Columbus sends sheriff issue back to county

City would agree to two-year extension of law enforcement services


Paul Rignell
Columbus Reporter

The Columbus City Council voted 4-1 at its Oct. 10 meeting, with Bill Krebs dissenting, to tell Anoka County that the city will agree to a two-year extension for law enforcement service from the Sheriff’s Department.

“It doesn’t mean they’re going [to approve that],” said Mayor Dave Povolny. “It just means we’re asking for that.”

The annual bill for 2013-2014 would add $25,000 to what the city paid this year, for a yearly total of $247,864. Columbus would retain its eight hours of daily dedicated coverage from county deputies – including weekends – plus response to other calls around the clock from deputies who cover a total of eight contracted cities and townships across northern Anoka County.

“We pretty much get what we are getting for another 25 grand?” Krebs asked.

City Administrator Elizabeth Mursko replied that Columbus could expect to lose the around-the-clock coverage without the increase, meaning deputies would likely no longer respond to nuisance calls or other non-emergencies outside of their daily dedicated hours.

The council read a draft contract last week for three years of county coverage, but even with an option to defer greater costs to the city, the contract would have added $25,000 more to the bill for 2015 while boosting the agreement to 10 daily hours of dedicated coverage.

Building Official Kept

The council voted unanimously to offer Building Official Leon Ohman the option to remain in the position beyond his initial 90-day term that started Aug. 2.

The city’s personnel committee recommended that the council vote to retain Ohman as building official at an hourly rate of $34.22 plus prorated benefits for 25 to 28 hours weekly.

When council members agreed to hire Ohman as a successor to former official Nick Schmitz, who left for a job in East Bethel in late July after more than eight years in Columbus, they authorized a negotiated hourly wage between $37 and $40 but without benefits.

Denny Peterson moved to approve Ohman’s continued employment last week on the personnel committee’s recommended terms, and was seconded by Krebs, but they were outvoted on the motion by Povolny and council members Jeff Duraine and Jessie Messina.

Povolny and Messina questioned whether the city would have 25 hours of weekly work indefinitely for a building official, and they said they were concerned the employee could file for unemployment compensation without meeting those hours. Krebs said he did not believe the employee would qualify for unemployment. Mursko said she would contact the state office.

The council fully supported a motion to set the building official’s weekly minimum hours at 14 – where prorated benefits may start – while capping them at the part-time maximum of 32. Benefit levels will be determined by month on a weekly average.

Mursko said the building official’s work is at a recent high, with six homes under construction – more than any time in the last five years.

Water Tank Study

City Engineer Larry Bohrer informed council members that Anoka County’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority has agreed to reimburse the city up to $9,500 for a feasibility study on connecting a 150,000-gallon ground water storage tank at the Ziegler Cat property, in the freeway district, to the city’s municipal system.

Council voted 4-1 to accept the HRA’s response and authorize Bohrer to conduct the study. Messina dissented in the vote, saying the feasibility should have been determined when Ziegler developed its property five years ago.