Deer River City Council learns of state’s interest in Deer/Moose Lake and municipal forest properties

Deer River City Logoby Louise H. McGregor, staff writer

It was back to regular business at the Deer River City Council meeting of Dec. 22 after Independent School District 317 Superintendent Matt Grose and the two representatives from Foster Jacobs & Johnson, Inc. had made their presentation.

In the room for this part of the meeting were Mayor Steve Geving, council members Pat Richards, Barb Serfling, Amy Box and Chris Reed, Deer River Police Chief Tammy Perry, Deer River Fire Chief Steve Jurvelin, Fire Department member Jeff Lilja, Clerk/Treasurer Mark Box, council member-elect Wade Reed, City Attorney Andrew Shaw and area residents Dick and Beth Wyman.

The minutes from the last meetings on Dec. 8 were reviewed and corrections were made by Richards and C. Reed before separate motions were made to accept the amended Dec. 8 regular meeting minutes and the Dec. 8 Truth in Taxation meeting minutes.

A motion was made and approved to pay the bills listed on the Dec. 22 Council Approval Report totaling $45,758.18 after Richards’ questions were answered. This motion also included payment of the Dec. 18 Deer River Fire Department payroll of $11,601.63 and the City Hall payroll for Dec. 22 of $13,381.55, plus the authorization for interloan transfer(s) as needed to cover any negative balance(s).

There was a question from the Wymans’ at this point in the meeting. They wanted to know if there was going to be a council decision at this meeting to do with the Deer/Moose Lakes property.

“Yes,” said Shaw. “That is part of my report tonight, but I can give you a short and simple answer. The city owns the property in between Deer Lake and Moose Lake. They received that from the State of Minnesota and they have proposed that some of that property be deeded back to the state. It is my understanding that you (the Wymans) live on Deer Lake on the southern edge of this property.The property immediately north of you is what is proposed to be deeded back to the state. When that happens, it is tax forfeit property and as such, it is administered by the Itasca County Land Department, who would have the ability to determine what use could be made of that property in the future, including, the potential private sale of that property. That is where things appear to be headed at the present time. That will be up to the council tonight.”

This answer took care of most of the Wymans’ questions and they were advised that they could call the Deer River City Hall the next day to find out if the council moved forward on this request from the state. They thanked the council and Shaw and left the meeting.

Jurvelin was next with his Deer River Fire Department Report. “We were fairly busy last month,” he said. “And, as most of you probably know, we had a very tragic fire last month. It is a reality that firefighters have to sometimes face. The members of our department did a good job and went through a debriefing. I’m proud of our department members and how they dealt with this tragedy.”

The department held their open house to encourage possible recruits for the department. “We did get four applicants,” said Jurvelin. “The city clerk has those to get the background checks taken care of.”

M. Box spoke up. He said, “I have three of them so far.”

Jurvelin continued, “In January we will have them attend their first meeting and then start proceedings for hire.”

Council was then advised that the department had purchased a new tire for Tanker #214 and Jurvelin explained the reason why this was done.

“We are in the process of applying for the railroad safety training that we talked about last year,” said Jurvelin. “Nothing is for sure at this point. If that goes through we will get back to the council, but if it is not fully funded by the railroad, we won’t be interested in attending the training.”

Jurvelin told the council that was all that he had for his report, but Lilja did have an item for the council from the Relief Association.

Investments have been going well for the Relief Association and Lilja explained this to the council. He said, “We are fully funded now, so the mandatory contribution is not needed and the city’s accountants have made a recommendation on what could be done….At a conservative rate we came up with the figure of raising the retirement $2,000. The auditor said, with the $470,000 in the bank we could go to $2,600, but, to be conservative, in case of a market crash or something, we voted to place the amount at $2,000 per year for service. I’m here tonight to ask the council for their approval to put a signature on the file copy.”

A motion was made and approved to increase the yearly amount to the Relief Fund for fire department members’ retirement service pension from $1,750 to $2,000 per year of service and authorize the mayor’s signature on the file copy.

With no more business coming from the Deer River Fire Department, a motion was made and approved to accept the report.

There was a total of 128 calls between Nov. 24 and Dec. 21 listed on the Deer River Police Department Offense Summary Report.

“Compared to 2013,” said Perry, “our numbers for this year are up 35 for the month and up 73 for the year. Some things you might want to note about the calls is that thefts and domestics have increased, as they usually do around the holidays.”

She also mentioned that there has been an increase in reports of scam efforts that have been targeting area residents from a variety of sources.

“And,” said Perry, “we’ve had the vandalisms. This past month there have been a lot of egging going on in this one area….There have been a lot of vehicles getting egged.

Perry informed the council about trainings department members had been participating in this past month before bringing up her last item, for the At Risk Youth Multi-Disciplinary Team participation.

Council made and approved a motion approving Resolution 2014-28 that will allow the Deer River Police Department school liaison officer to be a member of the Itasca County At Risk Youth Multi-Disciplinary Team and share data with the group.

With nothing further from or for the Deer River Police Department, a motion was made and approved to accept Perry’s report.

The Clerk’s Report from M. Box was next. His report began with the information that the city’s insurance dividend from the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust had arrived. The amount of this dividend was $6,078.

The notice of application for authority to provide local telephone service from CenturyLink was M. Box’s second item. The notice stated that the company had requested issuance of a Certificate of Authority from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to provide the facilities-based and resold local exchange services in the exchanges in the State of Minnesota. “This does not require any action on your part,” it said. “Our records indicate that your municipality is located within one of these additional exchanges.”

Richards questioned this request, as another company is established within the city, but Shaw reminded him that these rights to operate in the city are not exclusive. “When the city provides the rights like these in the city,”said Shaw, “they have a franchise with the city. It does give the city some control over the way that they do business.”

M.Box’s next item was from the League of Minnesota Cities concerning its Regional Safety Group program. “What it looks like it is,” said M. Box, “is a program where cities could get together with other cities to form an alternative safety committee that helps keep their employees safe and maintain OSHA compliance. The League is willing to pay 50 percent of the cost. No action is needed on this matter as of yet.”

Richards said, “I’d like to table this matter until we find out what the other small cities are doing.”

The next subject M. Box brought up was to do with e-billing and e-pay. He said, “I would like authorization to move forward on that, as we have had people requesting this service.” He had provided the council information on this matter in their packets.

There were a few questions on this service before a motion was made and approved to authorize M. Box to move forward in setting up the e-billing and e-pay service for the water and sewer bills.

“There has been a change in Mn/DOT’s plans for U.S. Highway 2,” said M. Box. “They are going to start at the Cenex station and go to 1st Street and from Cinderella’s to what they call 5th Street, the entrance to the Rajala properties. It will be a complete tear out and redo, curb, gutter and sidewalk. Our engineer met with them and the preliminary dollars looks like $240,000 to $250,000 of cost to the city if the council elects to do all of the underlying infrastructure.”

M. Box offered the council additional information on this project and answered their questions before letting them know that the Highway 6 project is still scheduled for 2018.

He next wanted to know if any of the council members had some input on the employee policy that had been drafted and given to them for review. B. Box said, “If you have any input I would like for you to get that in to me so that I can wrap up this matter.”

The next item was a request to allow the staff at City Hall to write off and certify an unpaid water and sewer bill in the amount of $171.53 as an assessment to the individual’s property tax bill.Council made and approved a motion to allow this step in the process to get payment for the bill.

The Memo of Understanding between the City of Deer River and AFSCME Local #498 concerning the creation of a temporary staffing position, not to exceed six months, was next. This memo also noted that if the position exceeds 67 shifts in a calendar year, the position will be afforded seniority for any future AFSCME Local 498 job postings. The concept for this agreement had been approved at a previous meeting. Council made and approved authorization allowing the mayor to sign the document .

Things have been busy as of late for staff at the Deer River City Hall and a request was made to allow M. Box and Perry to carry over their overtime that they have not been able to use up. A motion was made and approved to draft a memo of understanding for M. Box and Perry to allow them to do this as a one-time occurrence during their contract.

Geving asked M. Box when the new court date for the matter involving Jim Liston was set for and he replied that the date had been set for Jan. 23, 2015.

There was nothing else from or for the Clerk’s Department. A motion was made and approved to accept the report from this department.

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