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Paynesville Press - March 2, 2005

Hosch visits Paynesville City Council

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

The Paynesville City Council took the following actions at their meeting on Wednesday, February 23.

*The council discussed legislative issues with Rep. Larry Hosch (DFL-St. Joseph). As a member of the House Local Government Commit-tee, Hosch has been attending city council meetings within District 14B to learn their needs. One issue expected to be addressed in his committee is restoring Local Government Aid to cities, said Hosch, a former mayor of St. Joseph.

*The council approved a bid from Randy Kramer Excavating for $501,964 for improvements to the spray irrigation piping for the city wastewater treatment plant. According to city engineer Pete Carlson, the bid is higher than the original estimate because of an increase in the price of PVC pipe due to rising petroleum prices. However, the bid is lower, by nearly $100,000, than his last estimate for the project. This was the low bid from 20 submitted to the city, ranging from $501,964 to $802,884.

*The council approved applying for two DNR grants, a regional grant of $250,000 and a local grant of $100,000 for building a section of the Koronis Recreational Trail that would join the existing trail with the city. While the city will apply for both grants, it can only receive one, said city administrator Steve Helget.

It was also noted by Hosch, and council member Jeff Bertram, who is also the chair of the Lake Koronis Recreational Trail committee, that both bonding bills in the legislature include funding for the trail section that will join the Lake Koronis Recreational Trail to the Glacial Lakes State Trail. The House bonding bill includes $150,000 and the Senate bonding bill includes $365,000. Money has also been included in both bonding bills to improve the Glacial Lakes State Trail from Paynesville to New London.

*The city approved an amended engineering proposal from SEH for the Lake Koronis Recreational Trail for $65,000. The council previously had approved a $72,000 proposal from SEH for engineering services, but Paynesville Township, which is sharing the project with the city, questioned whether the proposal was too high. SEH lowered their proposal, which was then accepted by the township.

*The council approved increasing the lump sum retirement benefit for retiring firefighters from $1,200 for each year served to $1,300 per year.

*The council approved an annual contribution of $4,000 to the Paynes-ville Fire Department Relief Associ-ation, the fund that provides benefits to retiring firefighters.

*The council approved a final payment of $23,470 to Randy Kraemer Excavating for work on the South Street Extension street project.

*The council approved changing its policy for on-call pay for city employees. Currently, the city pays $2 per hour for police and $1.25 per hour for utility personnel on call. Employees who are called out are paid for a minimum of two hours of work. If an employee is called back to work and has worked 40 hours that week, the call-out time is considered overtime.

The new policy eliminates paying employees for on-call time but gives them one hour of comp time for every 10 hours of on-call time for police officers and one hour of comp time for every 13 hours on call for utility employees.

Police officers are compensated at a higher rate for call because they have a shorter response time and must remain in uniform when on call.

*The council approved modifying the city's personnel policy to address health insurance benefits for employees who qualify for Medicare. Typically, an employee who refuses the city's health insurance cannot be compensated in their wages for insurance.

However, since one city employee is now eligible for Medicare, the city opted to allow Medicare recipients to refuse city insurance and to compensate the employee for purchasing a Medicare supplement policy. This change should save the city $250 per month over their current insurance premiums for this employee.

*The council approved publishing a summary of a new ordinance that addresses how late notices for public utilities would be handled. The new ordinance will shorten the time that elapses between the first late payment notice for public utilities and the final shut-off date. The new ordinance would also eliminate having police deliver final notices, which will be mailed instead.

The next billing for city utilities, using the new policy, will occur in late March.

*The council heard a verbal report from public works director Mergen regarding recent issues discussed by the environmental committee. The city will hold its annual Spring Clean-Up on Saturday, April 30, from 8 to 11 a.m. in the north (student) parking lot at Paynesville Area High School. The household hazardous waste collection was set for Saturday, June 25, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., also in the north (student) parking lot at PAHS.

*The council heard a report from Mayor Jeff Thompson regarding taking part in the League of Minnesota Cities' "Walk a Mile" program. Thompson reported that last year's participation in the program - when Paynesville city officials spent a day in Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Center officials spent a day in Paynesville to learn how the other city operates - was successful and recommended participating in the program again.

This year, however, Thompson recommended partnering with a different type of city. Instead of a metro-area suburb, perhaps an out-state community with different demographics, he said.

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