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W’bago delays pair of decisions

October 10, 2012
Jodelle Greiner , Fairmont Sentinel

WINNEBAGO - Winnebago City Council put off decisions on two topics Tuesday night: adopting street assessments for Main Street and First Avenue S.E., and finding a temporary replacement for departing City Administrator Austin Bleess.

Bleess advised the council to hire an interim administrator and presented biographies for two candidates: Jim Brimeyer and Dale Powers. Both have experience and are on a list of available interim candidates provided by the League of Minnesota Cities.

Four candidates have applied for the permanent position of city administrator, Bleess noted.

But the council was leery of making a move Tuesday.

"I don't want to rush into anything," said Councilman Scott Robertson. "It's a huge job."

The council could consider hiring a full-time administrator or sharing one with other towns, Robertson added.

"There are things that would work," he said. "We need to look into it."

Mayor Randy Nowak said he has received calls from citizens.

"They want the council to slow down," he said.

Nowak suggested putting a committee together with members of the community to interview candidates.

"That way, it's a group effort," Nowak said. "If it takes two months to get a city administrator, so be it."

Councilman Rick Johnson recalled that a personnel committee and the council chose Bleess - "Made a good decision," he said - but the time prior the decision was made by a large committee "and that didn't go so well," he said.

In the end, the council decided to revisit the topic of an interim city administrator in a special session at 7 p.m. Oct. 18.

Also at that meeting, they will discuss the street assessments, which they did not adopt Tuesday, due to a question raised by a citizen.

A number of people attended the assessment hearing, but only Judy Ness spoke at length regarding the assessment to a vacant lot she owns west of the school gymnasium. The only thing sitting on the lot is a garage, which she allows the Winnebago Area Musical Players to use to store props for productions.

Ness said the property was assessed at $6,100 and that is more than the value of the property, which she said the city had valued around $2,200.

Minnesota law says its illegal to assess an amount against a property that is more than the value of the assessment, she said, adding the value of the property is unlikely to increase to $6,100.

Ness had no problem with the street portion of the assessments, but protested the water and sewer assessments, since they are not hooked up to anything and she has no plans to build on the property.

She had asked before construction that water and sewer not be installed, but the city overrode her request and had them put in, she said.

Ness asked the council to grant her an abatement on the hookups and defer the assessment until such a time as someone would want hookups. She pointed out Blue Earth has deferred similar assessments.

Johnson pointed out it could be a prime location for a business such as a parts store, since it is now on a 10-ton street.

"You're more optimistic than I am," Ness said. "It's not on [Highway] 169."

"Water and sewer being there increases the value of the property," Ziegler noted.

"It's based on the value today, not a future value," Ness pointed out.

City Attorney Doug Johanson wanted to find out the value of the property and Robertson wanted to look up the statute. City Engineer Wes Brown said it is up to the property owner to prove the property has not benefited from the construction and to go through the appeals process.

Robertson said an adjacent property owned by Robert Weerts is in the same situation.

The council discussed the matter, including ramifications of delaying the adoption of the resolution.

Bleess warned against delaying too long because to get it on the property tax statements for next year, the resolution must be adopted no later than November.

With Johanson's promise to research the issue, the council voted to defer the adoption of the resolution and revisit it next week.



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