Retiring animal control officer forces action in Columbus

City seeks grant to increase access to polls


Paul Rignell
Columbus Reporter

Columbus and several other area cities this year are seeing the end of an era for animal control as Rick Ruzicka, of Maplewood, has announced he is retiring from transporting stray animals in his Animal Control Services business.

Ruzicka had contracted for work in Columbus since before 2000, according to city staff.

His work has included the processing of interim use permits for residential land owners who want to keep kennels for dogs. The city received applications for 15 such permits in 2012, and Columbus requires a licensed kennel for any property with at least four dogs. Ruzicka further checked on the health and safety of those pets in Columbus by conducting inspections of the licensed kennels.

Council members voted Nov. 13 to issue a 60-day notice for ending an animal impound agreement with Hillcrest Animal Hospital, of Maplewood, where Ruzicka has brought unidentified strays from his contract cities.

Columbus staff reported that Ruzicka’s former clients, Forest Lake and Hugo, already have reached agreement for continued animal control from another agency.

Access to polls

Election season was generally low-key for all of Minnesota in 2013, but soon enough political punditry will rise again as the state prepares for elections, to be led by the 2014 race for governor.

Columbus officials have taken action to ease next fall’s balloting for their residents by seeking a federal grant to improve access for disabled voters.

The city would like to acquire tables and seating for accommodating voters who will be in wheelchairs or would have other health and mobility issues. Columbus is requesting $2,995 in federal money, authorized by the Help America Vote Act of 2002. Each of the program grants to be awarded in Minnesota next year will be distributed from a pool of about $125,000 by the Secretary of State’s office, which has honored grants ranging from $100 to $6,000 in previous years.

The state intends to notify its grant recipients sometime in January. All proposed purchases or remodeling to be funded by the subsidies must be completed by Aug. 9, 2014, in time for the primary season.

Car lot on hold

The council will wait at least another month to consider a car auction company’s requests for comprehensive plan and zoning amendments that would allow the company to open an auction lot west of Lake Drive, north of Pine Street.

The Columbus Planning Commission voted Nov. 6 to postpone its own further review of a plan from Insurance Auto Auctions Inc. to redevelop 20 acres of commercial land at Lake Drive plus another 40 acres to the west that has recently been zoned and used for agricultural purposes.

Business traffic for Insurance Auto Auctions would be limited generally to weekdays. All vehicles to be sold from the lot would be classified as total losses after damages, based on assessments from insurance companies, dealerships or rental car agencies, though all auctioned items will be moved from the lot as they arrived with no disassembly.

The company estimates one scheduled live auction per week at the site, though about 70 percent of all bids are submitted online.

The Planning Commission will place the amendment requests on its evening agenda for Wednesday, Dec. 4. Approval of the actions by the commission would forward those requests to the City Council for review.