September 22, 2016
CLWSD board reduces preliminary levy $15,000
Taxpayers in the Crane Lake Water and Sanitary District will see their taxes for the district reduced by $15,000, down to $40,000. The levy has been cut in half since the 2013 levy. The board, at their regular meeting Wednesday, Sept. 7, at 7:30 p.m. in the Crane lake Chapel, approved the new preliminary levy. A final levy will be approved in December, but it can't go up. It could be cut further.
A revised copy of the ordinance for Independent Septic Treatment Systems (ISTS) was presented by Fryberger, Buchanan Attorneys for signature.
East Bay representative John Connaker said that Bud Schneider of East Bay had requested that a board member attend one of their meetings to let them know about the District's activity related to East Bay.
Crane Lake will receive $60,000 from state and federal grant funding. Funding was approved a couple of years ago.
Brian Fitzpatrick of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) presented a list of questions related to the Community Assessment Report (CAR). Randy Jenniges of S.E.H. Engr. is providing the answers. Jim Orton submitted a life cycle chart with an estimated cost by septic type for non-compliant systems. It was suggested the district make an outreach to people offering the option to connect to the system.
Terry Jackson emailed a report stating there is an improvement at the plant with the introduction of additional water to the collection system. The samples collected in August appear to be within the effluent limitations of the MPCA.
Joanne Nachtsheim provided com-ment that the USA crew was very helpful in eliminating a ditch problem near their property during the construction process.
The meeting adjourned at 8:50 p.m.
St. Louis County Board approves levy increase to invest in Children and Family Services
The St. Louis County Board has approved a preliminary property tax levy of $126,550,079, an increase of 8.5 percent for 2017. The increased money is needed to fund skyrocketing out-of-home placement costs and other investments in children and family services. At the same time, the county's growing property tax base means most people will see little change in their property taxes compared to two years ago.
"We are as frustrated as anyone to see the levy increase like this," said Commissioner Keith Nelson, who chairs the board's Finance Committee. "But we are seeing a level of need unlike anything experienced before, and it's simply not an option to ignore the increasing reports of children being abused and neglected. We have to protect children and help them."
St. Louis County's Children and Family Services Division has been responding to a 45-percent increase in reports of child maltreatment this year compared to 2014. At the same time, new reporting requirements from the state mean county staff must spend more time filling out paperwork, leaving less time to interact with and help families before they reach the point of children having to be removed.
Add in the fact that the State Legislature has failed to pass a tax bill the last two sessions, and Minnesota counties are being left with little funding support.
The County Board voted 6-1 to approved the levy, with Commissioner Chris Dahlberg opposed.
St. Louis County's property tax base has increased 8.0 percent in the last two years. That means, for a person whose property value has remained the same, the county portion of their property taxes will increase only slightly compared to two years ago. For instance, a home valued at $200,000 will see an increase of $1.09 for 2017 compared to 2015.
The levy revenue collected from property taxes makes up about one-third of the St. Louis County budget. Each year, in establishing a preliminary levy, the board must find balance between its goals for the services it wishes to provide, and the tax impact on citizens based on the cost of providing those services.
Two meetings have been set to collect public input on the levy and budget. They will be Dec. 1 at the St. Louis County Courthouse in Virginia, and Dec. 8 at the St. Louis County Courthouse in Duluth. Both meetings will start at 7 p.m. Citizens are also welcome to provide input at any County Board meeting or by contacting commissioners directly. Contact information can be found at stlouiscountymn.gov/countyboard.
By law, Minnesota counties must set their maximum preliminary levy - that portion of the budget collected through property taxes - by the end of September. As the board and staff work to finalize the 2017 budget over the next few months, the levy amount may be reduced, but it cannot be increased. Commissioners are set to vote on the final capital and operating budget on Dec. 20.
More information about the levy, including the presentation given at the Sept. 23 board meeting, can be found online at stlouiscountymn.gov/budget. St. Louis County serves more than 200,000 residents spread across 7,000 square miles. To learn more, visit stlouiscountymn.gov.
Greenwood Town Board moves to closed meeting
The Greenwood Town Board of Supervisors met in its regular monthly meeting last Tuesday evening and quickly dispensed with its opening duties of paying the bills, accepting financial reports, and approving the minutes of previous meetings. Before approving the agenda, Chairman John Bassing moved to add a closed meeting session to the agenda. Bassing said that he was calling for the closed session, "upon the advice of counsel." Supervisor Carmen DeLuca then made a motion to meet in closed session following the regular, and open, meeting. Supervisor Kladivo provided support for the motion, which passed with unanimous approval of the board.
However, many in the township believe that the closed session was improper, and conversation flourished across the township via telephone calls, emails and texts following the meeting. Minnesota Statute, and past Greenwood Town Board practice requires that "before closing a meeting, a public body shall state on the record the specific grounds permitting the meeting to be closed and describe the subject to be discussed." This was not done as the only reason given for closing the meeting was, "upon the advice of counsel." Chairman Bassing is well known for citing Minnesota law in support of his actions, however, on this occasion he provided no such support. People in the township are speculating about the nature of the closed meeting and are wondering if the township's counsel was present or contacted via telephone during the closed session. This closed session may add to the conflict and mistrust that the township has experienced over the past few years.
Planning and Zoning
transition to St. Louis County
In reviewing correspondence, Chairman Bassing reported that, earlier that day, the county board accepted Greenwood's zoning map as part of the county's ordinance 62, and that the full transfer of planning from the township to St. Louis County is expected to be completed soon. Barb Hayden, St. Louis County Planning director, wrote the township that her staff was "recommend-ing an effective date for the map as Oct. 1, 2016." Hayden suggested that the county would work with the township to complete the transfer of planning and zoning as "close to that date as possible."
Chairman Bassing then moved to, "terminate the Planning Director," and suggested a mid-October date for the termination to become effective. The motion was immediately supported by Supervisor DeLuca. Without any discussion the board voted for the termination. Bassing, DeLuca, Super-visor Randy Kladivo and Supervisor Jeff Maus voted in favor of the termination. Supervisor Gene Baland was the lone dissenting vote against the termination.
Because there has been ongoing negotiations through attorneys, regarding Julia Maki's three-year contract with the township as Planning Director, the town board authorized, by vote, Chairman Bassing to negotiate on behalf of the township in these matters. Bassing abstained from voting on his appoint-ment.
Paid On Call
Lengthy discussions were held on the ongoing negotiations to refine the township's fire department and EMS paid on-call policies. Representatives of the fire department have been meeting with Supervisor DeLuca and Supervisor Maus to establish the updated policy. Simultaneously the fire department has asked the town board to approve its request to join the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA), transferring fire fighters' pensions to PERA. Paid on-call partially funds the retirement accounts and the township is concerned with resolving that policy as it considers moving to PERA.
Supervisor DeLuca made a motion to get town board approval on forwarding the draft paid on-call guidelines to the attorney for his review. Supervisor Kladivo supported the motion stating that he was doing so, "for the point of discussion." Questions arose when Chairman Bassing called on Jan Makowski eliciting her opinion. Makowski suggested that the township consider reducing the requirement that fire fighters participate in at least 25 percent of all calls for service to qualify. "Some acceptance, by the township, should be made for people who work out of town," Makowski said. This dissent to the proposal caused Kladivo to withdraw his support of DeLuca's motion.
Considerable further discussion was held about the proposed policies until Chairman Bassing said that he supported going to PERA and suggested that the policies return to negotiations, with the stipulation that at least 15 percent of calls be the minimum required while the fire department moved towards joining PERA.
Fire Chief Dave Fazio said the fire department could move to PERA and the final negotiations on policies could continue as any new policy would not affect PERA until 2017. The board agreed with Bassing's position and gave its approval.
In other action, the board:
· Reviewed correspondence presented to the township over the past month. Clerk Drobac reported that corre-spondence was received from Irene Bright who had earlier conducted training on reporting financials for the clerk and treasurer. According to Drobac, she assisted her in reconciling the previous clerk's 2016 records and that no money was found to be missing. Drobac also read into the record correspondence from a family expressing their gratitude to the fire department in responding to a situation where a boat crashed into their boat, parked at a dock, and especially to Jeff Maus who returned the next day to assist the family in extricating the boats from each other. Other correspondence was received from Lee Peterson, Melissa Cox, Northwoods Partners, Township Attorney Michael Couri, and Barb Hayden, St. Louis County. The town board did not take any action on any of the correspondence.
· Approved the minutes of the Aug. 10 regular meeting and the Aug. 18 special meeting of the board.
· Received and approved the Treasurer's report acknowledging that the township held $568,858.18 in its checking accounts, $251,198.66 in its long-term investment accounts and $314,136.83 in its savings accounts. The funds held by Greenwood Township on Aug. 31 total $1,134,193.67.
· Received claims for payment from the township in the amount of $33,840.87. In addition to those claims, printed on handouts available to the public, Clerk Drobac reported that there was an additional claim of $47.52 to be paid to Treasurer Delores Clark for mileage reimbursement. Drobac also noted that $150 was being refunded to Gloria Dei Lutheran Church as reimbursement of its security deposit for renting the town hall. The Gloria Dei Lutheran Church claim was listed in the printed claims list for approval.
Supervisor DeLuca made a motion to pay all the claims, however, Supervisor Maus objected to paying the claim of $50 for one of the firefighters' cell phones. Maus said that he could not find adequate documentation for the claim. DeLuca amended his motion to pay the claims withholding payment for this bill. Supervisor Kladivo supported the motion which passed with Supervisor Baland abstaining from voting.
· Learned, in a report from Supervisor Baland, that the township's new tennis and pickleball court was complete except for signage noting that the court was restricted to playing those games and that skateboard, roller-skating, roller-blading and bicycling on the court is prohibited. Baland said that the original bids did not call for a pickleball net and that he was working on acquiring that equipment.
· Approved placing notices in the Timberjay, as well as the official newspaper, The Tower News, about the upcoming transfer of planning to St. Louis County.
· Learned about the pavilion grand opening party held on Saturday in a report from Dean Panian.
· Approved placement of the Panian Pavilion sign at the pavilion.
· Tabled making a final decision on removing the St. Louis County Solid Waste canisters from township property until October.
· Approved calling for bids to conduct the township's snowplowing needs.
· Appointed Supervisor Kladivo to serve as the township's representative to the Lake Vermilion Lodging Tax board.
· Discussed the potential of creating a fire-fighting district with the City of Tower and Breitung Township and appointed Supervisor Maus to serve as a representative from Greenwood during negotiations.
· Learned that the fire department administrative assistant will be paid $217.50 a month.
· Appointed Delores Clark, Marcia Vietanen, Kathy Vogh, Colleen Lepper, Jan Makowski, Mary Richard, Kathy Lovgren, Joan Mueller, Sue Drobac, Carol Maus and Ruth DeLuca as election judges. Also appointed was Delores Clark and Marcia Vietanen as head judges.
· Acknowledged that the public is welcome to park in the township's parking lot and use the free wireless Internet. The password to access the internet is: walleye1.
· Learned from Chairman Bassing that he believes he has found an insurance carrier which could provide the township with liability insurance, however, he did not provide any details at this time.
· Listened to a request from Supervisor Maus on the need to create a written policy on the use of the "lock box" where EMS data private files are kept.
· Received the regular reports from planning and zoning, fire department, safety director and the chairman and supervisors.
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