New year in Stacy brings new business, familiar issues

The Stacy City Council opened 2014 with numerous carryover items from 2013 and little public fanfare.

The council reviewed city finances at the beginning of the meeting.

Councilor Jim Ness said he was surprised by what appeared to be a $2,000 charge for purchase of safety glasses. Ness estimated he could buy 100 pairs for $2,000. City Clerk Sharon Payne produced the itemized statement for follow-up, showing the cost closer to $30. The council took issue with the cost of thermal jackets purchased for the maintenance department but approved the bill.

City Attorney Peter Grundhoefer presented revisions of three contracts, the joint powers agreement and the agreement with Kwik Trip. Kwik Trip closed in December on the purchase of the property housing Sunrise Market.

The council approved a contract with Hennepin Technical College to provide the city maintenance staff with required occupational safety and health training. The second contract covered audit services, awarded to Oberloh and Associates for $8,700.

“I don’t see any problem approving this,” Mayor Mark Utecht said, recalling that the city requested proposals for audit services recently and the next closest bidder came in at nearly twice that figure. The two contracts were approved unanimously.

A third contract presented by Frontier Communications seeks to lock the city into a 36-month telecommunications agreement covering the city’s seven phone lines in exchange for a discounted service rate. Utecht considered the services Frontier provides and evolving technology. The latter might be less costly, he said, but anecdotally, friends who use Voice Over Internet Protocol services have told him that there may be issues after set-up, and should the Internet service go down, the city phones would go down as well.

“None are as reliable as landline technology, and I would prefer that we keep that,” Utecht said.

Utecht said the city’s cable service provider, Midcontinent Cable, offers a phone service.

Ness brought up the same concerns regarding this type of service.

The council tabled the discussion until city staff could speak to Frontier Communications representatives regarding the terms of the agreement. Payne was asked to contact Midcontinent Cable representatives to inquire about phone service options.


Consideration of Kwik Trip

Kwik Trip company representatives reviewed and returned the contract pursuant to bringing the convenience store chain to Stacy. Grundhoefer met with Utecht for review of the terms and the costs to the city. The full council considered the deal.

Ness questioned repair of a sewer main. City Engineer Mark Statz advised there is one sewer line that needs to be repaired, but the bulk of the $18,000 the city is committing will be spent on water lines. That $18,000 represents one-third of the cost of readying the property for the kind of business that Kwik Trip envisions.

While there is an assumption of water and sewer service as a condition of the sale and the development agreement, Utecht asked if this is in the contract. Mention of water and sewer service will be included after the contract and development agreement are approved.

Statz said the construction plans have not yet been approved, and he requested to see those plans in order to comment. Statz cited changes he confirmed: Sunrise Drive will be completely reconstructed, shifting 15 feet to the north, and the entire site, including the new road, will be concrete.

“It’s really going to be a nice investment for the town,” Statz said. Because this is a conditional use permit and not a plat, he said, there was no preliminary plan to review.

The council requested Statz show construction plans to Chisago County authorities to ensure no problems arise later. There was some concern and speculation that the county could require the improvements to accommodate a turn lane.  Grundhoefer said if the county does require turn lanes, Kwik Trip should have to pay for it.

“You’re going to require that, anyway,” Grundhoefer said.

His opinion is that, with a letter of credit in hand, the city should not have any problems with the county. The Kwik Trip contract was approved unanimously.

Also, Kwik Trip applied for a variance to use a freeway sign. A public hearing was scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 21.


In other news

• Statz said cities have been given a sales tax exemption on materials purchased for city projects. He said this addressed “big ticket items” such as equipment for street maintenance, water plants and general construction projects.

“The Legislature has made it cumbersome to qualify for this exemption, and the way you have to do this is put this out for bid,” Statz said.

To buy the material and not pay a sales tax, there have to be two separate bids: one for the materials and equipment and one for the labor. The exemption cannot be passed along to subcontractors.

Utecht commented that the projects Stacy has in mind are not large, and though a water treatment plant is in the cards, it will more than likely not be built this summer. Utecht said he thinks pursuing the sales tax exemption for current projects is not necessary.

• Statz had an update on funding applications for construction of a city water treatment facility. He said the Minnesota Department of Health is waiting for plans to build the plant to move forward for the city to correct the issue of excess radium in the city’s water supply. A Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Small Cities grant preapplication has been rejected.

“We’ll keep trying,” Utecht said.

There has been a delay in a response from U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, the largest source of potential funding. Utecht said he wants confirmation that there is some activity with USDA. Statz said the city might have to negotiate with USDA on the size of the plant that USDA could fund as the agency looks for the most cost-effective way assist the city in resolution of this type of issue.

• Family Dollar Store representatives are pursuing the purchase of a property to the north of Tim’s Country Cupboard.

The council members expressed that they were pleased with this announcement. There was little information available on plans at this time. Statz commented that some repair or reconfiguration of streets might have to be reviewed. The Family Dollar Store was mentioned in conjunction with Statz’s presentation of road and construction projects for 2014.

• Payne was asked to issue a reminder to residents that it is illegal under Minnesota law to plow snow across a public road to clear a driveway. The city has received numerous complaints of residents who seem to be unaware of the statute.

• The council unanimously established appointments for 2014. Councilor Cindy Bruss, who is on an extended leave of absence from her seat, was replaced temporarily on the Economic Development Authority, Liquor Operations Committee and the Fire Relief Association. The ECM Post Review will serve as the official newspaper of Stacy in 2014.

• Two resolutions also passed unanimously. One adopts a supplement to the code of city ordinances. The other amends Chapter 34, the city’s fee schedule. Ness proposed the fee increase in water rates be excluded. The resolution passed with the exclusion.

• Stacy purchased a new truck for the maintenance department. Utecht told the council the cost was over the estimate by $1,300.

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