Wyoming OK’s LELS deals, chief’s duties

Paul Hoppe will become public safety director by way of a 3-2 city council vote

Alice Pickering
Wyoming Reporter

Wyoming City Council approved several contracts at its June 5 meeting. The meeting was suspended for a closed session to discuss some final language changes in the agreements.

Council approved collective bargaining agreements between the city and Law Enforcement Labor Services, Inc. 365, for the period of January 1, 2011 through December 31, 2011. There were no changes in wages, but a cap on benefits and the provision the city provide a .45 caliber handgun to each officer.

Council approved the contract by a vote of 5-0.

The 2012-2014 agreement with LELS provides a 3 percent increase in wages in each of the years of the contract and caps the limit the city pays on health care for an individual and family at a fixed-dollar amount.

For individuals who are qualified and make the request, the city contributes up to $627.26 of the monthly premium for health and dental care with Insurance Carriers group health. For dependent coverage, the city will pay up to $1,537.35 of the monthly premium for health and dental premiums for a full-time employee. This too was approved unanimously.

City Administrator Craig Mattson addressed questions about how the agreements had been written. They are based on an International City Management Association model.  There were questions during the open forum about this and why there should be substantial severance pay and compensation. The clauses are to protect employees against dismissal without just cause, Mattson said.

New Position

Council also approved a contract and new duties for Police Chief Paul Hoppe, but not with full city council support.

Anticipating the retirement of Fire Chief Dennis Berry, the city wants to create a public safety department, with Hoppe as director. His duties would include overseeing both fire and police.

The proposed salary reflects increased responsibilities. With Berry’s input and considering the budget and economy, the decision was to recommend the public safety director’s position.

Hoppe’s base salary is $100,000. He is eligible for a 3 percent increase in 2013-2014. The vote was 3-2, with Mayor Eric Peterson and Council member Linda Yeager voting against.

“Paul is always there when he’s needed, so the distance really doesn’t negatively affect his performance,” Peterson said, stating support for Hoppe. Peterson voted against the contact because “he (Hoppe) hasn’t yet moved within a reasonable distance to Wyoming.”

Peterson said he is understanding of Hoppe having a tough time selling his home in the current market. The city pays for the use of car and gas to get to and from work. The mayor said Hoppe is “passing his expenses on to our city.”

Yeager said the $100,000 salary for the chief was a concern. “Taxpayers continue to be financially stressed,” Yeager said. She said the staff did not present a strong enough case for the position and pay increase.

Votes by Council members Roger Elmore Joe Zerwas and Steve Zerwas ratified the deal.

Other Pacts

The employment agreement between the city and Fred Weck IV, building official, was approved unanimously. Weck’s salary remains the same for 2012-2014, with base pay of $75,337. Weck will be eligible for a pay increase in 2013-2014. Council approval was unanimous.

Council approved an employment agreement for Jason Windingstad, public works superintendent, at a base salary of $75,000. His salary reflects an increase because of supervisory and budget management responsibilities and pay equity. Windingstad will be eligible for an increase in 2013-2014. Approval was unanimous.

Council also approved a contract with Mattson. His base salary is $103,000.  The vote to approve was 4-1.

Yeager voted against the contract based on the impact on taxpayers.

Liberty Ponds

Building activity is to resume at Liberty Ponds development.  Council approved a development agreement between the city and Mpls RE, LLC and RM Investments, LLC to complete Liberty Ponds. The original developers defaulted without completing improvements.

Weck said the conditions related to the storm water control will be the same as with the previous developer.  There are no code changes with the water and sewer service to the development. Liberty Ponds will be served by a cluster septic system.

Before building permits are issued, Weck will check that the community well and septic systems are to be functioning.  The association will maintain the septic system and well. When city utilities are extended to the development, water and sewer connect charges will be required. Street lights are owned and maintained by the association.

When the road is completed to specifications, it is to be turned over to the city. Copies of the homeowners and association documents will be provided.  Action authorizes Mattson and Mayor Peterson to sign documents on behalf of the city.  The vote was 5-0 to approve the agreement.

Civil Defense

The community civil defense sirens need to be converted to a narrow band width, in order to receive signals from the county dispatch center. Chisago County will transmit on both frequencies through December 2012 before switching exclusively to narrow band. Police Chief Hoppe recommended the conversion explaining that without it, some sirens will not work, and others may not be reliable.

Total cost for the conversion is not to exceed $11,882,17. Chisago County will maintain control of the activation system internally, so it is focused more locally, rather than regional emergencies.

In the 2012 Budget, $4000 was designated for emergency management improvement and will be used for this project. A separate emergency management fund was closed at the end of 2011, and the balance of about $7,300 is to be transferred to the general fund. The $580 difference will come from the reserve fund. The vote was unanimous.

Park Project

Council awarded a bid to Peterson Companies for the installation of an irrigation system in Goodview Park. Bob Behnon, park chair, explained that the field is longer and can accommodate games for high school and adult players.

Member Yeager questioned whether the system was really needed. She walks the area and thought the fields looked green enough. Member Elmore said the well was put in the north end of the park for irrigation and that the fields are used in all seasons for games and practice. There have been requests for longer fields.

Elmore added that a fee schedule is being developed for groups and organizations using the fields to help defray maintenance costs.

Another concern was whether installation might be disrupted or pipe damaged by construction of the skate park. The areas are close together, but heavy equipment work should not overlap the field.

The total cost of the system is not to exceed $15,000. Money is to come from the parks fund. The vote was 3-2.  Yeager and Steve Zerwas voted against.

The city is renewing its liability insurance with the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust.  In doing so, the council voted not to waive the monetary limits on the municipal tort liability. This means the limit of an individual claim against the city in a single incident remains $500,000; and that for all claimants is limited to $1.5 million. Premiums also stay relatively low because the city is not purchasing extra liability insurance coverage.

Sign Dedication

Celebrate with residents and history buffs at the Old US Highway 61 sign dedication, 6 p.m., Thursday, June 14. County Commissioner Ben Montzka will dedicate the sign at the Sunrise Prairie Trailhead Park, on the west side of the highway, across from the Giese Memorial Library and Wyoming City Hall.

US Highway 61, a through route of about 1,400 miles from New Orleans to Wyoming, is being celebrated. Chisago County is starting a campaign this summer to continue “Old US Highway 61” to Duluth and hopefully, someday, all the way to the Canadian Border.

According to Chris Eng, executive director of the Chisago County HRA-EDA, “we want to get folks off the freeway and enjoy the scenery, history, and stop and shop along the way from Wyoming, in Chisago County to Duluth on Old US Highway 61.”

The northern section of the highway was turned back to the counties in 1991. “Our goal is to increase national awareness of this historic and scenic Highway 61 and to promote tourism and economic development for the counties, cities, and region along the original highway route,” Eng said.