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Northfield City Council Work Session - February 12, 2013

February 13, 2013 at 3:38 pm
By Jane McWilliams

At 10:33, the work session was adjourned several minutes after Councilors David DeLong and David Ludescher silently got up and left. It has been the practice (if not a policy) at 10:00 p.m. or slightly before, for the council to extend the meeting time by vote.  Tonight, there was no such vote, and when it appeared that the two councilors would miss the continued discussion of the work plan, the meeting was adjourned. 

Senior Center/Northfield Community Resource Center:  Representatives of the NCRC, the Senior Center, Three Rivers Community Action, Public Schools and the Community Action Center, met with the council to consider a proposal for the management of that facility. The packet contained documentation of the history of the management of the NCRC, an information sheet about each of the tenants, a study done by Prof. Emeritus William L. Carlson on the economic impact of senior center members, and a review of the 1998 vote to issue bonds for construction. ( )

While owned by the city, it was originally agreed that a partnership between the city, schools district, and the nonprofits would share the management of the NCRC, but most functions have since been taken over by the city. There is a complicated agreement between the city and the tenants for recognizing the contribution of each when calculating the lease costs. 

Each year the city budgets for the NCRC operations. Currently, this is $189,472.00, which approximates the sum of the reductions provided in the leases.  (This figure will decrease in 2015 when the rent reductions for the CAC and Three Rivers expire.) The background information notes that the city’s expenditures have increased in recent years because income from federal block grants has disappeared. 

In 2011, when charged with reducing city costs, the Council’s Ad Hoc Finance Task recommended that the city sell the NCRC to the non-profits. After extensive discussion, those organizations determined they could not afford the purchase on the terms proposed by the task force. Instead, tonight they brought a proposal for the nonprofits to manage and maintain the facility. This would reduce the city’s expenditures through a negotiated process, reduce the pressure on the city’s facilities maintenance resources and preserve the city’s ownership. The arrangement would recognize the city’s continued commitment toward the human and educational service at the NCRC. And, it would buy more time for the nonprofits to continue to explore ownership of the NCRC. 

Mayor Dana Graham said that the council would consider this proposal at a future work session at which time City Administrator Tim Madigan will provide the necessary financial information. 

2013 Street Projects:  Because the council failed to approve the projects at their February 5, 2013 meeting owing to lack of the supermajority needed for approval, the staff brought this back for discussion. Three options were suggested: Approve the projects as proposed, drop the sidewalk on the Maple Street project, and instead install one according to the Safe Routes to School Plan (which was not require sidewalk in the area where residents who objected live), or remove the Maple Street project and deal with it later. The discussion was similar to that at the previous meeting, indicating that there wouldn’t be support for a compromise solution for that project, including the Safe Routes to Schools design. When asked if they were to approve the other projects, and take up Maple Street later, it would be possible to complete the Maple Street project during the construction season, City Engineer Joe Stapf replied that the school district had asked that it not begin before school is let out in spring and that it be completed before startup in late August. Delay would prevent this.

When the conversation seemed to go no where, Mayor Graham said they would move on to the next item following a five minute break. Councilor Suzie Nakasian, when they reconvened, proposed that they ask the staff to bring all the projects forward, that the Maple Street one be considered separately and that the sidewalk be dropped. There being no objections, that is how it stands as of last night’s meeting. According to information from Mr. Madigan in a memo to Councilor Rhonda Pownell available at the meeting, if the council alternatively bid the sidewalk with passage of a resolution later, a simple majority would be needed for approval.

In any case, the council will need to notice and hold a public hearing on all the projects, so the soonest they will be able to take action is March 5.

Northfield Downtown Development Corporation 2013 Work Plan:  Executive Director Ross Currier presented and answered questions about their current work plan.

Tax Forfeited Properties:  Two parcels (Fargaze Meadows Outlets C and D) which have been forfeited to the State of Minnesota for non-payment of property taxes.  City staff recommended acquiring them for the authorized public use (parks) which will allow the city up to three years to create a development plan or to let them revert to the state for public auction.

Review Council Work Plan:  Until after the meeting, there was no public copy available for this discussion which, as noted above, was terminated before completion by the adjournment.


  • February 14 2013 at 9:16 am
    kiffi summa

    Jane: I noticed while watching the meeting that another piece of info that the Council used for discussion was missing from the public realm, i.e. the Safe Routes to School map, which governed much of the Maple street discussion. You had to get up and get the map from Councilor Peterson White. I don't understand why the providing of relevant documents used for Council deliberation are missing/not provided for the public. It seemed for a while this had been corrected. I don't think it is a deliberate decision to NOT provide the press and public with whatever the information piece is, but it is certainly not considering it important to do so, and then that translates into 'dismissal' of the importance of public information. In the case of the two councilors leaving with no statement being made by them, or recognition of the time by the Mayor, once again it leaves the Council open to criticism on lack of predictable process. And, once again, it was left up to Councilor Peterson White to speak to the issue, as someone should have done.

  • February 15 2013 at 11:04 pm
    Jane McWilliams

    Kiffi - I asked Mr. Madigan whether it would be possible to add documents distributed to the council at the meeting to the online packet. He replied that Deb Little, City Clerk, had created a folder containing such documents. I couldn't find it so I contacted the city webmaster to ask how to find it. No reply to date! Stay tuned!

  • February 16 2013 at 8:41 am
    kiffi summa

    Jane: I still think that regardless of whether they are online, any materials used at the meeting,should be available at the meeting... just as the two notebooks with the packet are available. The former administrator, Joel Walinski, became very accustomed to the LWV asking for these late materials to be provided on the table at the door, and they were almost always there;if not someone would be sent to get copies. I see this as an important Open Meeting Law issue, and am surprised that it is not considered an obligation.

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