April and May have been busy months for the Butterfield City Council.
In addition to two members resigning, the council has attracted large numbers of visitors to their public meetings and held two special sessions since their last regularly scheduled meeting.
Council Members Wynette Haler and Andrew Fisch resigned from the council during a special session Wednesday, April 24. There was no reason presented for their resignations. During another special session taking place May 8, Jim Warwick and Howard Madson were selected from a list of individuals willing to fill the vacated positions.
The two new members were voted into the council by the elected officials, Council Member Nick Mathistad, Council Member Doug Meyer and Mayor Ken Pankratz. Warwick was selected into the council unanimously, but Madson received one ‘no’ vote from Council Member Mathistad.
Concerned visitors have begun attending the Butterfield City Council meetings and there was a large crowd of about 16 at the regularly scheduled Tuesday, May 14 meeting.
Mayor Pankratz started the meeting by welcoming the visitors, before he moved on to the reading of the minutes. Minutes for both special sessions and the previous monthly meeting were approved unanimously.
Maintenance Manager Keith Pankratz was then called upon to give his maintenance report.
Maintenance Manager Pankratz told the board that he had received an offer for the city dump truck in the amount of $1,000. If the city had chose to junk the plow, Pankratz believed he would only be able to get $800 to $900.
Maintenance Manager Pankratz decided to move forward and sell the dump truck at the $1,000 offered amount.
“They let me keep the plow on it to let me create a plow or snow pusher or whatever I want for it,” said Maintenance Manager Pankratz.
Electrical issues are still a concern in the city pond, said Maintenance Manager Pankratz, but he is working with John Graupman to resolve the issues. Issues with the pond have been a consistent issue at the last few month’s meetings.
In previous years, the city of Butterfield has received lawn care from M&M Lawn Care for the city apartment building. Maintenance Manager Pankratz decided to opt out of that option this year to save the city some money. The property, as it sits now, has two vacant apartments.
“I don’t think that’s a cost we need to incur for a property that’s not showing a revenue,” said Maintenance Manager Pankratz.
A new battery charging system and battery was purchased and installed for the city siren. Many sirens of these types must be replaced once a year.
Maintenance Manager Pankratz is hoping with the new battery and charging system, the life span of the batteries will be improved.
Page 2 of 3 - The sidewalk near Butterfield Foods is setting and Maintenance Manager Pankratz said he was unsure what options the city has to deal with this issue. Because the sidewalk is on a county road, there is a chance that the county would be responsible for maintaining the walkway.
“Because this is a county road, I’m thinking the county is going to have to be involved in this whole process, only because they aren’t going to want us digging into the county road,” said Mayor Pankratz. “Until we do dig in, we aren’t going to be able to know what the problem is.”
Last on the maintenance report was the hiring of a part-time, year-round maintenance assistant. This person would be responsible for mowing and clearing snow along with small maintenance projects and would help Maintenance Manager Pankratz. The position was approved for hire unanimously in a previous meeting, so council members advertised the position and received three applications.
Once these applications were received, some council members were hesitant to move forward with the hiring process, due to previous issues with pay equity. It was at this point that Maintenance Manager Pankratz became visually upset with the ongoing process that had begun a few months earlier to hire for this position.
Members of the community freely gave suggestions about how to move forward in resolving the issue with the part-time position, but the council was unable to come to an agreement amongst themselves. The discussion quickly wandered off-topic with much of the problems stemming from public concern over the resignation of two council members and a pay increase for the city clerk in the amount of nearly $8,000 per year surfaced during the discussion on the part-time position.
Maintenance Manager Pankratz expressed his frustration with both the community and the city council and left the meeting before a decision was made.
Ultimately, the council decided to table the applications in order to get more information from the state regarding pay equity. In the meantime, they will allow Maintenance Manager Pankratz to hire a part-time mower at his discretion.
A Cunningham-Downs-Henderson elevator project was proposed for the city council to consider. The project would run an air tube from elevator bins on the east side of a road to the west side of a road under the road.
Cunningham-Downs-Henderson need permission from the city council to begin such a project, but would pay for all of the costs incurred.
“It don’t cost us, I don’t see a problem with it,” said Council Member Madson.
Some concerns were raised about the duration of the project and extended repair costs of the road, should it break down in the future.
Page 3 of 3 - “I think all of these concerns can be met in the agreement that we end up signing with them, for returning it to its original state plus keeping the building maintained,” said Mayor Pankratz.
Mayor Pankratz also said there is no rush on moving forward with this project, so the council will remain in contact with Cunningham-Downs-Henderson for answers in future meetings. No decision was reached about the project.
The Jerry Hempeck variance which would allow an addition on the Hempeck Garage was discussed at length by the city council. There will be a special meeting regarding the variance May 28 at 7 p.m.
Mayor Pankratz believes the 18 feet in the middle of the block belongs to the city. He came to this conclusion after discussing the city with Watonwan County Recorder Joy Sing. The addition being added to the Hempeck garage would be extended to the edge of the eighteen feet owned by the city.
Council members agreed they would like to get a written response from County Recorder Sing that the 18 feet in the middle of the block belongs to the city.
A presentation was made by Watonwan County Emergency Management Director Julie Peterson involving the Elected Officials Handbook and NIMS Policy. Officials are required to complete a class.
Council Member Mathistad submitted some items to be discussed by city council. Council Member Mathistad suggested having two meetings a month in order to discuss financials at one of the meetings.
Mayor Pankratz explained that having two meetings a month would require a change to the existing ordinance. Council Member Mathistad said he would like to have the opportunity to go over each bill individually to see if there are any discrepancies.
Most elected officials receive a guide to their financials in a printed form, while the city clerk/treasurer and mayor sign off on bills individually. The list of bills is presented to city council for review and questions so the council doesn’t have to spend time going through hundreds of bills.
Butterfield City Council will make bills available to be seen by council members at 6:30 p.m. prior to the meetings for review.
Financials and bills were not approved to be paid prior to the end of the meeting.