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Northfield City Council Meeting - November 13, 2012

November 14, 2012 at 2:43 pm
By Jane McWilliams

The almost four-hour meeting began with the swearing in of the newest council member, Jessica Peterson White, who was selected by the council at their October 23 meeting to replace Patrick Ganey. Because of the length of the meeting, the council postponed the review of the portions of the 2013 budget. Councilor Betsey Buckheit was absent.

Hospital Ownership:  The council received a recommendation from the Hospital Strategic Futures Task Force to affirm their commitment to the city charter – to own the hospital “as a municipal health care system . . . and affirms its commitment not to sell or otherwise transfer ownership of Northfield Hospital & Clinics.”  Also recommended:  on-going study by the hospital board “focused on the optimal means of delivering health care services . . .” The latter portion of the resolution was added by the Interim CEO Mary Crow on behalf of the hospital board and was not reviewed by it according to Councilor Ivan Imm, a hospital board member. He noted that because they are in the process of a search for a new Chief Executive Officer, the city’s intent would provide certainty to the hospital about its future, essential to the success of the search.

There were concerns about whether the resolution reflected the council’s intent. A motion to send the resolution to the city attorney for review failed. After lengthy discussion, the council adopted the first portion of the resolution with several minor changes. They deleted the second one and replaced it with language calling for a joint hospital board and city council study of the future ownership.

Convention and Visitors’ Bureau:  Since 1987, the city has imposed a 3% lodging tax for the purpose of marketing and promoting the city as a tourist or convention center. Since then, the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce has been on contract to provide the intended services. Because of concerns about the effectiveness of this relationship, the council sought and received three proposals for providing convention and visitor services. The Chamber of Commerce asked the city to continue the present contract until the end of 2012.

On September 25, the council asked city staff to prepare an outline for a partnership model where the CVB would no longer be administered through the Chamber, but that board would report directly to the city council. Tonight, the council had before it an outline for this model. ( The Chamber would be contracted to provide public outreach services, and an RFP for contracted marketing services would be issued.

They also received a letter and a “staffing narrative” from the Chamber, providing for continuation of the CVB within the Chamber and saying that the CVB and Chamber boards are not prepared to agree to the change as outlined by the city staff.

After lengthy discussion in which several councilors expressed reluctance to move in the direction suggested by the Chamber, and others highlighted the expertise and willingness of the CVB to achieve council goals, the council agreed to meet with that group to discuss the staff option and seek CVB members’ views on how it might be structured. They also asked City Administrator Tim Madigan to “ flesh out” the flow proposed future CVB flowchart.

2013-19 Refuse Contract:  Following proposals from two firms, Waste Management and DSI, Inc, on October 23, the council approved a contract with DSI for the collection of garbage and refuse. According to City Attorney Chris Hood, the vote (3 in favor, 2 opposed, 1 abstain) was insufficient according to the charter and city code. He recommended that another resolution be brought to the council for consideration. In addition to research on abstention by the League of MN Cities staff, there was a lengthy analysis by Mr. Hood, and letters from both haulers. Waste Management contended that the council had improperly amended the proposal and it threatened legal action if it didn’t take corrective action. DSI, Inc.’s letter denied there was an amendment, and said it would not resort to legal action. 

Representatives of both firms addressed the council. Mr. Hood noted that the question before the council was the same as the October 23 one, which failed because it had insufficient votes. He said he didn’t think Waste Management would have a well-founded suit. The council voted unanimously to approve the contract with DSI.

Other Actions: 

  • Approval of Master Plan funding for the NAPA streetscape project.
  • Approved utility rate adjustments
  • Approved letter of support for a grant for most of the cost of the Fire Service Study.

The meeting was adjourned at 10: 53.


  • November 15 2012 at 8:48 am
    kiffi summa

    Jane... glad to see you back! In your opinion, and from the discussion you heard, especially from Councilor IMM who is on the Hospital Board, does the action passed give the Hospital the assurance they wanted with regard to its future status?

  • November 15 2012 at 10:41 am
    Jane McWilliasm

    Yes, Kiffi - I think it was clear that the council meant to assure the hospital board that there is no intent to sell the hospital. They fussed a lot about how to deal with the second part of the proposed resolution which was eventually deleted and replaced with language calling for further discussions between the hospital board and council. I have tried to reach David Emery and his substitute hospital observer Charlotte Carlson to call attention to the council's decision and to learn from them what discussions the hospital board has as a result.

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