Buying land, paying fire chief are topics of debate in Crosslake
Council changes course on mayor's idea to buy and develop land for workforce housing
CROSSLAKE — Buying land to develop and paying the fire chief became areas of debate for the Crosslake City Council.
Both topics were addressed last month and were revisited at the council’s regular meeting March 13.
After agreeing last month to seek an appraisal of property Mayor Dave Nevin found for sale off Wilderness Trail to potentially buy and develop for entry level, workforce housing, the council reversed that decision on a 4-1 vote with the mayor opposed.
Nevin had said buying the property would get the city access to tax forfeited land for future development, and it's known that the city needs more housing.
However, council member Aaron Herzog asked that the topic be put on the March 13 agenda, reiterating he didn’t think the city should be in the business of buying property or developing land.
This month, council member Jackson Purfeerst agreed, saying he had changed his mind.
Sorry folks, it’s another missed opportunity that we have but we’ll move on.
Herzog asked Nevin to explain his connection to the street and property, and Nevin said he used to own it and sold it 17 years ago to the person now selling the 51 acres.
The four council members agreed to kill the idea and City Attorney Brad Person said he would stop the appraisal process that had been initiated.
“Sorry folks, it’s another missed opportunity that we have but we’ll move on,” Nevin said.
Fire chief wages
Last month, after learning that Fire Chief Chip Lohmiller had been working full time without receiving adequate compensation for the past several years, the council agreed to increase his pay to $30 per hour and remove a monthly $1,200 stipend while a committee looked into the fire department’s structure.
That topic resurfaced March 13 when council member Marcia Seibert-Volz said that change didn’t take into account pay to respond to fire calls and attend training.
She sought to cap the fire chief’s administrative hours to 20 a week at $30 per hour and give the assistant fire chief 10 hours of such work a week, and then pay both $25 an hour for calls and $20 an hour for training.
She and Mayor Dave Nevin feared the city was on its way to having a full-time, paid fire department, and preferred the fire chief position stay part time.
Bob Heales said the city’s public safety commission reviewed the matter and supports a full-time fire chief position by May 1, if possible.
City Administrator Mike Lyonais clarified that the city has a paid on-call fire department.
After discussion, the council agreed to pay the fire chief $30 an hour based on a 2,080-hour annual work schedule.
The council approved annual fire contracts with Fairfield Township to cover part of the township for $35,746 and Manhattan Beach for $18,314.
Fees are 3.5% of each entity’s tax capacity.
We think that this is just exorbitant. ... You won’t see us next year.
Manhattan Beach Mayor Paul Allen argued against his city’s fire contract fee, which increased 35%, or $5,000.
“We think that this is just exorbitant,” he said, noting his city council set its budget in August.
“You won’t see us next year,” Allen told the council, advising them to factor that into their budget.
In February, police had 195 calls in Crosslake and 73 calls in Mission Township.
Crosslake calls included 18 agency assists, one assault, 56 emergency medical services calls, one personal injury accident, two property damage accidents, three suspicious vehicles, one traffic arrest, 12 traffic citations and 54 traffic warnings.
Mission Township calls included five agency assists, three EMS calls, one fire, one property damage accident, six traffic citations and 52 traffic stops.
The council received annual police reports for Crosslake and Mission Township.
The fire department had 46 calls in February, including 42 EMS calls and one motor vehicle accident with injuries and one without injuries.
In other business March 13, the council:
- Accepted two donations: $209 from the Crosslake Firefighters Relief Association for fitness equipment maintenance, and $100 from Devera Gruber as a thank you for plowing that the council will give to the public works department.
- Agreed to donate $250 each to the Crosslake and Emily food shelves.
- Learned the city would receive $21,000 for a May storm and an estimated $13,000 for a June storm in damage reimbursement, and an estimated $30,000 later this year for December storm damage reimbursement.
- Heard from Patty Norgaard regarding an upcoming housing symposium to look at opportunities to partner with developers and contractors for housing in Crosslake.
- Formalized an agreement with Crow Wing County to participate in a bituminous seal coat project including seven Crosslake roads.
- Accepted an engineering proposal from city engineer Bolton & Menk to develop a road improvement plan for $19,700.
Find recordings of Crosslake City Council meetings on the city's YouTube channel.
Nancy Vogt, editor, may be reached at 218-855-5877 or email@example.com . Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.