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Paynesville Press - Oct. 31, 2012

Paynesville City Council
Neil Herzberg

Neil Herzberg

Neil Herzberg, 62, a 1968 PHS graduate, ran for the city council two years ago. He worked for 34 years in automotive parts and served 23 years in the National Guard and now works for the city part-time in the public works department, as well as for the Annandale Advocate and in bingo and pulltab sales at the Paynesville American Legion. He serves as a member of the park and tree board.

Why are you interested in serving on city council?
I became interested in city government many years ago when my wife, Kathy, was hired as the first secretary for the City of Paynesville in 1970. She was employed by the city until 1993 when she was dianosed with a brain tumor and was on disability until her death in 2000. I know she would smile from above if she could still have a small voice in my election to the council! I feel that I have provden leadership, knowledge, and desire to be your next city council representative.

Leadership: I was FFA president in 1968, graduated with honors, and was a member of National Honor Society. I was in the Army Reserves for 23 years, retiring as an E-7 platoon sergeant in charge of 50 fellow soldiers. I am currently a proud member of Grace United Methodist Church, serving on the budget and finance team. I'm a lifetime member and currently treasurer of the Koronis Hills Snowmobile Club. I am on the board of directors, as a service officer, of the Paynesville American Legion and a member of the Army Reserve Retirement 20-Year Club. I was a Fords parts manager and assistant manager for 25 years.

Knowledge: I grew up in Paynesville and have been in the area longer than four of the other council candidates combined. I have also worked for this great city for the last five years as a part-time public works employee. I have learned the streets, parks, bathroom facilities, water and sewer lines, lift stations, water plant, and water treatment facilities. If I'm elected and you call me with a concern, I will more than likely know where it is and something about it. I know a lot of people in the area and am not afraid to ask for help or an opinion.

Desire: My desire to run for council is demonstrated by my going to every council meeting since April. I have looked at every council meeting agenda for the last two and a half years. I consider it a compliment to be told by citizens of the community that I have the knowledge to be a qualified candidate in this election. Thank you for that encouraging remark! I care about Paynesville, and I hope I can ask for your vote on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Last election, I received 335 votes, and I want to thank those voters, and I hope I have convinced more of you to give me one of your two votes for council this time.

What new ideas do you feel you can bring to the council?
I will strongly work to promote Paynesville in any and all expansions which could include business, industry, or housing development. I will also promote the schools, hospital, and Lake Koronis as a vacation destination. These are all good economic drivers. I will try to represent the majority because hopefully I will be elected by the majority of city voters. I will also be cautious and very ³common cent$² when spending tax dollars on new and existing projects.

What should the city do about the benzene pollution from the former gas station at the corner of Lake Avenue and Mill Street?
The city is on the right course now by trying to convince the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to dig up the site and permanently remove the contaminated soil. The MPCA wants to just monitor the site and the contaminated field. The city is working with legislators, and local Sen. Michelle Fischbach is on board to get this done. The city may need to hire an environmental lawyer to resolve the dispute. I strongly support the current council's efforts and will fight to help get his issue resolved. There is currently an effort to put in more test wells along the boulevard in the Lake Street/South Street area. I will fight along with those homeowners to stop this nonsense.

Should additional budget cuts become necessary, what areas of spending would you target?
Let's hope that won't be necessary again. Two years ago, the city cut four positions. This caused an increased workload for employees and a reduction of some services. If additional cuts would have to be made, it would affect all departments and would result in fewer funds to replace, maintain, and repair the equipment, vehicles, office equipment, etc. This would mean less service from the city, so I hope that will never be necessary again.

As funds allow, where do you think the city could be spending more?
It's easy to spend more ­ the wants list is huge and always growing. On this list is a water park/swimming pool complex, park improvements and expansions, fire and police equipment, another soccer field, expansion of the sewer treatment ponds, a new street sweeper, and maybe a bi-weekly street sweeping schedule. The wants far exceed the revenue available. I commend the Paynesville baseball group, who are raising funds and grants to make the stadium and, hopefully, a shelter a reality. The aqua park in Willmar was a gift from Earl B. Olson, founder of Jennie-O. I feel strongly that unless a gift like that would be received from a private donor or maybe 3M, IBM, or Honeywell came to Paynesville and made a large donation to build the complex, this will not happen.

What types of tax increases (if any) would you support as a council member?
The city has been mowing and trimming the grass on the main gateway to Paynesville (Veterans Drive). The new bridge with the decorative lighting is very attractive. Most of the property along the bypass is privately owned, so hopefully the property owners will maintain their property. The city will be putting up chain link fence along the sewer lagoon site. Maybe a row of evergreens and trees would help make the compost site look more attractive too.

What should the community do to make Paynesville attractive from the new Highway 23 bypass?
The city has been mowing and trimming the grass on the main gateway to Paynesville (Veterans Drive). The new bridge with the decorative lighting is very attractive. Most of the property along the bypass is privately owned, so hopefully the property owners will maintain their property. The city will be putting up chain link fence along the sewer lagoon site. Maybe a row of evergreens and trees would help make the compost site look more attractive too.

How can Paynesville businesses entice highway traffic to continue to stop in Paynesville?
I guess signage is the best way to get the traffic to come off of the bypass. The big golden arches of McDonalds will bring hungry travelers, and then the driver will see Subway, the Legion, A&W, and the Dairy Queen, and he or she could decide to drive through town to get back onto Highway 23. It seems like two or three years ago Paynesville was famous for having cheaper gas than the neighboring towns, by four or five cents. I heard many comments back then that people frequently stopped in Paynesville to ³top off² their tank. I realize the gas stations are private businesses and set their pricing according to reasons I don't fully understand.

What is the city's role in promoting Paynesville to Highway 23 traffic?
I think the new ³Welcome to Paynesville² signage and landscaping will need to be done at both the east and west ends of the bypass. These signs need to promote the businesses, lake usage, and recreational resources that Paynesville has to offer.

How important is having a full-time police chief to the city? The taxpayers of Paynesville have spoken, and the verdict is that the police department is needed and the county cannot provide the protection that is desired. So, it is of the utmost importance to have a full-time police chief. If I am fortunate enough to be elected, I will strongly support the new chief and his department. I was a part-time police officer during the 1970s and my cousin's son is a Minnesota Highway Patrol officer, so I do indeed support and respect the police department.

What is your long-term view for police coverage in Paynesville?
I think long term we will need to have a police force that will grow with the city. If the population of Paynesville grows, so should the police force. If the township decides to help fund and expand the department, that would be good also. Right now we need to help heal the department and let applicants for police chief and patrol officer positions know that Paynesville and the surrounding area is a great community in which to work. I'm hoping the new chief will arrive with new community-based ideas and maybe organize a good neighborhood watch program.

What type of relationship should the city council have with its employees?
I believe the relationship between the council and the city employees needs to improve. As a part-time employee, I see the need to improve employee morale. One way to do this would be to ³walk a mile in the employees' shoes² or treat people by the Golden Rule (³Do unto others as you have them do unto you.²) I think the council made a mistake by giving themselves a raise this summer when some of the employees have not gotten a raise since 2008. How many council members would like to be called at 2 a.m. for a water level or lift station alarm without being paid for overtime? The employees now have to take time off during the week for attending to that alarm to avoid overtime payments. I would not want to do this, and the employees don't either.

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