Nisswa will hire a police officer to fill a vacancy in the department after the city terminated its police sergeant.

The city council authorized the position be filled Wednesday, Nov. 20. In a memo, Police Chief Craig Taylor and City Administrator Jenny Max said they want the role of sergeant to be filled by the end of 2020 by promoting from within the police department. They will work to determine what the criteria will be and what staff training is needed for this process to be successful.

“We believe this would be a great opportunity for our police department staff,” the memo said.

Sewer rates

Nisswa’s quarterly sewer rates will increase 4.5% in 2020, from $148.01 to $154.67 per equivalent residential connection after city council action Wednesday, Nov. 20.

The new rate will be effective for the first quarter billing in 2020.

Also effective Jan. 1, 2020, the sewer connection fee will be $10,000 per ERC.

Jobs

The council approved revised job descriptions for three city positions: city administrator/treasurer, city clerk and finance specialist. In doing so, Maggi Wentler’s title and duties changed from deputy city clerk to finance specialist, and the council authorized Max to hire a city clerk.

Public safety

In October, police reported 182 calls for service; issued 78 traffic warnings, 11 traffic citations and four criminal citations; had 17 agency assists; and made four arrests.

The council learned its fire insurance rating - indicating how well the fire department protects the city - dropped from 7 to 6, which is good news. Firefighters had 21 calls in October, including 17 emergency medical services calls, two vehicle fires, one kitchen fire and one fire alarm.

In other business Nov. 20, the council:

  • Heard a report from Brittney Cotner, planning and zoning administrator, on what her department is working on, including catching up on past work and progressing with the GreenStep Cities program.

Cotner, who joined the city in May, shared that her goals are to be consistent, develop an enforcement plan, set goals and be proactive, and continue with the GreenSteps Cities program.

Later in the meeting, the council agreed to move Cotner from probationary status to permanent employee.

  • Agreed to vacate a portion of Camp Lincoln Road within the Gull Lakes Shore Subdivision as requested by Monica Anderson.

  • Certified unpaid sewer charges to the tax rolls.

  • Met in closed session to consider an offer for property purchase.

Comprehensive plan

The council held a workshop before its regular meeting to talk about the city’s long-range strategies included in the comprehensive plan. Council member Don Jacobson said he didn’t want the city’s recently updated comprehensive plan to sit on a shelf.

He and council member John Ryan identified affordable housing as an issue to address in Nisswa. However, the mayor and other council members didn’t wholeheartedly agree.

Ryan outlined his thoughts in an email, saying the city needs housing that is within the financial reach of all economic levels, especially housing for lower and mid to upper middle class incomes.

Many people working in the Nisswa area live outside the city and can’t afford available housing in the city, he said, noting the city needs to find a way to entice developers to build homes or rental properties to fill this need.

He suggested the city look at retirement homes/apartments or assisted living that would provide older residents with a way to stay in the community while providing jobs for younger residents.

Council member Mike Hoff said if the demand for housing was there, someone would be pursuing it. Council member Gary Johnson said Nisswa does have affordable housing off the water.

Mayor Fred Heidmann said there is not a shortage of lots for sale in Nisswa, and he believes city staff is busy on projects that he’d like to see completed before giving staff more to do.

Max said the comp plan needs an updated future land use map and a section on housing. She advocated to keep the conversation going.