Budget passes by 5-4 vote
The Rugby City Council approved the 2015 budget by a 5-4 vote at Monday’s regular monthly meeting. The total approved is $545,826.39.
Ward 1 Council Member Bruce Rheault cast the tying ‘yes’ vote, bringing the tie-breaker to Mayor Arland Geiszler, who approved the budget.
Neil Lotvedt (Ward 1), and Craig Zachmeier and Terry Wentz (both Ward 4) also voted to approve the budget.
Gary Kraft and Dave Bednarz (both Ward 2), and Jim Hoffert and Joel Berg (Ward 3) voted ‘no’ to approving the budget.
Aware that the major point of contention was how wage increases were proposed, Geiszler said he plans to spend more time with the personnel committee, so the finance committee doesn’t “become HR (Human resources). It’s not fair to them.”
Zachmeier said he understands why others voted no, but believed a minimum $2 base raise for all employees was fair in light of the council’s shortcomings.
“I voted ‘yes’ because I feel the governing body failed all city employees,” Zachmeier said Wednesday. “The governing body didn’t hold the city employees to the standard that has been implemented by the governing body, such as doing something as simple as having (employees) sign and understand the policy and procedures of the city.”
Zachmeier said job descriptions for all city employees are not available and 12-month employee reviews have not been regularly completed since 2006. He said the governing body also failed in properly training employees on leadership and management.
“They brought up bad behavior (by public works employees),” Zachmeier said, “but the governing body knew about it in March, but never brought it up even in an executive session to find out what really happened.
“When it comes to raises we can’t hold our employees accountable when we as a governing body don’t hold ourselves accountable.”
He also cited rising wages in the Bakken region as reason to approve wages vital to recruiting and retaining employees.
Berg and Kraft voted no because of wage increases they deemed unmerited.
“I still don’t think that someone should receive a $2 raise without a review process,” Berg said. “Other than that, I think the budget is good and they worked hard on it.”
All three members of the finance committee voted ‘no’, including Kraft.
“I don’t believe that with what’s been going on we should be giving everyone a raise,” Kraft said. “I’ll be watching the personnel situation.”
Kraft did not believe the approved budget finalized the raises, but Geiszler and former auditor Dawn Hauck confirmed the raises are final because all money allocated must now go to where it was approved to go.
Bednarz said Wednesday that other than the wages, he was fine with the budget.
“Basically, I voted no because as a manager of a service department, I do evaluations yearly for my employees and base raises on them,” Bednarz said. “There are a couple businessmen on our council and I would question whether they would do $2 raises without doing evaluations on their employees. I don’t think it’s a good business practice.”
Bednarz doesn’t believe enough time was spent on the wages and feels a $1 increase agreed upon between himself, Kraft and Hoffert was quickly overturned to $2 by a 4-3 vote at a September meeting, which Kraft was unable to attend.
“Twelve hours were spent on the budget by the (finance committee) and basically that was overruled by the council,” Bednarz said. “I think the majority of the people are entitled to a good raise, but there are some employees – where there’s documentation – that they missed things they should’ve been to.”
Hoffert, finance committee chairman, agreed with Bendarz and felt the finance committee did due diligence in recommending a $1 raise for city hall and public works employees. No member of the council voiced opposition to the $2 – and in some cases more – proposed for the police department employees at the request of Chief John Rose.
“During that whole month there was no good reason to reverse our ($1) decision,” Hoffert said Wednesday. “During the public feedback meeting, there was no real pro- or anti-wage increases discussed. In the end, we as a finance committee did not hear any good reason to change our position.”
Rheault disagreed with those voting ‘no’.
“I just felt (city employees) deserved a raise, across the board,” Rheault said.
City attorney Bill Hartl informed the council of a snag in the proposed annexation of 248.56 acres of county land east and south of Rugby.
Although the proposal was published twice in the newspaper, landowners did not receive certified mail seven days before the council meeting to discuss annexation, which statute requires. Landowners were notified, but the mail was not certified.
The annexation notice will need to be published again for two weeks in the Tribune and landowners must receive certified mail about the annexation seven days prior to the next public meeting discussing annexation.
Landowners question values post-annexation
County landowner Gary Laughridge requested a definition of ag land. The mayor said ag land annexed will remain ag land until the land is used for commercial or residential purposes.
Former city auditor Dawn Hauck informed landowners that properties in the city were special assessed at 15 percent in 2009 for the streets project.
In the District 2009-1 city wide street project, all properties along main thoroughfares in the city were given a 15 percent discount on their assessments. The 15 percent was then divided among all other parches in the city due to increased use and more wear and tear on streets.
Laughridge asked if proposed annexation areas deemed ag land will be subject to special assessments.
“If ag land falls into special assessments when it’s not being used, there’s going to be dissension on annexation,” Laughridge said.
Geiszler said he does not know what decisions future councils will make for specials.
Ward 1 Council Member Neil Lotvedt said the 15 percent assessed to all city land sounded like a mistake.
“To me, special assessments should only be used for the adjoining land,” Lotvedt said. “I did not know about the 15 percent and probably would not have allowed that.”
County landowner George Deplazes asked who initiates the change from ag land to residential for tax purposes and cited examples in other counties where landowners were surprised to see similar changes. Geiszler said when ag land is brought into the city and classified as ag, it is taxed at rate of mill levy.
Geiszler had a list of 12 property owners that would be annexed, according to the proposal. Landowners include Roger (Bud) and Bette Chalmers, Anthony and Angela Deplazes, Norval Johnson, Gary and Helen Laughridge, Benjamin and Kayle Brase, LeeAllen and Rebecca Leier, Alan and Linda Beaver, Pierce County, Rugby Public Schools, Rugby Park Board, G & H Enterprises, and Moure Equipment.
Chalmers Addition updates
The council approved a third change order for the Chalmers First Addition housing project, but tabled approval of the final bill to Park Construction.
The change order was a welcomed decrease of $103,032.76, bringing the total owed to Park to about $2,365,000.
Wade Senger, of Interstate Engineering, said he joined Ward 1 Council Member Neil Lotvedt and Rugby Public Works Supervisor Rick Larson in inspecting the infrastructure at Chalmers. Senger said the group noted concerns on depths of manholes and insulating of a lift station.
Senger recommended the city not work with Park Construction (Spring Lake Park, Minn.), stating, “they haven’t been the easiest to work with.”
On Wednesday, Senger said it was not his intent to make a recommendation on future work with Park Construction.
Ward 4 Council Member Craig Zachmeier questioned whether final payment of about $138,843 should be made to Park. Senger recommended the city pay in full or at least a large percentage, noting that improvements to certain issues could cost about $20,000.
“I was disappointed when they made the motion to not pay them at all until next month,” Senger said. “It hasn’t been the easiest project throughout the process, but the city has an excellent project that sets them up for future growth.”
Senger and Interstate Engineering senior project engineer Travis Dillman stressed that weather also played a role in project issues.
In an email response to the Tribune on Wednesday, Park Construction project manager Rusty Vogelgesang said: “We have not been made aware of any issues at this time. The project was completed on time and was accepted on August 26th. Along with the heavy rains, this was a difficult project that came with many design changes and unfortunately resulted in cost impacts to the project.”
Ward 4 Council Member Terry Wentz, also chairman of the Rugby Park Board, said a member of the park board isn’t pleased with the pavement redone on a stretch of the walking path near the west lift station. Wentz said he had not seen the issue yet, but asphalt was reportedly breaking up.
The council approved a motion to table final payment to Park until issues in question are reviewed. Senger said he will make sure all the issues the city has are addressed with Park Construction.
The council approved a motion to allow Glory Monson to move a modular home into Chalmers. Monson will be permitted to build a deck upon obtaining a variance.
“As long as it’s built at international code, there’s nothing we can do,” Lotvedt said. “But we don’t want any HUD (Housing and Urban Development) housing there.”
Zachmeier, chairman of the ordinance and recreation committee, submitted a new job development authority ordinance for a first reading, which was approved.
He stated that the Rugby JDA and all JDAs in the state are governed by North Dakota Century Code, but members of the JDA had not taken required oaths of office.
“The JDA is made up of volunteers trying to better the city,” Zachmeier said. “My main concern is were not within Century Code and I don’t want any of these people to get in trouble.”
The ordinance, which follows Century Code closely, includes the mayor having authority to appoint JDA members, lists powers and duties to promote jobs, and explains how tax levy for JDA works.
City Attorney Bill Hartl said a good faith form, previously signed by JDA members, did not satisfy statute. He said the new ordinance is not necessary, but won’t hurt the city either.
Zachmeier said the ordinance gives the city and JDA authority to take on more projects and eliminates gray area.
“The gray area of giving money to economic development projects that do not support job development is cleared up,” Zachmeier said.
A first reading of a revised Dogs and Cats ordinance was approved. Zachmeier said he took the ordinance to Rugby Veterinary Services and used that staff’s recommendations.
Preregistration of animals will allow law enforcement to get a better picture of the number and variety of pets in the city. An increase in fees and fines is aimed at better enforcement, but no licensing fees are being added. The Rugby Police Department will be in charge of investigating loose animals, if the ordinance is approved upon the third reading. If a person is bit by an animal, the incident is to be published in the newspaper, unless publishing would hinder an ongoing investigation.
Approval of the first reading of a revised nuisance ordinance was tabled at the request of Hartl.
“We’re going to create problems with this ordinance and animosity toward neighbors,” Hartl said. “It’s written so if a trailer isn’t used for 60 days it’s a nuisance. I encourage council members to take a deep look.”
Other examples were cited and the mayor encouraged the council to read the ordinance closely and work together to have it approved by January 1.
“This is an ordinance that probably gets the most complaints with people not maintaining property,” Geiszler said.
Zachmeier said the city attorney needs to be able to prosecute cases based on the ordinance.
“We have to make sure this ordinance is dependable in court and in front of the supreme court if need be,” Zachmeier said.
Public safety – Rugby Police Chief John Rose said new officer Gretel Vavrovsky started Monday and everything is going well. No September minutes were reported.
Finance – Committee chairman Jim Hoffert clarified that the first $50,000 toward the estimated $205,000 Vanguard Appraisal was set aside in 2014. (The Oct. 4 issue of the Tribune incorrectly stated the city first saved $50,000 for the appraisal in 2013). Another $50,000 is earmarked for the appraisal in the 2015 budget. The appraisal of all city property is expected to be completed by January 2016.
The committee’s September minutes stated that the remaining cost of the appraisal can be financed through Vanguard at 4 percent interest.
Information and options on infrastructure for Gooseneck Implement’s future location along U.S. 2 was not discussed Monday as the annexation was postponed.
Hoffert stated that former auditor Dawn Hauck will receive $30 per hour for up to 100 hours of work on retainment. Hauck resigned last month citing frustration with the council and “issues that have never been dealt with.”
Ordinances and recreation – Chairman Zachmeier said the committee hopes to get training done during the winter for recreation and pool managers for summer 2015. The committee’s September report stated that Bonnie Berginski agreed to come back as pool manager. Following several complaints about the baseball program, the committee is suggesting more training for coaches involved next summer.
Minutes state that the baseball diamonds are in rough shape and need to be fixed before next season. The committee plans to ask the full council whether Otter Tail should be contacted to fix the light standards.
Minutes also show that Duane Veach attended the committee meeting and stated that the council is “being controlling and micromanaging the town” if it does not allow steel roofs. Veach said he is paying more for the steel than he would for shingles and doesn’t feel steel roof devalues neighboring property. The committee stated it is not looking to ban steel roofs, but provide an ordinance to ensure correct material is used and doesn’t devalue property.
Public works – Chairman Terry Wentz gave an update on the 15th Street project to minimize flooding. Following the meeting, Public Works Supervisor Rick Larson said he expects a six-inch pipe from the pump (east of 2nd Avenue) to 14th Street to be installed this week or the following week. Wentz said he informed Jackie Albrecht that the flooding issue at her property on 1st Street NE won’t be resolved until the spring. No September minutes were reported.
Personnel – The keeping of employee records and an employee review process for all city employees was discussed at the committee’s September meeting. Geiszler said he would like a review process in place by January and expects the personnel committee, committee chairs and department supervisors to work together.
Buildings/Property/Construction – Chairman Lotvedt said construction on the fire hall is behind schedule and he was concerned about the concrete being laid because of weather.
Other meeting news
The council approved minutes from the Sept. 2 regular meeting and minutes from the Sept. 29 public hearing on the budget. Bills, financial report and municipal judge’s report from September also were approved.
The council approved a raffle permit for Rugby Dollars for Scholars through March 2, 2015. Proceeds from raffles for a television and cash will go toward scholarships for high school seniors.
Tax abatements for homestead credits were approved for Lorna and Brian Gibbs and Ann Mack.
Mike Graner, administrator at Heart of America Correctional and Treatment Center, explained the benefits of a leadership seminar for jail, county and city employees on Oct. 30 and Nov. 17. The 16-hour seminar also will address employee behavior.
Graner said it will cost about $100 per person for the entire 16 hours of training.
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