SUNFISH LAKE SPECIAL CITY COUNCIL MEETING – DECEMBER 1, 2015
5:00 P.M. - ST. ANNE’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Mayor: Molly Park
Councilmembers: Mike Hovey, JoAnne Wahlstrom, 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
Councilmember Cathy DeCourcy was absent.
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 explained that she would be starting her 10th year with the City in 2016 and that she brings many years of municipal government experience to her position in Sunfish Lake. She reviewed her work plan for the past year, as follows:
- Election Updates – Received New Machine & Training; Work with Dakota County Clerks & County Staff “Forms
and Procedures Committee” to gain uniformity for reporting forms throughout the County and to streamline
- Assist Mayor & Newsletter Editor with production of the City newsletter
- Continue work on the merging building files with other staff records and the records purge and for each parcel
address within the City
- Continues to attended recycling meetings and prepare 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 make a file for each address within the City and combine all staff reports into those files, 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 suggested using a former City employee who was familiar with the Records Retention procedures for the same cost as hiring an intern; she noted that this person would be knowledgeable and she would not have to spend time on training.
Council concurred and asked her to submit a written request.
The Clerk explained that she would continue to monitoring information from other government entities that could impact Sunfish Lake and she would keep Council advised of any upcoming issues that could impact 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 for updated procedures and issues related to her job.
Clerk Iago commented that she enjoys working with the Council and for the City.
Council concurred the Clerk has done an excellent job and thanked her for her work during the past year.
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 2016.
Inspector Andrejka explained that he gained more experience relating to the City’s permit procedures and that he continues to work to insure permits are issued in a timely manner. He noted that permit activity was busy this year and due to the substantial size of some projects, he found it is important to visit the building sites more often. He explained that by visiting the projects and speaking to the contractors he would become more aware of any problems that may arise.
The Inspector explained that he plans some minor changes that will upgrade the building permit forms to insure there is sufficient room to provide all important information on the forms.
Inspector Andrejka stated that he has a good working relationship with the residents and that he responds promptly to inquiries and to provide inspections in a timely manner. He explained that while working for the City of Mendota Heights he prepared “handouts” which explain the process for obtaining building permits for items such as decks, roof replacements, etc. and suggested that this information could be placed on the City website to respond to resident questions.
Councilmember Hovey asked if the information would be similar to a “Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)” and the Inspector responded yes.
Mayor Park asked if there was anything the Inspector needed from Council that would assist him in his job.
Inspector Andrejka explained that there have been issues relating to obtaining final approved set of building plans for projects approved by Council. He noted that since there are revisions to projects reviewed by Council, he is working with the Planner to insure that the plans he reviews in conjunction with the building permit are the final set approved by Council.
Councilmember Bulach suggested that the plans should be stamped and dated by all staff members after they are reviewed and prior to submission for the building permit.
The Inspector agreed and explained that the Planner is aware of the problem and they are working to insure the contractor for the project submits the final set of approved plans when requesting the building permit.
Mayor Park thanked the Inspector for his service to the City and stated that Council looks forward to working with him in the future.
Councilmember Hovey requested that the permit report be submitted to him by the Thursday prior to the Council meeting for posting on the City website.
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 2016.
Forester Nayes stated that he brings substantial technical expertise related to his position with the City and that he had worked with the previous City Forester on occasion prior to his being hired for the position, He noted that he has considerable knowledge of the City because he is a resident.
Mayor Park agreed and noted that he has created relationships with residents during his tenure.
The Forester agreed and advised that he has had interactions with many residents who have advised him that they read the information he prepares for the City newsletter and the Arbor Day special issue. He explained this past year he worked with the FireWise Committee to review residential properties to insure emergency vehicle access was possible and the Parks and Public Lands Committees to determine what could be done to enhance the parkland for residential use.
Mayor Park stated it was a great experience working with the FireWise Committee and the Fire Department to review the residential properties in the City and she commended the work of the committee members.
The Forester advised that he completed the Wildflower Demonstration planting and explained it would take a few years for the area to completely fill out.
Forester Nayes stated that he wishes to develop a tree inventory for public lands and adjacent to City streets; he noted that the Parks and Public Lands Committee agreed this should be completed. He explained that in his opinion this could be completed within three (3) years and could be accomplished within the forester’s existing budget. He commented that some the task could be completed during the winter months as it is easy to identify some species without their leaves. He noted that he continues to remove fallen trees, however, insect infestation, tree disease and storms that damage trees are unpredictable, as well as Boxelder trees that may fall unexpectedly. He advised that he continues to remove trees that pose potential problems if they fall. He explained that he worked with a resident on Salem Church Road to remove a dead Elm tree that was half on City property and half on private property.
The Forester advised that all trees planted this year came from gravel bed plantings and he explained how the process of growing the trees in the gravel works to make the trees easier to plant. He also explained that he attended the Land Trust visit to Musser Park and advised that they requested a Management Plan be instituted for the park. He discussed the fact that the Land Trust did not require an elaborate plan and that he would complete it this winter. He suggested that native wildflowers be planted in the meadow portion of the park.
Mayor Park asked if the wildflower plantings would help the animal population.
The Forester explained it would not help the mammals, but would provide for butterflies and birds as they need native insects for food.
Council concurred that the plantings would be appropriate.
Forester Nayes stated that he mowed an additional path in Musser Park that leads to the marsh area and that he found Blue flag Iris plantings in this area. He advised that he would plan the Arbor Day festivities at his home again in 2016 since his property provides a good demonstration area for residents.
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.
Councilmember Hovey asked that his reports be submitted by Thursday prior to the Council meeting for posting on the City website.
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 2016.
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 or should be discussed for inclusion next year:
1) Building Inspector Transition: The Attorney stated it was his opinion that the transition between the former and the new building inspector went smoothly. He commented that the new building official works well with residents and he pointed out that the City was fortunate to find an inspector that was willing to take on the position due to the limited amount of work provided in a smaller community.
2) Interaction Between Consultants: Attorney Kuntz commented that in his opinion there is a high level of
cooperation and an excellent working relationship between the consulting staff in the City. Staff continues to meet once a month prior to the Council meeting to provide necessary input to each other and to insure Council is well-informed,
3) Discussion of Improvement Projects: The Attorney suggested it may be appropriate for Council to set aside
time during a regular Council meeting in the winter months to conduct a “roundtable” discussion with the City
Engineer about upcoming improvement projects. He noted that these projects are usually scheduled for early
spring/summer and it may be wise to begin discussions during the slower business period.
4) Best Practices Discussion: Attorney Kuntz explained that it may be wise to discuss the planning application
Process and procedures with staff to determine any changes that could be made to make the process more consumer friendly or to cut down on items that aren’t necessary; he noted that he was not suggesting a change to the City Code, but merely a discussion on how the application procedures and submissions could be improved or modified. He noted this could be a “roundtable’ discussion with staff.
Councilmember Bulach questioned if the application discussion would include the Engineer, Planner and the Planning Commission. He noted that there appears to be some missing links in the process and he would prefer to include the Planning Commission to have their input on the procedures. He pointed out that the Planner does an excellent job in her presentation and he has no issues with that portion of the process.
Attorney Kuntz agreed that it would be good to get feedback from the Planning Commission and that Council should discuss expectations with the Commission members and share comments relating to the application process.
Councilmember Hovey commented that in his opinion Council has concerns that they do not receive a full set of plans for the review process and suggested this be discussed with the group.
The Attorney stated that it is a privilege to work for the City and that he hopes to continue the working relationship.
Mayor Park thanked the Attorney for a great job and providing excellent information to Council.
RECESS: Mayor Park called for a brief recess for dinner at 6:00p.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 2015. She thanked the Treasurer for her excellent presentation of data.
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 has been working with 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 he keeps in touch with the League of Minnesota Cities and the Minnesota Finance Officers Association to insure the accounting procedures are appropriate. She noted that the former treasurer had utilized some business accounting methods rather than government accounting procedures and that she had meet with him to review some of the procedures.
Mayor Park asked if 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 she will attempt to get her files in order and remove some of the older files to place them in storage at the City of Lilydale.
Councilmember Hovey asked if the ACA regulations had affected the City and the Treasurer responded that none of the staff is affected and no 1095’s are required to be submitted.
Councilmember Bulach asked the Treasurer if there were fiduciary reasons for the City to be audited on an annual basis.
Treasurer Lanoue responded that in her opinion an audit would not have to be done annually, but maybe every two or three years; she stated she would check with the League of Minnesota Cities to determine how often an audit should be done for smaller cities.
Councilmember Bulach noted that since Council has to approve the monthly bills, he would prefer to know that the City is doing it correctly. He explained that it has been a few years since the change in staff was done and he would prefer to make sure that everything if done correctly
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 and advised that she would remain informed on any new legislation that takes place.
Mayor Park asked if this would be a bonding year for the legislature and the Treasurer responded yes.
The Mayor commented that in her opinion that the Treasurer was doing an excellent job and Council agreed.
Councilmember Hovey asked that the Treasurer provide her reports by the Thursday prior to the Council meeting to for posting on the website.
Treasurer Lanoue explained that she would attempt to do so, however, sometimes the information is delayed when the checks from the Building Inspector arrive late.
Treasurer Lanoue stated she is pleased to work for the City and with Council and staff.
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 2016.
The Mayor thanked the Planner for her report dated November 25, 2015 and commented that it was a busy year.
The Planner advised that she would respond to any questions from Council relating to her report.
Planner Barness stated she had become more familiar with the City Code and had gain experience with interacting with 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 concentrated more on providing only pertinent information during the review process.
Councilmember Bulach noted that he sensed her frustration with the application process and asked how Council could help her. He pointed out that was aware of the fact she has a lot of responsibility to insure that all information is provided to the Planning Commission and Council prior to reviewing the applications. He also noted that he is personally aware of the length of time it takes to get an application approved in the City.
Planner Barness explained that her main concern related to the cost overages in the budget due to her responding to questions from residents. She asked if the City would prefer she forward questions on neighborhood disputes directly to the City Attorney and asked for Council feedback on how to handle such requests.
The Planner stated that she would was now going to request formal reports from staff members to be submitted with the application process; she noted that the Engineer had provided formal reports in the past but the other staff members had only done so sporadically.
Mayor Park explained that Council had discussed the possibility of instituting a stamp on the building plans submitted by applicants so that each staff member could sign the plans after their review. She commented that this may help streamline the process and insure that the correct set of plans was reviewed by the staff. She further explained that the City Attorney had suggested meeting with staff and the Planning Commission in a “roundtable” discussion format to discuss procedures and expectations from all parties.
Planner Barness explained that the City Engineer had newly assigned another engineer from his staff to work with her on the applications and that they have a good working relationship thus far. She stated that the new engineer, Eric Eckman, would most likely be attending the pre and post application meetings to insure all items are handled appropriately.
Councilmember Bulach asked if the Planner currently calls the City Attorney with questions from residents and then calls them back or if she directly refers the person to the attorney for a response.
The Planner explained that she used to call the attorney to get an opinion, however, now she directly refers the person to the City Attorney for a response when a legal question arises.
Mayor Park commented that in her opinion the Planner and the Commission did an excellent job on the Alternative Energy Source Ordinance and in reviewing the resource guide compiled by the Planner. She noted that she hoped the Commission and Planner would discuss screening procedures for the items included in the new ordinance and present their recommendation for future review by Council.
Planner Barness stated she spoke to the City Attorney and they determined that the screening procedures could be incorporated into the application process and would not require any changes to the City ordinances.
Mayor Park commented that in her opinion the Planner has done an excellent job. She that Council was very pleased with the Planner’s work and was happy to have her on staff.
Councilmember Wahlstrom agreed and stated that her presentations to Council provide an excellent overview of the projects.
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 2016. She stated that Council has been pleased to work with Engineer Sterna.
Engineer Sterna explained that his strengths are substantial experience with all aspects of engineering, extensive knowledge of the City and excellent people skills.
The Mayor noted that the engineer’s firm has experience not only in Minnesota but nationally. She asked if there were any challenges he foresees for the City in the future.
The Engineer commented that he would work harder to submit his reports to staff and Council in a timely manner. He noted that he was working to train a member of his staff, Engineer Eric Ekman, to assist with the workload. He explained that the challenge his sees in the future are the new rules for development and the fact that developers are not aware of the complexity of the rules in Sunfish Lake versus other communities where they work. He advised that storm water management and septic issues appear to be the biggest challenges in conjunction with developing smaller lots within the City. He noted that this is especially true around the lakes within the City and an option maybe to install a low pressure system on the smaller lots. He noted that a few lots near Delaware Avenue or along the border of Inver Grove Heights may be able to hook-up to services available from the neighboring cities.
Engineer Sterna explained that issues he foresees in 2016 relate to the MnDOT improvements on T.H. 110, possible improvements along Charlton Road and possible ordering improvements on Salem Church Road earlier in the CIP. He explained that Salem Church Road would be the last major project undertaken and that other streets would only require sealcoating and overlays for a number of years. He advised that it would be wise to discuss options for water and sewer services for the smaller lots available on Charlton Road.
Mayor Park noted that Sunfish Lake was WSB’s company’s first client. Engineer Sterna agreed and stated his company now employs 345 people. He noted that a recently hired employee was formerly an engineer with MnDOT and would be able to provide expertise on the issues related to the T.H. 110 improvements.
Mayor Park advised that the City Attorney suggested a roundtable discussion meeting with staff, Council and the Planning Commission to discuss application filing procedures and also improvement projects such as Charlton and Salem Church Road.
The Engineer agreed that would be beneficial and noted many cities conduct workshops for that purpose. He pointed out that it is difficult to discuss such items during a busy Council meeting and it is easier to discuss issues prior to them becoming problems.
Councilmember Bulach stated his opinion that the engineer does a great job and commended him for resolving the issues relating to the Angell Road culvert improvement.
Engineer Sterna explained that the compaction was the issue and now the contractor has redone the project.
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 6:58 p.m.
Catherine Iago, City Clerk Molly Park, Mayor