Council meets in aftermath of blizzard

Deputy Jessy Betts
By : 

Much of the discussion dealt with the weekend blizzard when the Spring Valley City Council met for a brief regular meeting Monday, Feb. 25.

The meeting was lightly attended with no guests and only a few department heads. There was a full council, though, as it breezed through the agenda in less than 15 minutes.

In the department head reports, Spring Valley Ambulance Service co-coordinator Sue Puffer told the council that more than a dozen people found shelter in the ambulance building Sunday night as they sought refuge from the impassable roads of southeastern Minnesota.

After the meeting, she explained how people were rescued with involvement from local firefighters, local deputies and even some farmers in the area (see related story).

“Everybody pitched in,” she said.

The Spring Valley ambulance units stayed put during the blizzard as there were no calls for medical emergencies.

Local crew commended

In commissioner reports, Luann Ruesink noted that the maintenance department crew did an excellent job during the most recent snowfall. The other councilors reiterated the praise for getting the work done in the worst conditions in decades.

Mayor Tony Archer noted that the city has probably received about 60 inches of snow since Jan. 17. He said there is still a lot to do so the crew will be out finishing up later in the week and asked motorists to be careful as the snow piles along the streets impair sight. He said that in the old days people used to put tennis balls on their cars so they would be seen, but cars don’t even have antennas anymore.

However, Councilor Mike Hadland noted that there had been a few citizen complaints on the plowing during the prior snowfall because people were getting stuck in the street. The snow fell throughout the day, and it was still snowing at the time of the incidents, leading Hadland to note, “people have to understand we don’t go out and plow three times a day.”

In her councilor report, Ruesink said she and city administrator Deb Zimmer were going to talk to maintenance supervisor Chad Hindt about “getting a little more of a game plan in place for handling some snow removal in situations — certain unique situations.”

Law enforcement changes

New Spring Valley deputy Alex Hartley (see related story) attended the meeting to introduce himself to the councilors.

Deputy Jessy Betts was also in attendance at the council meeting for his first meeting as police policy coordinator in Spring Valley. Fillmore County Sheriff John DeGeorge appointed Betts as the policy coordinator Feb. 8 to replace Tim Rasmussen, who is now serving as a county deputy as well as coordinator for the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) programs at all five county school districts. Rasmussen was appointed coordinator in 2012 by former Sheriff Daryl Jensen.

Betts, who grew up in Spring Valley and graduated from Kingsland High School, has been with the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Office since 2012 when he started part-time in Spring Valley. He went to Harmony in 2013 when a full-time position opened up and came back to Spring Valley in August 2015.

Betts had served on the City Council until last year when he moved outside the city limits, which required him to resign his position.

Resolutions approved

In the only action, besides approving minutes and accounts payables, the council approved four resolutions in one motion.

“All four of those resolutions...the Southeast Minnesota League of Municipalities voted to approve these and asked if the member cities would adopt these,” said city administrator Deb Zimmer, “just to show support for the Southeast League and their agenda for what they want to do, which we are a member of.”

One resolution supports the Minnesota Housing Tax Credit Contribution Fund, which is proposed by a bill in the Minnesota Senate. The fund is modeled after one in North Dakota, which has leveraged roughly $5 in private money for every $1 invested, creating more than 2,500 housing units since its inception in 2011.

The program is capitalized by contributions from taxpayers that have state income, corporate or insurance premium tax liabilities, and in exchange for contributions to affordable housing, participating taxpayers receive credit against their state tax liability equal to their contribution to a specific development or to a general loan tool.

Another resolution supports state funding to the Minnesota initiative foundations for rural Minnesota child care. This proposal has bills in both the House and Senate.

The bills would require foundations to use specific grant funds to facilitate planning for rural communities so they can sustain and increase the supply of quality child care in the region to support economic development. The funds would be used for quality, locally based training and technical assistance.

Another resolution supports a bonding request of $7 million for reconstructing a runway at Rochester International Airport. The resolution notes that the airport, the second busiest in the state, is an economic cornerstone in Minnesota with $161 million in annual economic impact supporting all of southeastern Minnesota.

The fourth resolution supports the Venture SE Minnesota Diversification Revolving Loan Program bill. The league is working with legislators in the region on behalf of the 65 cities in the league to provide economic development tools to address issues identified in a southeastern Minnesota regional economic impact forecast study funded by the Legislature in 2017.

The resolution noted that without a regional development commission, this part of the state lacks the same level of regional economic development support as the rest of the state. It also noted it had support from Journey to Growth as a tool to for communities outside Rochester in the 11-county area.

Other business

• Requests from Fins and Films, which were approved at the last meeting, were on the agenda as Zimmer wanted clarification on the intent to exhibit cars with flamethrower exhaust during a live music performance. The item was listed in the section with the bonfire, which was denied by the council, but this aspect of the request wasn’t discussed at the previous meeting. Event organizer Greg Melartin wasn’t present, so the issue was tabled until the next meeting.

• A presentation on the Economic Development Authority (EDA) year in review was postponed until April 8.

• In other matters in the ambulance report, Puffer told the council the service has had 75 calls so far this year, which “has been pretty steady.” Staffing needs are “so-so,” she said, although some people have indicated interest and there are others who are working on getting certified. She and co-coordinator Mike Zimmer are working on an open house in the spring.

• In a department head report, Parks and Recreation director John Fenske told the council that the final fifth grade basketball home game was canceled due to poor weather, he is continuing to work on a matching grant from the Minnesota Twins to improve the baseball fields and the community center is “just normal, busy as heck.”

• Fire Chief Brian Danielson told the council firefighters have had three calls this year, including one that morning for a weather-related accident. Dustin Tart and Logan Zimmer passed their agility tests and will serve on probationary status with the department.

• Zimmer told the councilors they will hear a full audit report at the next council meeting.