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Counting Down 11/19/2014
Yesterday (Monday, November 17, 2014) the City sponsored an informational meeting at Carasim Coffee Shop, for all property owners on First and Water Streets who face the prospect of assessments.  Bolton & Menk sent a team of three engineers.  The City sent both Planners.  And I showed up for the decaf.  Thirty-one property owners received notice of the meeting.

One concerned property owner came, spent about 15 minutes, and left.

One.

A couple of weeks ago, during a Council meeting, I told staff there would be some angry property owners when they learned about the possible assessments.  I guess I have egg on my face now, huh?  Given the opportunity to comment, only one property owner responded.

The next step is the public hearing.  But that’s pretty much pro-forma.  The Council has seen a groundswell of apathy about the assessments, and will vote accordingly.  I know some of the property owners are angry, perhaps even angry enough to put up a fight.  But most don’t care, or can’t be bothered to express themselves.  When the vote comes, I will oppose assessments, but I expect it’ll be another lonesome and futile vote.

After Last Night . . .
As usual, there were no comments from the Public.  It’s really discouraging to me to think people don’t understand the meaning of participatory democracy.  Is it any wonder why Staff and the Council think they have some kind of mandate to just do as they please?

The Council passed a new fee schedule.  Your water bills will go up about $.83 

per month, on the average – more if you water your lawn a lot.  This is happening to pay for the growth everyone is lusting after.  Funny thing, I thought as the City grew, tax loads were supposed to shrink. 

As if.

The Council vacated an utility easement between two lots owned in single ownership.  The next step will be for the owner to file for a minor subdivision, to join the lots into a single property.

Our Engineers presented information about possible grants for a pedestrian underpass under US169.  Bolton & Menk agreed to work on spec to pursue the grants, with the hope that if they are successful, they will be able to recover their costs when the underpass is constructed.

The satellite photo on the right clearly shows the paths created by pedestrians trailblazing across US169.  Oddly, MnDOT seems to not be aware of the issue, since it was not addressed in any way, shape, or form in the presentation they gave after the meeting.

What started out as a (ballpark) $750,000.00 pedestrian and bike underpass is morphing into a (ballpark) $1,500,000.00 underpass with a trail link to the Minnesota river valley trail system.  If we get the grant, our cost could be in the neighborhood of a million dollars. 

Every time we discuss a project, and we start looking for grant money, we end up spending more than the original ballpark estimate.  Which is okay if we are getting significantly more than we planned.  But usually that doesn’t happen.  The yet-to-come sidewalk near the Middle School is an example. 

The Council also discussed the City’s response to the mudslide behind the brewery.  I contend it’s private property, and we don’t help one property owner while ignoring the others.  Councilor Stier wanted to know if there was any assurance that if the City spends about 30 thou on a study, that the expense would actually lead to restoring the building.  Councilor Goebel said it was not wise to spend money on studies if we have no idea what our ultimate goal is, and that the tax value of the property would not change regardless of whether the brewery was rebuilt or torn down.

Councilor Will said that everything we’ve heard so far indicates the cost to restore the property will run to millions of dollars.  I think his implication is, who will pay for this?

Councilor Thill said restoring the gateway property offers a public benefit.  He and Councilor Velishek talked about getting the Historical Society involved.

Honestly, the Historical Society has a till full of good intentions, but where is the money supposed to come from.

Moving on.

The Council authorized the purchase of a new Ford F250 four wheel drive pickup truck.  This is a standard (not extended) cab truck. The cost is $29,155.00.  No information was presented to the Council to indicate that any other brand or type of vehicle was considered.  The 1997 truck being replaced is clearly past its’ prime.

In my opinion, given the jobs for which this truck will be used, it’s not the optimal choice.  A van, with all tools and supplies enclosed, would make more sense.  The truck will be used almost exclusively on paved streets, so four wheel drive is just a drain on gas mileage..

Next year the Council will be asked to okay a new body for one of the other trucks, so that the hoist can be fitted to it.

The vote was 6:1

The Council authorized purchase of a new Bobcat S570.  The cost is $35,515.00.  No information was provided to the Council to indicate that any other brand or vendor was considered. 

Why is it so hard to get formal, competitive bids?

The vote was 6:1

Here, things started to get interesting.

The Council voted to renew for two years, the City Attorney’s contract.  The renewal included a clause for rate increases of 3% per year.  3% is the amount employee salaries are raised each year for the next two years. (Remember this for a bit.)  I objected on the grounds that there was no competitive bidding.  My colleagues didn’t care.

The vote was 6:1.

The Council voted to renew the contract for the City Engineer, also for two years, and also with a 3% per year escalator clause.  Again, I objected because there were no competitive bids.

Then lightning struck.  Councilor Goebel took issue with the fact that we were raising a consultants fees based on raising employee salaries. 

Huh?  Didn’t six members of the Council just vote to give the City Attorney a renewed contract with a 3% per year raise?

Gotta give Councilor Goebel his props.  He stood fast.  The vote was 5:2.

We tabled discussion on the Capital Improvement Plan.  Folks from MnDOT here, don’tchaknow?  Don’t wanna keep ‘em waiting, by yiminy.  Uff da.

The Council approved hiring a new Finance Director.  Lorrain (Lori) Bartlett seems well qualified.  She will receive $74,268.00 per year in direct salary.

I stated my belief that the City didn’t need a full time Finance person.

The vote was 6:1.

By the time we got to the Consent Agenda, I wasn’t thinking straight.  Poor preparation on my part.  The vote for the Consent Agenda was unanimous.

One item was a resolution congratulating candidates, and thanking voters.  The Mayor chose to not read the resolution.  I will post it in its’ entirety below.

Then came the “Aw, sh__!” moment, when I realized I’d forgotten to separate the microwave tower contract issue from the Consent Agenda. 

Three antennae to be added, and not one word about the microwave load, or the microwave radiation specifications for the added antennae.  I seriously doubt whether Staff or any of my colleagues will ever give a rip about the environment they are creating. 

My bad.

Anyway, here’s the resolution that didn’t get read:

                                               RESOLUTION NO. 11-65-2014

RESOLUTION RECOGNIZING SUCCESSFUL ELECTION

WHEREAS, the City of Jordan, Minnesota has just completed an election for three seats on the Jordan City Council, and

WHEREAS elections are the cornerstone of the democratic process, and

WHEREAS Jordan Voters participated in the election.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Jordan City Council, acting on behalf of the people of Jordan, congratulates the newly elected Members of the Jordan City Council. 

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Jordan City Council hereby expresses its appreciation to the Voters of Jordan for their participation in the election

This resolution is adopted by vote of the City Council of Jordan, Minnesota, on this 17th day of November, 2014.
                                                                        ______________________________

                                                                        Mayor Mike Shaw

         Attest: ______________________________
                 
Thomas Nikunen
                  City Administrator

After the regular meeting, four representatives from MnDOT came to tell us how they’re going to control traffic around our fine town during the Summer construction season.  They brought five long (about 12 feet long) maps of the 169 corridor – one for each stage of the project.  In layman’s terms, traffic around Jordan is going to be all horsed up for about eight weeks next summer.  MnDOT can’t help it.  You’ll just have to live with it.

The person conducting the session introduced his colleagues.  Then he said he was going to sit down and shut up, and let one of the colleagues do the talking.  Then he told everyone to get up and mingle, and look at the maps.  The colleague who was supposed to do the talking never said a word.  It was all reminiscent of a meeting of the Possum Club on the Red Green Show.

I watched for a while, but there was really no reason to stay.  MnDOT has their plan in place, and nothing short of armed rebellion will sidetrack it.

On the plus side, about seven people showed up for the MnDOT presentation, so at least we had ‘em outnumbered.

Only two more meetings left to report on.

The Quote:
“God helps those who help themselves.”
          Unknown

Videos are now on the Video Page

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I welcome public comment on this topic. Anyone willing to give his or her name is welcome to respond here. Thom.Boncher@gmail.com  
No anonymous responses will be posted.  No obscene language will be permitted.  Threats, personal attacks, and spam will not be posted.  My house, my rules.  But if you have something to say, and if you are willing to put your name on it, I won’t refuse to let you be heard. 

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