Council approves 2022 city budget
NEW ULM — The New Ulm City Council unanimously adopted the 2022 budget of $22.98 million at their meeting Tuesday.
This budget requires an $8.75 million property tax levy, which is a 5.86% increase in the total levy.
No comments were made during the city’s Dec. 7 Truth-in-Taxation hearing. No changes were made to the preliminary budget.
The city’s tax capacity increased by 1.78% in the last year. Due to the increase, the impact of the levy is a 3.19% city tax increase.
Councilor Les Schultz made the motion to accept the final 2022 budget and levy with a second from Councilor David Christian. It was unanimously approved.
Mayor Terry Sveine praised the city’s department heads and finical administration for their work on the budget.
Council President Andrea Boettger agreed they did an excellent job and said next year will bring about greater change and they will have their work cut out for them.
The city designated polling places for the 2022 election, selecting Our Savior’s Lutheran Church as the new polling site for Ward 4.
Every year the city must designate polling locations. In 2020, the City of New Ulm had four polling loca1Ations; Redeemer Lutheran Church for Ward 1, New Ulm Community Center for Ward 2, New Ulm Civic Center for Ward 3, and St John’s Lutheran Church for Ward 4. These same locations were designated in 2021 even though there was no scheduled election.
Going into 2022, the city decided to keep the same polling sites for all except Ward 4. The Ward 4 polling location was previously in the New Ulm Park & Recreation building before construction started. The construction is finished and this location is available again. However, when the election is at the Recreation Center, fitness classes are disrupted for three days. The staff has concerns about the traffic in and out of the building during the election and are unsure how to set up the space if COVID restrictions are still in place for the election.
St John’s Lutheran Church and Our Savior’s Lutheran Church were identified as large spaces that will work well if social distancing is required for voting booths. The council believed Our Savior’s had the advantage of parking.
Councilor David Christian made the motion to approve polling sites for Redeemer Lutheran Church for Ward 1, New Ulm Community Center for Ward 2 and New Ulm Civic Center for Ward 3. The motion included Our Savior’s as the Ward 4 polling location with St John’s as the backup location.
It was unanimously approved.
The council authorized a petition to the court to appoint Michelle Markgraf to the City Charter Commission. On Oct. 19, the council authorized the City Charter Commission to convene in 2021 to continue the process of revising the Home Rule Charter. However, on Oct. 21, Charter Commission member Sue Kimmel resigned due to her relocating to another community. A new member needed to be appointed to fill the unexpired term of Kimmel.
A new member to the charter commission must be appointed by resolution to petition the District Court to formally appoint the new member.
One of the main reasons for convening the charter commission is to look into the nepotism clause that prevents the immediate family members of city employees from serving as mayor or on the city council.
Michelle Markgraf and Carl Zeidler expressed interest in serving on the commission. The council believed Markgraf and Zeidler were both qualified for the position.
Boettger said she would be fine with either. She initially leaned toward appointing Zeidler because of his previous involvement in researching information on the city’s charter.
Schultz leaned toward Markgraf because she had new ideas and had actively attended city council meetings in the past. She was in attendance at this meeting.
Christian said he liked to look at the city commission in terms of representation and the Charter Commission was overly represented by men. He also believed Markgraf could represent new ideas.
Schultz made the motion to designate Markgraf as the appointee on the petition. The motion was unanimously approved by the board.
Markgraf will serve on the commission until the end of Kimmel’s term in April 2022.
The council approved a recommendation to reduce Park and Recreation Commission members from nine to seven.
Currently, nine members are serving the commission, but two members are leaving the commission at the end of this year when their terms expire. By approving the reduction in members now, no new members will need to be removed from the board and Mayor Sveine will not need to appoint additional members.
The park and rec commission unanimously recommended the reduction during their last meeting.
Christian made the motion to reduce the commission to seven members with a second from Schultz. The motion was unanimously approved.
The council authorized the request for proposed legal service.
Blethen Berens Law Office is currently handling the city’s legal service, but the agreement will officially end on Nov. 10, 2022. The city will need to appoint a new firm or individuals to provide legal services.
The proposed timeline is to submit a request for proposals on Jan. 10, 2022; review proposals by March 11, 2022, and start a new contract by June 1, 2022.
The council supported efforts to seek a replacement council, but there was concern no firm would submit proposals.
Schultz was in favor of seeking proposals but warned the city might need to find alternative options for legal services.
“There is not a lot of folks who do prosecution,” Schultz said. He suggested possibly creating an internal position.
Current City Attorney Roger Hippert said he could not think of any local law offices likely to serve as New Ulm’s legal council. It is difficult to find attorney’s willing to work outside of the Twin Cities metro area. He said many communities outside of the Twin Cities are contracting with federal offices for legal services. This includes Mankato.
The council agreed to start the process of finding a new legal service. The city will know if any local options are available by February.
The city passed a resolution authorizing City Manager Chris Dalton to execute the Minnesota Opioids State- Subdivision Memorandum of Agreement.
This agreement determines how much money Minnesota will receive from the recent opioid settlement.
Counties, cities, and the State of Minnesota have reached an agreement that will govern how funds from recently announced settlements with opioid companies will be distributed within Minnesota.
To finalize this agreement, the city needs to sign the State-Subdivision Memorandum of Agreement (MN MOA) and also to join both settlements with opioid distributors McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Cardinal Health, and opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson by Jan. 2, 2022.
Minnesota stands to receive more than $300 million from the settlements, but the state needs cities and counties to sign on to the settlements to maximize the resources to fight the epidemic.
The more cities and counties that sign on by Jan. 2, 2022, the more money the State will have for treatment, prevention, and a whole host of programs and strategies to abate the opioid crisis.
The Minnesota Autism Center at 11 N. Minnesota Street requested and received the use of three parking stalls in front of the building.
The council approved the request after discussing alternative options. The proposed location of the center has limited parking. Three stalls have been requested in front of the building to be reserved for the drop-off and pick-up of clients.
The requested times are 8:15 to 9:30 a.m. and 4:15 to 5 p.m.
Their hours of operation are Monday – Friday from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. There are no night or weekend hours. The facility would operate year-round.
The Minnesota Autism Center is looking to open a center in New Ulm. The Minnesota Autism Center is a non-profit organization that provides center-based therapeutic services for children and adolescents affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD), promotes the general education and welfare of persons challenged by ASD and supports the development of healthy families. As some of the clients have special needs the school wants parking that is a short distance from the building.
Councilor Les Schultz had some concerns about the evening parking between 4:15 and 5 p.m. He worried it would be taking up three parking during a busy time.
Councilor David Christian said he was willing to give it a try because it was only for 45 minutes window.
Councilor Eric Warmka made the motion to approve the request with a second from Boettger. It was unanimously approved
The city chooses to revisit and change the parking requirements at a later time if deemed necessary.
The city awarded a contract to replace the airport furnace and air conditioner at the terminal building to GSM, Inc. for $15,700.
America Rescue Plan (ARPA) and Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA) grant funding could be used for the project. New Ulm will receive $32,000 in ARPA and $13,000 CRRSA grant funding. The funds are intended for use in operations, personnel, cleaning, sanitation, janitorial services, combating the spread of pathogens at the airport and debt service payments. The quoted furnace units include an air filtration system that will combat the spread of pathogens.
Mayor Sveine reported on a Highway 14 Partnership meeting held in Owatonna. The expansion of the four-lane to New Ulm is set to start in March or April, weather dependent. Highway 14 will be moved north of Courtland. The project is estimated in late October of next year.
Boettger also attended the meeting and said the project was imminent and nothing else will stop the construction.