Handt gets good review, 5% raise
After six months on the job, City Administrator Kristina Handt asked for a performance review and a raise. She got both.
Handt started last September at a salary of $70,000 per year.
She has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in advocacy and political leadership.
Before coming to Scandia, Handt was village administrator of Luck, Wis., for almost four years.
Now she supervises a staff of six and oversees a $2 million budget.
The review took place on April 3 in closed session. Mayor Randall Simonson said, “by the end of that meeting, everybody was smiling and everything turned out well.” The council approved the salary increase at the April 16 meeting.
Maintenance Superintendent Tim Kieffer also received a 5 percent increase at the end of his probationary period in January. Most employees received a 2 percent raise for 2013, with the exception of the full-time maintenance worker position, which has a step program with 5 to 6 percent increases built in.
Handt’s raise will go into effect in late April, so in 2013 it will cost the city $2,830.
Also on April 16, the council approved sending Handt, plus council members Dan Lee and Sally Swanson, to the annual League of Minnesota Cities Conference in June.
Some property owners on Olinda Trail in downtown Scandia would rather not have a path connecting Olinda to Lilleskogen Park.
Ross Brunfelt and Greg Benson are asking the city to vacate a street easement between businesses and Benson’s residence.
Called “1st Avenue,” the land was acquired more than 100 years ago, Brunfelt said, for a street that will never be built.
Lilleskogen plans use the easement to provide access from the east. The main entrance is on the west, on Oakhill Road.
A future trail could possibly continue from Olinda to Ozark, letting walkers and bikers reach the Scandia Plaza retail area at Ozark Avenue.
The neighboring landowners “really do not want a trail coming up there,” Brunfelt said. When Lilleskogen was known as Lion’s Park and included benches and hiking paths, he said, vandals spread garbage, left graffiti and burned bridges.
Brunfelt said the city already vacated a portion of the easement for utilities. The county installed a septic system. Adjoining property owners park there. A drainage ditch crosses there.
And Lilleskogen Park does not need more public access, he argued, as the triangle-shaped park has Oakhill Road as one border and Scandia Trail (TH-97) as another.
“You’re bringing people through yards for no purpose,” he said. “We have over 2,000 feet of frontage on this park.”
If the petition gets enough signatures, the council will debate whether vacating is in the city’s best interest.
City meetings can use a lot of paper.
For each item on the agenda, staff lay out the issue and give background, maps, financial data and a possible resolution.
Every member of the council or planning commission gets a packet of materials to read before each meeting. Members of the press can pick up a packet, and one is printed for use by the public.
For Scandia, the cost of printing and mailing packets was estimated at $3,900. Using just electronic packets would cost about $750 per year.
The 2013 budget approved in December included $3,000 to purchase netbooks–small, inexpensive laptop computers–for public officials to use during the meetings instead of paper packets.
In March the council adopted guidelines for procedures for paperless meeting packets, use of netbooks and electronic communications during and outside of Council meetings.
The change is an improvement for residents. The electronic packet is posted on the city website, so all residents can see the same information as the council. Information formerly available only to holders of a packet is now projected onto a screen during meetings.
But switching from all paper extreme to all electronic is not working for the planning commission, who regularly review detailed maps and architect’s drawings. Three members of the planning commission asked the council to reconsider abandoning paper.
Instead, the council voted unanimously to keep the new policy. Planning commission members who need paper will have to print it themselves, at their own expense.
The vote was three to two, with council members Chris Ness and Sally Swanson in the minority.
Ness said, “If planning commission members want to come here and get a paper packet, they should be allowed to.” Swanson said she finds it hard to read maps and building plans on a computer screen.
Scandia’s capital improvement plan includes buying a third dump truck with snow plow in 2014.
The city will soon borrow money for a 2013 fire truck purchase.
With interest rates low, it might make sense to borrow enough for both purchases at once — if the city buys the truck.
At the April 16 meeting, the council voted unanimously to start this process. They directed staff to prepare a resolution to borrow $550,000, to cover both vehicles, for the June council meeting.
But not everyone is sure about the truck. “Do we need this third plow truck?” Simonson asked.
Schneider said historically Scandia has had two snow plow routes, but now is using two pick-ups and three big trucks.
“I’m all for borrowing the money and putting it in the capital improvement fund,” he said, “but I can’t see buying another truck.”
Ness said when he last asked residents if there were complaints, getting roads plowed in adequate time came up constantly.
Scandia resident Ed Conlan told the council that recently he has experienced “something we’d never seen before: a plowed road when we went to leave at 10 in the morning.” He said the city needs good equipment to continue that success.
Maintenance Superintendent Tim Kieffer said the third plow route was done with an old truck about to be sold. With two snowplows, it can take nine to 12 hours to clear the roads. With three, it’s done in five or six hours.
“The final issue is spending. When’s it gonna stop?” Schneider asked.
For the soon-to-open Zavoral Mine, the city has received the required letter of credit and performance bond, and a watershed district permit was issued last week. Tiller’s Mike Caron has indicated plans for a late summer or early fall start. To monitor the mining, the council approved contracts with LGB (groundwater), Indoor Environment Group (dust) and SBP (noise).
The council also passed a resolution requesting that the Minnesota Department of Transportation perform speed studies at 10 locations, including portions of TH-97 and TH-095, plus Langly, Layton and Lamar avenues.
The council meeting began with a tribute to deceased Firefighter John Larson. Simonson presented Paula and Hannah Larson with a certificate, and a reception was held in the community room.
“Larson would always extend his hand,” Simonson said. “He was warm, inviting and caring, even in a time of emergency, as when he came to my home, took care of my parents and comforted them.”
The council passed a resolution allowing survivor benefits to be paid in cases where a firefighter dies before becoming vested.
At the March 12 work session, Fire Chief Jim Finnegan informed the council that the Lions Club is establishing a bank account to accept donations on behalf of the Larson family, and the Lions chicken dinner will include a raffle to raise additional funds.
To start the annual road repair process, the 2013 seal-coat project was awarded to the low bidder, Fahrner Asphalt Sealers, for $176,277.
As recommended by the planning commission, the council amended the July 2012 variance granted to Dawn Gillespie, 20290 Olinda Trail, to not require platting for dividing 40 acres into two lots.
To fill the vacancy on the planning commission, the council appointed Sue Bies to a five-year term.
Kristin Tuenge was re-appointed to represent Scandia on the Carnelian/Marine/St. Croix Watershed District board.
Crime in Scandia during March included a theft at a new construction site in the Bliss Addition, rifle shots entering a house and vandalism at the Tiller mine on Manning Avenue, according to Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Majeski.
Finnegan reported five fires in March and 10 emergency medical calls. The Sky Warn storm spotter class drew 25 residents in addition to the fire department, he said. New fire department applicants will undergo physical testing in May.
The council voted 4-1 to support legislation authorizing street improvement districts. The League of Minnesota Cities asked for support from communities for this measure, which would let cities charge the fees from roadwork to all the properties in the district. Tax-exempt entities would also contribute.
Ness voted no, saying he needed more information to decide.
The next regular City Council meeting is at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 21.