MEMBERS OF THE LOCAL GIRL SCOUTS OF AMERICA, TROOP 157 attended Wednesday’s Big Lake City Council meeting to earn a merit badge. Front row, left to right: Brynn Mossak, Maddie Lommel, Grace Gardner, Elaina Cox, Monica Zimmerman, Kayleigh Schwebke, Reba Sartwell and Troop Leader Shelly Lommel. Back row, left to right: Seth Hansen, Dick Backlund, Mayor Raeanne Danielowski, Mike Wallen and Nick Christenson. (Photo by Bill Morgan)

River Ridership at lower levels

Staff Writer
Bill Morgan


Administrator Todd Bodem gave the Big Lake City Council Wednesday a recap of their previous workshop meeting that centered around the current River Rider transportation schedule, review of the city’s utility rates and discussions on wages.
Chad Gessel had reviewed the current River Rider transportation schedule and informed council no one from the Big Lake area has scheduled a ride in the last month. Council discussed the limited ride options available and why riders have a four hour wait from the time they are dropped off to when they are picked up. 
Gessel discussed the possibility of implementing a five-hour circle route that would provide 250 service hours per year. Gessel also noted the local share would be 15% of the costs and explained that ridership revenue should cover the 15% local share. 
Gessel said if ridership falls short, the city would be responsible to cover the shortfall. 
Gessel also discussed the contract that would need
to be approved by the city and the River Rider Joint Powers Board. Mayor Raeanne Danielowski said she has had talks with members of the Big Lake Lion's Club Organization regarding their potential interest in assisting with the costs for this additional service.
Danielowski and Gessel will attend a Lion's Club meeting at a later date to discuss what their level of support would be.
Finance Director Jessica Green reviewed comments posted on a social media site in relation to the city's utility rates. Staff provided a water, sewer and storm sewer analysis produced by the former finance director that was used in determining the current utility rates.
Green said she reviewed the analysis and agreed with the findings. 
Staff questioned if council wants to hire an outside consultant to conduct another utility rate analysis. Council Member Mike Wallen discussed his concern with spending approximately $10,000 on a rate study to address concerns of a very small group of residents. Council suggested creating in-house educational materials explaining the city’s rate structure. 
Council also discussed the need to start shutting off water service on delinquent accounts. 
Public Works Director Mike Goebel said the plan is to start with shutoffs again next spring. Council also discussed the need to give public works the staff resources they need to be successful with the collections. 
Council also reviewed the conservation tiered system that is currently being used and noted that the tiered system was enacted due to pending legislation. Staff recommended the tier system stay in effect, but the city could look at the tier rate amounts. Council also discussed the late fee structure and noted the 10% late fee was put in place as a deterrent to high delinquencies. 
Council discussed the need to bring on a collections/shut-off type of position and they would be responsible for blight control.
Bodem discussed the possibility of the city conducting an employee compensation study, noting the last study was conducted in 2005, at which time the city
completed a full compensation study for each city position that included updated job descriptions, assigned evaluation points to retain pay equity and comparable worth, while establishing a salary step compensation schedule. 
In recent years, city staff has had to find ways to make assumptions on changing positions which might not reflect an accurate portrayal of points and pay.
Staff obtained three quotes for services to conduct this type of survey and suggested they consider Springsted, Inc. at an approximate cost of $9,950. Bodem also said based on outcomes of this study, the city may need to reclassify positions and possibly implement adjustments in salary grade which would result in a wage adjustment for certain positions.
Council agreed this type of study should be updated every five years.
Lions Club Donation
The Big Lake police and fire departments accepted cash donations totaling $16,000 from the Elk River Lion’s Club to be used for specified items.
The police department is receiving $7,000 to fund upgrades to their patrol rifles and to provide squad cars with rapid response bags that house extra ammunition, tourniquets, etc.
The fire department received $9,000 to be used for unbudgeted capital items such as thermal imagers and a snowmobile.
Thank you letters have been sent to the Elk River Lions Club for their exceptional generosity.
Parks Donation
The Big Lake Parks Dept. accepted a labor services donation from resident George Quinn for his re-painting of the Big Lake hockey rink.
Quinn — along with Bonnie Miesen, Andrew Schwatka and Steve South — volunteered over 72 hours this past summer to complete the project. The city received a grant from Valspar to purchase the paint.
Goebel noted the city also received an $8,000 grant to be used towards the continued implementation of Music in the Park.
Other News
•Police Chief Joel Scharf accepted a maintenance donation from Trucks Unlimited for work recently done on a police vehicle;
•The railroad crossing improvements at Co. Rd. 43 will not be completed until next spring;
•The MPCA awarded Big Lake with a $3 million matching grant to treat phosphorus in area waters;
•Twenty-one single-family building permits have been issued thus far as compared to just eight in 2012;
•The liquor store will have an extra security camera installed in the parking lot as well as newer higher-visibility lighting.
Seven young ladies from troop 157 of the local Girl Scouts of America attended Wednesday’s Big Lake City Council meeting to earn a government merit badge. 
Troop leader Shelly Lommel had the girls tour city hall earlier in the day, then sit in on discussions during the city’s second of two monthly meetings for October.
The troop members were Reba Sartwell, Kayleigh Schwebke, Monica Zimmerman, Elaina Cox, Grace Gardner, Maddie Lommel and Brynn Mossak.
The next Big Lake City Council meeting is Nov. 13 at 6 p.m.


Kathleen R. Huber

DANCERS FROM JENNIFER’S DANCE CENTER will be performing at Disney World in Florida in October. Pictured (front row, left to right), are Grace Esselman, Lillian St. Jean, Sophia Gerou, Kailey Buchta, Rowan Payne and Hannah Oakes. Middle row are Amelia Cameron, Brianna Anthony, Jacqie Bengtson, Gianna Mitchell, Alex Dillion, Abby Yanke and Rose Curtis. Back row are Tori Ramert, Alexis Erickson, Sophia St. Ives, Tiana Link, Rachel Royseth, Kristian Kunkel, Brooklynn Bengtson, Nicole Bengtson and Kendall Luoma. Not pictured are Haylee Oakes and Melanie Miskowic. (Submitted photo).

FIVE GIRLS FROM MARY OF THE VISITATION CHURCH’S YOUTH GROUP helped Gail Stanley (not pictured) of Big Lake pack her belongings for a move she was taking to Princeton last weekend. The girls are (from left to right): Bridget Buchholz, Jasmine Johnson, Michaela Manifold, Brittney Kostek and Josie Berger. (Photo by Bill Morgan)

CENTRACARE HEALTH MONTICELLO HOSPITAL provides top-quality health care for the community. St. Cloud Hospital, run by CentraCare Health, was recently named the third best medical facility in the state, second only to the Mayo Clinic and Abbot Northwestern. (Photo by Jennifer Edwards).

CHUCK MAURER, 54, of Becker was killed in a car crash Tuesday and his 10 year old daughter, Casey, was airlifted to North Memorial Medical Center after his mini-van was t-boned by a pickup truck driven by four teenagers from Little Falls. (Submitted photo courtesy of the Maurer family.)
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