The Jenkins City Council on Monday, May 10, decided to wait to possibly renew a shared services agreement using Sourcewell's services for planning and zoning on an as-needed basis.

In the past, Sourcewell, located in Staples, has helped the city organize comprehensive plans and process plats and conditional use permits at a cost much less than the cost to have a planning and zoning staff. The city contracted with Sourcewell for $3,000 a year in the past, but would only use services as needed in a new agreement for a lower cost.

City Clerk Krista Okerman recommended budgeting $1,000 for Sourcwell services. Residents requiring services provided by Sourcewell would be expected to pay for those services, providing no additional cost to the city. Okerman and council member Andrew Rudlang noted that the contract would save the council thousands of dollars for planning and zoning services.

"We've found them extremely helpful in planning and zoning," said Rudlang.

Locally there is a growing distrust of Sourcewell in some circles. In the Pequot Lakes School District, Sourcewell has been the target of conversation due to the organization's involvement in the SEED program, which has recently become controversial.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

The Jenkins City Council has had several meetings over the past months to discuss declaring a "slum and blight" district to qualify for a small cities loan program through Sourcewell. A member of the public attended the April meeting and suggested the goal of declaring slum and blight is meant to clear the way for future eminent domain, though no examples of the designation being used for such have been presented or found at this time.

That, however, is another example of the growing distrust in the organization.

"I can't support it," said council member Donna Stricker. "It's a very globalist and monopolistic organization. It's much more dominant than I ever knew it was. I think they are leading us by the hand and we're going in the wrong direction. These big organizations are feeding us what we should do and I think that's backwards."

"I view them as a subcontractor," council member Charles Hoffman said. "They are doing things we don't have the resources for."

"I agree with Donna," council member Kim Bachman said.

The council tabled discussion so all members could review the information Stricker referenced.

Perhaps prompted by the public comment process at the April meeting, Stricker later addressed the council saying she didn't think citizens feel listened to under the council's current rules of operation. Within the past year, the council has been attempting to more strictly follow Robert's Rules of Order for council meeting operations.

In this case, the rules declare a time limit for public comments and prevent council members from discussing public comment.

Stricker said the public should be able to get feedback on their comments. Hoffman said that traditionally such an interaction would not be done during public comment, but instead should be reserved for members of the public who request to be included on the agenda.

Currently there is no form for such a request, but the council has allowed residents onto the agenda on an informal basis, simply by contacting the clerk and asking to be included on the agenda. The city is now working to create a formal document as part of a reorganization process.

Being officially on the agenda would allow speakers a longer time limit and permit the council to know of the topic beforehand and interact in the discussion.

In other business Monday, the council:

  • Submitted notices of plat status on McCoy Acres, Jenkins Hay Creek, Earle Jenkins Estates, Fox Borough and Whitetail Hollows officially declaring for future buyers of those developments that the roads in these developments have not been developed under city standards and there are no developers agreements assuring constructions of those roads. This prevents buyers from purchasing land on undeveloped roads unknowingly.
  • Agreed to wait to purchase lighting for the Jenkins sign until after the council learns if it will receive grant funding through a program with the Region 5 Development Commission.
  • Approved the classification of "non-conservation" for a piece of tax forfeited land that Crow Wing County wants to sell.
  • Approved amendments to city zoning ordinances and the city land use matrix. The amendments explain how city ordinances apply to double sided signs, added images to that ordinance, combined definitions for closely connected items, removed animals from being included in the residential storage district, and removed the requirement for a conditional use permit for breweries and breweries with taprooms.
  • Heard a presentation by Jared Pahl of TDS Telecom pertaining to an expansion of fiber optics in Jenkins. Pahl said 4 miles of optics will be added from July 28-Aug 12, connecting 182 customers to more direct fiber optic lines.

Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or travis.grimler@pineandlakes.com. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Travis.