Rushford council examines future development, new tobacco ordinance

By : 
Scott Bestul

The Rushford City Council spent most of its November 26 meeting contemplating the city’s future. With a full council, Clerk Kathy Zacher, City Administrator Tony Chladek, and Mayor Chris Hallum in attendance, the primary agenda items included potential development of the city, and the health of Rushford citizens. 

Westward expansion

Derek Olinger, engineer with Bolton & Menk, Inc., addressed the council with a power point presentation titled “Feasibility Study: West Area General Development Plan.” The plan is considered a first step in the potential development of residential property to the west of the city, on property currently owned by the Donald Woxland family. Currently just outside the city limits, the property lies north of Hwy. 30 and consists of developable agricultural land of approximately 100 acres.

The City of Rushford had requested the study, which included “preliminary concepts for sanitary sewer, water, storm water, grading and street improvements within the development as well as the extension of municipal utilities to the development site.”

Olinger’s report included two separate development scenarios. The first, titled the “R-1 Concept” was a typical single-family development with 1/4- to 1/3-acre lots. The second scenario, titled the “R-3 Concept” was a higher-density option, with most lots “at the minimum 50’ width requirement” to meet the city zoning requirements. Council members examined conceptual plat maps that allowed them to visualize what each development scenario would look like. 

The study included a detailed examination of extending sanitary and water main and water treatment extensions to the development, as well as access issues to the development from Hwy. 30. The report concluded that “development of the property is feasible, as described above, outside of any issues related to annexation.”

Olinger noted potential estimated costs of development to include (but not limited to) $800,000 for utility extensions, $40,000 for utility upgrades, and $70,000 for addressing access issues from Hwy. 30. 

In the discussion that surrounded the presentation, Chladek noted, “There’s a whole city’s worth of growth in that area, and it’s really the only direction that Rushford can expand.” He also stressed that the potential development of the area should be considered a long-range plan. “In the last 20 years, Rushford has averaged only two to three new homes annually,” he said. “So this is a long-term development concept.” Councilor Benson noted, “I like the idea of growth, but there are existing homes that need TLC in the short term and we also need to take care of them.”

Councilor O’Donnell added, “The city isn’t going to be the developer of this (project). Someone is going to have to come up with the money.” Chladek agreed, but said, “The city would have to play a role in driving down costs, which are already high and rising. There isn’t a city out there who isn’t helping developers with projects like this.”

After more discussion, O’Donnell noted, “The only decision we really have to concern ourselves now is the Hwy. 30 project.” Olinger agreed, noting that MNDot is planning to overlay this state highway, starting in the summer of 2019, and requested the council approve a soil-boring project that would help determine the difficulty of extending utilities to the proposed development site. Completing the boring project prior to the Hwy. 30 would eliminate any potential difficulties or conflicts with MNDot as they work on the area near the proposed development. 

Councilor Benson moved to accept and approve a work order for Bolton & Menk to conduct four soil borings along Hwy 30. The cost of these borings, plus a subsequent report of results, would be $5,000. The council voted unanimously to approve the work order. 

Tobacco Ordinance 

Clerk Zacher has been researching an update on the city’s existing tobacco ordinance. As new methods of using tobacco and related products, such as the use of e-cigarettes and vaping, has expanded in recent years, communities and schools have had to revise and update their rules governing tobacco use. 

Relying on information provide by the League of Minnesota Cities, Zacher expanded language in the city’s current tobacco ordinance and presented that updated document to the council. Zacher also informed the council that, in order to adopt this new document, the council would have to hold a public hearing prior to their vote. Councilor Ryman moved that a public hearing be held during the second January meeting of the Rushford City Council (January 28, 2019). The council voted unanimously in favor. 

Copies of the proposed Tobacco Ordinance can be obtained at City Hall. 

New squad car purchase

Rushford Police Chief Adam Eide submitted a proposal for the purchase of a new squad car to replace a 2014 Chevy Caprice. Eide’s proposal noted that high mileage (95,000) and repair issues have made the Caprice obsolete, and proposed the trade-in of that vehicle toward the purchase of a new Chevy Tahoe from Lewiston Auto in Lewiston, Minn. 

The department currently owns a 2015 Tahoe, which they have found suits their needs better than a sedan. The SUV style not only has four-wheel drive (which has helped with better traction on snow and mud-covered roads) but more space for necessary emergency and protective gear. Eide’s report noted that, “Funds have been allocated annually in preparation for this squad car and other equipment purchases and currently totals $53,000. The price quote from Lewiston Auto is $37,721 with trade-in allowance of $9,221 for the Caprice for a total of vehicle price of $28,500.” Other costs included in the Tahoe purchase (which includes changeover of all of the equipment, new graphics, and equipment) are $16,000 for a grand total of $44,500.
The council voted unanimously to approve the purchase of the Chevy Tahoe for the Rushford Police Department. 

City Administrator performance evaluation 

Council members were given a four-page form designed to evaluate City Administrator Tony Chladek’s performance in the following areas: Individual characteristics, Professional Skills & Status, Relations with Elected Members, Policy Executions, Reporting, Citizen Relations, Staffing, Supervision, Fiscal Management, and Community. The form asks council members to rate Chladek as “Excellent,” “Good,” “Average,” “Below Average,” or “Poor” in each of the categories, as well as provide specific examples to support their rating. In addition, the evaluation provides a narrative evaluation in four categories. 

Performance evaluations are to be completed by Dec. 12 and submitted to Mayor Hallum for review at the Dec. 17 council meeting. 

Schedule 

The next meeting of the Rushford City Council will be held Dec. 3 at 6:30 p.m. All members of the public are welcome to attend.