SUNFISH LAKE SPECIAL CITY COUNCIL MEETING – DECEMBER 6, 2016
5:00 P.M. - ST. ANNE’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Mayor: Molly Park
Councilmembers: Mike Hovey, Steven Bulach, and Richard Williams
City Attorney: Tim Kuntz
City Building Official: Mike Andrejka
City Planner: Ryan Grittman
City Engineer: Don Sterna
City Forester: Jim Nayes
City Treasurer: Ann Lanoue
City Clerk: Cathy Iago
Councilmember JoAnne Wahlstrom 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 had done an excellent job serving as City Clerk /Administrator.
The Clerk reviewed her informational report dated December 6, 2016 and her work plan for the past year, as follows:
- Election Updates – Received New Machine & Training; Conducted the 2016 Election; Continued to work with
Dakota County Staff and City Clerks & County “Forms and Procedures Group” to gain uniformity throughout the
County and to streamline election procedures
- Assist Mayor & Newsletter Editor with production of the City newsletter
- Completed the building/planning files merge at Lilydale City Hall and created a file for each property address
within the City – the next step will be to purge the repetitive information in each file to prepare for digital records
- Continues to attended recycling meetings and prepare grant application for recycling funds. Conducted a
Recycling Event at Bethel Church with assistance from Shari Hansen and Holly Divine.
- Continues to maintain an excellent working relationship with Council, staff and residents
Clerk Iago explained that she plans to continue working at the City of Lilydale to complete the file merge and purge the files to prepare them for digital scanning. She advised that once the file merge is accomplished, she would seek bids for the records to be scanned for electronic storage.
The Clerk noted that there are building plans for residential homes in the City that no longer need to be retained by the City. She suggested that property owners may wish to keep the plans for their home and an event could be scheduled so that they could pick up the plans to keep them for their records. She indicated that the event could be advertised in the City Newsletter after staff identifies the plans by individual addresses.
Clerk Iago explained that she would work with the Planner on the Comprehensive Plan update, continue to monitoring information from other government entities that could impact Sunfish Lake and 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 2017.
Inspector Andrejka explained that he would discuss an issue that arose with a property that was recently approved for new home construction at 27 Sunnyside Lane. He explained that the contractor at that location was attempting to install a monument sign at the property but could not supply approved plans for the installation. He contacted the Planner and was advised that the monument was not part of the approved plans and a Conditional Use Permit would have to be obtained by the property owner. He expressed his frustration and suggested that a better method of communication should be initiated between staff to insure that this type of incident does not occur in the future.
The Building Inspector advised that the final approved plans should be kept “on-site” during construction and that he should be sent copies when any change to the plans occur. He explained that any proposed change should be reviewed by him prior to construction. He commented this incident was averted since the property owner determined they would not build the monument at this time.
Councilmember Williams suggested that staff could prepare an informational sheet of instructions for contractors so that this does not occur in the future.
Mayor Park thanked the Inspector for his diligence when conducting inspections.
Councilmember Hovey asked the Inspector what he would propose to staff to make the process work better.
Inspector Andrejka indicated he would prefer that the Planner send him only the final plan approval electronically so that he would be able to review it on-site. He also requested that the property survey be sent to him for verification purposes. He explained that any changes to the final approved plans should always be reviewed by him and that the official plan copy that is kept by the contractor on-site must not be changed or written on.
There was further discussion relating to future procedures and Council concurred that the Inspector should work with the Planner and other staff to prepare documentation on procedures for construction.
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.
Mayor Park 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 2017. She complimented that Forester on the educational programs he initiated, such as the Wildflower Plantings.
Forester Nayes thanked the Mayor and suggested that because former Councilmember Cathy DeCourcy was such a supporter of reforestation, it may be appropriate to plant some trees in her honor near the wildflower planting area.
Mayor Park agreed and suggested that the City could ask for public donations to purchase the trees for planting in this area.
The Forester agreed that public donations could be sought or that the City could plant the trees as part of the Arbor Day celebration. He noted that the residents on Windy Hill Road would eventually benefit because the mature trees would block sightlines for the freeway.
Forester Nayes stated he would initial more educational programs in 2017 and focus on safe corridors by removing vegetation and dead trees near the roadways. He also stated he would continue maintenance of City trails and preparation of newsletter articles. He explained that he would focus on removal of items on properties that hold water in an effort to control mosquitos.
Councilmember Williams questioned if different types of invasive species would appear due to zone changes.
Forester Nayes explained this may occur but noted that not all invasive species are bad.
The Forester advised that the Emerald Ash Borer maybe in the City within the next few years as it has appeared in West St. Paul, Eagan and Mendota Heights. He indicated that residents wishing to save larger Ash trees should begin treating them in the spring of next year. He noted that he would advise residents to remove any affected trees when they become dangerous.
There was discussion regarding the possibility of placing a memorial to honor Councilmember DeCourcy in Harmon Park as it is nearer to her former residence.
Forester Nayes advised that White Pine trees were planning in the park and that the mature trees should help block the lights from the car dealerships across Highway 110 when they mature. He also noted that he had made huge progress in the removal of Burdock from Harmon Park.
Council thanked the Forester for a job well done..
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 2017.
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) Fire Chief Involvement in the Planning Review Process: The Attorney stated that due to the issues with fire
Equipment access to properties within the City, it was appropriate to include the Fire Chief in the initial review of
2) Alterative Septic System Locations: Attorney Kuntz commented that in his opinion this issue may arise as
older homes are torn down and newer homes are constructed on properties throughout the City. He noted this
issue should be discussed in the early stages of construction to avoid any last minute resolution.
3) Develop Work Plan for Harmon and Musser Parks : The Attorney suggested it may be appropriate for Council to establish a work plan for the parks and document how they may be used and aesthetically how they will look. He commented that the Planning Commission and Council could then annually review the plan to determine if any changes are needed.
4) Financing Plan for Charlton Road: Attorney Kuntz explained that it would be necessary for the City to work with
Residents to secure easements in preparation for any proposed improvements to Charlton Road. He pointed out
that the project would be expensive and that the financial forecast from Ehlers & Associates indicated the project would place a tax ley burden on residents. He pointed out that Council needs to understand the appropriate level of reserve funds that needs to be kept annually so that the City has the ability to function throughout the year without depleting the reserve.
Councilmember Hovey commented that Mayor Park had suggested a “Road Reserve” fund to assist with improvement projects and Council should have kept the fund in place.
The Attorney explained that the City has no City Hall or Fire Station expenses and therefore the big expense if road maintenance. He pointed out that the Capital Improvement Plan adopted each year helps to determine the future financial obligations of the City and plan for projects.
Attorney Kuntz 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. She noted that his guidance is “low key” but extremely helpful for making important decisions.
Councilmember Williams agreed that there is an excellent client-management relationship with the City Attorney.
Councilmember Hovey asked if it would be a good idea for Council to consider a 5-year Deer Management program and contract with the Metro Bow Hunters Association and then set only the dates annually.
Attorney Kuntz indicated in his opinion it would be appropriate to extend the agreement for 3 to 5 years as the program has worked week in the past and the Metro Bow Hunters are the only group that offers this service.
The Attorney briefly discussed the issues that arose with the snow plowing contractor last year and indicated that the City needs to closely monitor the activities this year. He pointed out there is a small pool of contractors available at this time.
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 2017. She thanked the Treasurer for her excellent presentation of data.
Councilmember Williams asked the status of the City’s reserve funds.
Treasurer Lanoue explained the City has $350,000 invested in CD’s and $229,000 in savings. She reported that the next payment from Dakota County would arrive in January and that the $229,000 is kept as operating funds. She noted that the end of the year is the City’s high point in cash reserves, however, the City receives no substantial income between January and July, except for Building Permit monies. She explained that the City may request an early payment from the County in June, however it has not been necessary in the past.
The Treasurer indicated the only challenge she foresees relates to payment for road projects such as Charlton Road. She explained that the City currently has two bond issues and that issuance of another road improvement project such as Charlton Road would double the tax levy.
Councilmember Bulach asked if there was a cost identified for the Charlton Road project and the Treasurer explained that she was unsure of the estimated cost.
Treasurer Lanoue offered to prepare a schedule of the current bond issues for Council review.
Mayor Park noted that the previous Salem Church Road project was still on the tax rolls.
The Treasurer agreed that the current bond issue had a few years remaining and advised that the new bond issue for the proposed Salem Church Road project would most likely be on the tax rolls until 2024.
Mayor Park pointed out that the City Attorney had advised that because the City has no fire station or City hall, the road improvement projects are the most costly items.
Treasurer Lanoue agreed and noted that the City has only low density housing and cannot tax the churches, which are the only public buildings.
Councilmember Williams also noted that there are no commercial properties within the City and therefore residents need to understand the property tax implications.
The Treasurer advised she would prepare a schedule of bond payments for Council review.
Mayor Park asked if if there was anything Council could do to make her job easier.
Treasurer Lanoue explained that she has had difficulty with the process for reimbursing the escrow accounts and that she had been working with the former planner on the billing procedures. She commented that she was unaware of how the escrow reimbursements worked and that she needed to work with the Planner to determine how the billing should be handled.
Councilmember Williams suggested requiring a billing service from the Planner.
The Treasurer explained that the Planner’s coding system for projects is different and she would continue to work with the Planner and his office staff to find a more effective and timely process.
Treasurer Lanoue stated she wished to purchase a different software package from the State Auditor’s office at a cost of $300. She noted that to upgrade the current Fund Accounting software package that was used by the previous City Treasurer would cost $500. She noted that purchase of the new software would also facilitates the City’s requirements for reporting directly to the State Auditor’s office.
Councilmember Bulach asked if the Council could act on the request this evening.
Mayor Park responded yes and advised the request could be added to the regular agenda.
Treasurer Lanoue explained that due to the transition of the Mayor, she and the City Clerk would be signing checks in January.
The Mayor commented that in her opinion that the Treasurer was doing an excellent job and that she had taught her a lot about financing. Council agreed.
Treasurer Lanoue stated she is pleased to work for the City and with Council and staff. She asked if Council was okay with receiving the monthly financial reports electronically and Council agreed. She advised she would check with new Councilmember O’Leary and Councilmember Wahlstrom at the next meeting.
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 2017. She thanked the Planner for his report dated November 30, 2016.
Mayor Park advised the Planner that the Building Inspector had discussed an issue with the new home being constructed at 27 Sunnyside Lane and the importance of staff coordinating and improving communications on approved plans and plan changes.
Planner Grittman stated that staff had made strides in reviewing homes for Fire Code compliance and prompt post construction site visits. He noted that 2016 was a busy year closing out projects and staff is hoping to close projects even more promptly in 2017. He advised that staff does not currently have a master list of chicken and bee keeping permits. He explained that compiling a master list is crucial to the renewal of these permits as it requires staff to renew the permits every three years if no complaints are received.
Mayor Park advised that the Treasurer had discussed the need for consistency in numbering projects for escrow accounting and billing purposes. She recommended that his office work with the Treasurer to attempt to streamline the system in order to close out the escrow accounts promptly.
Planner Grittman agreed that he and his office staff would work with Treasurer Lanoue on the system.
The Planner stated that he would be working with the Planning Commission and Council in 2016 to update the Comprehensive Plan and that he would provide more detailed information beginning in January, 2017. He indicated he did not foresee any other challenges in the upcoming year or changes to the Code unless a change is required by adoption of a new State Statute. He commented that he has become somewhat more familiar with the City, the City Code and the application process and will continue to learn the procedures.
Mayor Park noted that some residents expressed frustration while reviewing the Escoto application and the issue of distributing correspondence and complaints to everyone was a learning experience for the Planner.
The Planner agreed that he learned from the Escoto application that any information relating to the application must be distributed to staff, residents, Commission and Council.
Councilmember Hovey thanked the Planner for sending his agenda information in a timely manner for posting on the City website.
Mayor Park asked if the Planner enjoyed working with the City Council and staff.
Planner Grittman responded that he has enjoyed working in Sunfish Lake and that he learned a lot from the neighborhood issues that arose. He stated he looks forward to working with staff, Planning Commission and Council in the future.
Council thanked the Planner for an excellent job and for his 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 2017. 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.
Engineer Sterna advised that he is hopeful he has rectified all the issues that arose last year the snow plowing contractor who was appointed again this year. He explained that he worked with the contractor’s staff to describe procedures.
The Engineer advised that next portion of Salem Church Road is the slated to be the last major road improvement for several years and pointed out that the major challenge for improvement of Charlton Road relates to financing of the project.
Councilmember Williams asked if the Charlton Road project could be phased.
Councilmember Hovey commented that phasing the project was discussed at first, but now it appears the residents support “all or nothing” happening on the road.
Engineer Sterna explained that the project could be staged with grading done in the fall of 2017 and then the finishing work done in spring of 2018, however, the financing issues with bonding would remain the same.
Council concurred that they would prefer improvement of the entire road if the project is to be scheduled.
Mayor Park pointed out that the Treasurer and Bond Counsel are currently reviewing the matter and she noted that the first bond issue would be finished in 2020, therefore the project may have to be delayed until 2019.
Councilmember Bulach asked how long the entire project would take to complete and the estimated cost.
Engineer Sterna stated the project would not take long to finish and could be done within one year. He estimated the cost at approximately $350,000. He commented that it may be possible to complete one section of the road and then three years later complete the remaining section.
Councilmember Bulach asked if private funds could be used for the project and Councilmember Hovey responded that the City cannot use private money to fund public road improvements.
Engineer Sterna discussed options to communicate the issues relating to possible higher assessments for the Charlton Road project. He noted that the outlet for Sunfish Lake had plugged again and the cost to clear the outlet is expensive even though the City has not formally accepted the outlet.
Engineer Sterna explained that he would be using Eric Eckman in a more prominent role for the City during the next year and then officially hand-off the duties of City Engineer for Sunfish Lake to Eric in 2018.
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 6:55 p.m.
Catherine Iago, City Clerk Molly Park, Mayor