans have been approved by staff. He further advised that Council has the option to delegate such approval to staff to insure all plans are approved prior to issuance of the building permit.
Councilmember Hovey expressed concern that the City may get into a bind if the septic system is not properly installed.
Attorney Kuntz explained that the City would not be liable if that occurred, but it would create problems.
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 6:10 p.m. Council reconvened at 6:20 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 2015. She noted that Treasurer Lanoue has been with the City for a year and a half and that her reports have been excellent.
Treasurer Lanoue explained that she has extensive experience in governmental finance for larger cities and that she has been more comfortable with the accounting methods used by Sunfish Lake for smaller cities. She noted that she is still learning the accounting procedures used by the former treasurer, however she has updated the budget worksheet in an attempt to show how changes impact the City. She stated that it was a busy year with the bid bonds and assessment roll for the improvement project. She noted that she had worked with Steve Apfelbacher in the past and that his assistance was valuable during the improvement project.
Mayor Park asked if there was anything Council could do to make her job easier.
The Treasurer responded no, but suggested that Council feel free to ask her questions or provide advice on the reports if they wished any changes or more information. She explained that recently she was a little late in providing information to Council due to some health issues, but she would work to improve that process.
Mayor Park asked if there were any issues on the horizon that Council should be aware of.
Treasurer Lanoue explained that she was not aware of any major issues. She noted that property values are increasing and that revenues would increase slightly due to recent new home construction. She stated that Council and staff need to be aware of how the money is spent and continue to monitor the budget and expenditures.
Mayor Park questioned if the City had sufficient reserves.
The Treasurer stated that the reserve funds are fine and that the City should maintain a “cushion” to keep the fund from fluctuating.
Councilmember Hovey commented that in his opinion the Treasurer was doing well and that he was pleased that she was sending smaller groupings of the invoices for posting on the website.
Mayor Park stated that she meets once per month with the treasurer to review the bills, sign checks and discuss budget issues. She commended the treasurer on a job well done this year.
Treasurer Lanoue stated she is pleased to work for the City and with Council.
Council concurred that they are pleased with the work of the 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 2015.
The Mayor thanked the Planner for her report and pointed out that it was a busy year.
The Planner reviewed her memorandum dated November 26, 2014. She stated that she had process seventeen (17) private applications this past year which included three 3 new homes, a proposed new home site, several home additions or accessory structure and a number of special planning application requests. She noted that building activity had increased steadily over the last few years.
Planner Barness stated she was becoming more knowledgeable on City ordinances and getting to know the Council and residents. She further stated she was glad to work with Council, Planning Commission, staff and residents to resolve issues that arose during the year.
The Planner explained that she was attempting to prefect her presentation style and thanks to Council and staff input she would provide only pertinent information in future reviews.
Planner Barness explained that she was working on reviewing revised plans for a major new home construction and that she was working closely with the City Engineer on the project.
The Planner explained that she recently worked on an ordinance amendment relating to setbacks for structures that house Farm and Non-Domestic Animals which she would present to Council later this evening. She further explained that she would work on changes to update the City Zoning ordinance and clear up housekeeping items. She also advised that she would review and respond to the Met Council relating to their System Statements for completion of its 2040 development framework. She stated she would continue to work with staff to conduct site inspections of approved projects and to close out escrow accounts for completed projects.
The Planner stated that in the upcoming year she would assist in creating any ordinance changes necessary to accomplish the City’s goals and would continue to provide quality representation to residents, real estate individuals, and developers and to provide answer to resolve site and design issues.
Mayor Park commented that in her opinion the Planner exudes calm presence when dealing with potential customers and presents a professional presence as the first contact for dealing with the City. She pointed out that there was recently a home constructed in the City as a “spec” home and questioned how the City could avoid this type of construction.
Councilmember Bulach agreed and noted there was a similar situation occurring in his neighborhood.
The Planner explained that it was her job to insure that the application for new home construction meets all ordinance regulations and that she closely reviews applications of this nature when they are submitted. She pointed out that she was unable to insure that the applicants are building the home for speculation purposes, but she would strive to insure that all regulations for construction are upheld.
Councilmember Bulach explained that his neighbors expressed concerns relating to the fact that there may be issues with an easement for access to the building site.
The Planner stated she would review the matter with the Fire Chief, but she noted that the plat submitted for the project does show an easement for access.
Councilmember Hovey questioned if Council could review all completed plans for the application prior to taking action on the proposal.
Planner Barness explained that she had been working with the Engineer and his assistant engineer and would strive to insure that the reviews are completed in a timely manner. She noted that on occasion the applicants delay submitting the plans and that in turn delays the engineering review of the plans. She pointed out that it would be easier for staff to tell the applicants the matter would not be reviewed until all plans are submitted and approved by staff.
Councilmember Bulach noted that Council did not allow review of his application for a garage and also delayed the Flynn property review due to the fact that plans had not been submitted in a timely manner. He supported the fact that staff should delay placing the matter on the agenda for Council review if all plans have not been formally approved.
Councilmembers concurred and sated they would support staff’s decision to delay the review by Council until all plans have been submitted and approved.
The Planner agreed that would make it easier for staff to delay placing the matter on the agenda until it was complete.
The Mayor stated that Council was very pleased 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 2015. She stated that Council has been pleased to work with Engineer Sterna.
Councilmember Hovey explained that there was discussion with the Planner regarding fact that the applications being presented for Council review do not contain complete sets of plans that have been reviewed and approved by appropriate staff. He asked if the plans had been submitted too late for the engineer to review them.
The Engineer pointed out that his firm may have contributed to the delay, but usually the delay has been caused by applicants not submitting the plans in a timely manner to allow sufficient time for his review of the plans. He stated that the delay or incomplete plans submitted require multiple reviews of plans and take additional time to complete.
Councilmember Wahlstrom asked if the schedule is listed on the application and the Mayor responded yes.
There was discussion regarding how Council could assist staff to eliminate this issue.
Engineer Sterna suggested staff hold a mandatory “kick-off” meeting with the applicants to advise them that the process would not move forward until all information was submitted within the appropriate time-frame. he noted that the drainage and grading plans are always the largest issue and are time consuming to review.
Councilmember Bulach commented that in his opinion it was unfair to the engineer and planner to have the delays and that Council should support staff advising the applicants Council would not review the application until all necessary information was submitted.
Council concurred that they would support staff delaying the applications until all documents have been submitted, reviewed and approved by staff.
Councilmember Hovey stated he was very pleased with the engineer’s work over the years and that previous elected officials had also expressed their appreciation of the firms work.
Mayor Park thanked the engineer for overseeing the snowplowing issues each year.
Councilmember Hovey agreed and reminded the engineer to advise the snowplowing firm to plow the full with of the road; he noted the first snowplowing event was better than last year.
The Mayor asked if the engineer had any items to discuss.
Engineer Sterna pointed out that maintenance cost for Charlton road increase every year and that the City was spending more money on the road.
Councilmember Hovey asked if the north end of the road could be paved due to the heavy traffic from the church.
The Engineer stated it would not be easy to only pave part of the road and the City does not have the tax base to purchase all the easements necessary to fund improvement of the entire road. He suggested that the City should attempt to obtain easements and then determine what type of project could be done. He further suggested that it may be possible to do the improvements on a “phased” basis rather than complete the entire road.
Engineer Stern stated that in 2015 he would discuss management of infrastructure and noted the last section of Salem Church Road was slated for overlay in 2019. He also advised that water issues would be a topic of discussion next year.
Mayor Park advised that the she, Councilmember Wahlstrom and the engineer would attend a meeting with NDC4 on Friday to review the proposed cable line installation within the City and that the engineer would provide maps for residents at the annual Holiday Party.
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 7:00 p.m.
Molly Park, Mayor Catherine Iago, City Clerk