Mayor optimistic as Chatfield moves into 2020

Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Even though it wasn’t a council in his home state of Nebraska, home of the Cornhuskers football team, Russ Smith was proud to once more address a city council as mayor this past week as Chatfield’s councilors held the first meeting of 2020 on Jan. 13. 

Smith, who’s been mayor for several years, spoke of Chatfield’s past and its potential for growth in the year ahead, telling the councilors and gallery that while it took nearly 130 years for the town’s population to reach 2,000 between the time it was founded in 1853 and the year 1980, there’s the possibility that its population could reach 3,500 people, or even 4,000 if current business and residential development trends continue. 

He remarked that 2019 was a year of development, as the Economic Development Authority (EDA) completed the sale of the Twiford redevelopment parcel for the construction of the new Dollar General store that opened in late December, that Chosen Valley Care Center (CVCC) had begun its expansion project in October, and that there are new housing subdivisions in progress. 

He encouraged residents to answer all 2020 census questions to ensure that the city is properly represented at the state and federal levels, citing, “What keeps representation for us in Washington, D.C., and at the state is an accurate census.” 

He added, “I think Chatfield looks great, moving into 2020.” 

Smith then pointed out the young men from Boy Scout troop 43 sitting in the gallery, explaining that they were in attendance at the City Council meeting as part of the work to earn their “Citizenship in the Community” badge and that they are part of Chatfield’s future. 

Annual business

Smith called for the annual city committee and departmental appointments to kick off the business portion of the meeting. Charter and administrative code appointments included Brian Burkholder as public works director, Ryan Priebe as water superintendent, Steven Schlichter as wastewater superintendent, The Chatfield News as the city’s official newspaper, Root River State Bank and F&M Community Bank, Northland Securities, Smith Barney and the LMC 4-M Fund as official depositories, and Lee Novotny as prosecuting attorney.  

Councilor Josh Broadwater was appointed as a one-year representative to the Cable Television Access Board, with three-year appointees including Damon Lueck and Andy O’Connor and student representative Rylee Burnett. Also appointed were six-year EDA representatives Sue Keefe and Michael Tuohy, and three-year Library Board of Trustees members Lois Docken and Mike Speck. Pam Bluhm was appointed Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) council representative – leaving open two three-year citizen positions on the HPC. Broadwater was named Planning and Zoning Commission representative from the City Council for one year and Wayne Halvorson will fulfill three years on Planning and Zoning. Bluhm pledged to continue on the Community Education Board, and Chuck Johnson, Michael Martin, Greg Forbes, Brenda Johnson, Bluhm and Curt Sorenson will each serve three years on the Chatfield Charter Commission.

Liquor and beer licenses being updated for 2020 included Shari’s Sports Saloon’s on-sale plus Sunday and off-sale, Jac’s Bar and Grill’s on-sale and Sunday license, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Club’s club license, Kwik Trip’s 3.2 beer, the 52 Bottle Shop for off-sale and Sunday, Chosen Valley Country Club for on-sale and Sunday, Chatfield Center for the Arts’ on-sale and Sunday, and Pawprint Brewery for a brewer off-sale and Sunday and taproom on-sale and Sunday license.  All received council approval.

Water, snow issues

In other matters, city clerk Joel Young told the council about a change order from Benike Construction for the new municipal swimming pool, an item that had been tabled during the last meeting in December due to some uncertainty regarding what it was for, and a pay estimate from Benike in the amount of $14,327.  Both garnered the council’s acceptance. 

City maintenance supervisor Burkholder was pleased to sit before the council with news that the city has once again – for the 51st time – received an award for fluoridation of city water.  He commended Priebe for his work as water superintendent, noting the importance of adding fluoride to city water for residents’ better dental health. 

He also reminded residents that with snowfall events in the forecast, city ordinances require that they remove their cars from the street to make it easier for his crew to plow. 

Councilor John McBroom concurred, stating, “There were 42 cars this last snow…don’t complain if you get a ticket, because it is in the ordinance.”

Chill Fest, zoning    

Young related that the Chill Fest pre-concert party planned for Feb. 1 behind the Chatfield Center for the Arts will require that the City Council extend the art center’s liquor license to the parking lot to accommodate the Chosen Valley Community Foundation’s plans to have beer served as part of the party’s festivities, and the council obliged. 

He also asked that councilors accept the city charter commission’s annual report, which they did, after which he announced that longtime city planner and zoning administrator Kristi Trisko, who has served the city through a contract with Bolton & Menk for 13 years, has taken a job with the city of Phoenix, meaning that Chatfield will have to either seek a new planner or examine its options as the opportunity presents itself.  Young stated that in the term that the city has no zoning administrator, he would do his best to fill in. 

Young also related that the League of Minnesota Cities will hold its winter conference in Plymouth, Minnesota, on Jan. 24 and 25 and that councilors could notify him of their intent to participate. 

Committee reports

During council committee reports, Councilor Paul Novotny informed the rest of the council that the reeds used at the wastewater treatment plant’s drying beds have now been deemed a noxious weed by state entities and must be removed and replaced.  He cautioned that the city will have to plan for the cost of removal and hauling because it was his understanding that doing so is rather expensive.  Additionally, he related that the city will have to identify a new reed to use in the drying beds. 

In other business, Novotny cited that the Public Works Committee had discussed the water and sewer warranty company that has used the city’s letterhead to engage residents’ attention as that company seeks to sell warranties on water and sewer line repairs.  The committee has debated as to how to proceed because residents apparently believe the mailings to be from the city, not from the warranty company, and the committee would like to provide more transparency in that regard for residents who choose to purchase warranty plans from the company.    

The consent agenda was rather lengthy and included approval of the minutes of prior meetings, payment of claims, submission of the annual liability coverage waiver form stating that the city does not waive the monetary limits on municipal tort liability established by Minnesota statutes 466.04.D, an engagement letter with Smith Schafer & Associates to complete the 2019 financial audit, granting a one step pay increase to CCTV coordinator Melissa Burnett on the one-year anniversary of her employment, approving the annual Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc., (RAEDI) investment and membership, the hire of five emergency medical technician candidates contingent on them meeting exam requirements, approving membership in Historic Bluff Country, and accepting the annual review of conditional use permits.