Fire Services Study Update: The council had before it tonight the 73-page Feasibility Study for Consolidated Fire Services draft prepared by Emergency Services Consulting International, the group hired by the Fire Services Task Force “to evaluate the protection system serving the Northfield region and to offer an assessment of several potential alternative governance models that will carry the system into the future.” Councilors Rhonda Pownell and Erica Zweifel represent the city on the task force, which is also comprised of a representative from the City of Dundas and of the Northfield Rural Fire Protection District. The council’s responsibility at this meeting was to comment on the report to provide guidance to the city representatives for upcoming discussions with other members of the task force. It will meet later this week to weigh the concerns of the respective members about the report to and to work with the consultants to prepare a final report, which will then go to the individual entities for their input.
In January, the task force adopted objectives in the areas of governance, finances and capital resources. Tonight, questions arose about what kind of representation there would on a body established to govern whatever entity eventually selected to provide fire protection. The city of Northfield, having the largest population, has greater liability, according to Councilor Pownell. On the other hand, Councilor David Ludescher suggested that the other groups could be uneasy with unequal representation. Councilor Zweifel added that decisions about the future of a fire facility would be left to whatever entity becomes the governing body. Lee Runzheimer, a member of the task force was invited to explain his plan for representation on a Northfield Area-fire & Disaster Services Governance Board Membership, as well as its responsibilities. Written comments from Cit Administrator Tim Madigan were circulated at the meeting as well.
Although there was no explicit form of governance suggested in the report, the consultants recommended that if the current method of operation and governance is maintained, a long-term contract should include specific performance measures and funding models based on level of service. The decision to alter how this critical public service is provided is clearly in the purview of elected bodies, the report notes, and suggests a visioning and implementation process for discerning which governance option might best achieve solving the mutually agreed critical issues.
The report presents a comprehensive view of the current organization; the number and condition of capital assets; staffing; and service delivery and performance. There are statistical comparisons of various aspects of the fire protection services regionally and nationally. The records of the task force and of previous discussions and studies and reports as well as the ESCI report can be found here: http://www.ci.northfield.mn.us/index.aspx?nid=617
Award Contract for Police Building: Mike Clark of the architectural firm DLR Group, reviewed the bid process and reported that the bid of $4,775,00 of Met Con Construction, Inc. of Faribault was not only the lowest, but more than $800,000 lower than the architect’s previous cost estimate. Bond Counsel Jenny Boulton explained the restrictions on the use of the COP funds, that those not needed for the contract must be used for the leased (police) facility or could be used to pay a portion of the principal amount of the COP upon the redemption. They can’t be used for another facility. The $1,000,000 in city funds cannot be replaced with COP proceeds, either, because that money financed the acquisition by the city of land for the facility.
Both Councilors DeLong and Ludescher raised concerns again about the COP financing. Councilor Ludescher voted against the motion to approve the construction contract, saying he was not satisfied that the COP are legal under the statute, that it is a debt obligation the city has – and the city is not authorized to go into debt without a referendum.
Amended Variance for the TIGER Trail: This was necessitated by the Federal Highway Administration’s American with Disabilities Act standards for trails which was different from that approved by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. During public comments, Noah Cashman requested that the council discontinue the work on the trail, calling it a Ponzi scheme. Mayor Dana Graham noted that if the variance were voted down the trail would be dead. In response to concerns that the project may be over budget, City Administrator Tim Madigan said the project is scheduled for the June 25 work session. There will be an updated project cost estimate, although until the city bids the project, he added, we won’t know the final cost.
Police Sergeant Sworn In: With his parents and colleagues present, Kevin Tussing was sworn in and received his badge, pinned on by his wife Kellee Tussing.