Park Rapids City Council denies utility bill request – Park Rapids Enterprise

On May 10, Park Rapids City Council denied a resident’s request to lower a utility bill.

The request was removed from the board’s consent agenda, where it was to be approved.

According to a staff memo in the Agenda Folder, owner Lynette Guida requested a reduction in the water and sewer bill at 107 Grove Ave. N. for his tenant, Kendra Wattenhofer, “due to the circumstances”.

Specifically, Public Works Superintendent Scott Burlingame said the big bill resulted from a leaking toilet. The property’s bill history showed a fourth quarter bill for water and sewer usage totaling $615, a difference of $542 from the property’s typical quarterly usage of $73.

According to Mayor Ryan Leckner, the finance committee had recommended granting the request, dividing the $542 in three ways between Guida, Wattenhofer and the city. However, Burlingame informed council that the city generally gives credit for water that does not go down the drain. However, in the case of the leaking toilet, it went down the drain.

“The ordinance states that we are not waiving the charges,” City Administrator Angel Weasner said.

“We’d be opening a big Pandora’s box if we did,” Mayor Ryan Leckner said.

Based on the staff’s recommendation, council member Tom Conway moved a motion to deny the request, and the motion passed unanimously, in the absence of council member Erika Randall.

Birch Street resident Bill Fitch commented on the Conditional Use Permit (CUP) requested by Gregory Parsons to operate the One More Club bar at 1012 Birch St. S.

Fitch said he understood from the minutes of the meeting that members of the planning commission were having difficulty accessing the property to look around. He suggested that if a petitioner does not let city staff inspect the property, the city should not accept their petition.

Fitch also asked how Parsons would keep the required number of parking spaces open during the winter. He said actual snow removal should be necessary, “otherwise they’ll have to push it onto their neighbors’ property.”

Additionally, Fitch questioned Parsons’ plan to deal with stormwater runoff and questioned why the CUP had been brought to council before Parsons had qualified.

“Just because we did something in one part of town doesn’t mean we have to make the same mistake in another part of town,” Fitch said.

Acknowledging that this is a tough decision and that the city doesn’t want to be known for not supporting business, he concluded: “You have a chance to get it right.

In a late addition to their agenda, the council approved journal entries to transfer money between various funds, in preparation for the city’s upcoming annual audit. Log entries included:

  • Set aside budgetary funds for fire and police equipment and the Depot Park tennis court reconstruction project;
  • Remove street cleaning costs from stormwater revenues;
  • Adjust liquor store inventory to actual; and
  • Allocate staff salaries from company funds according to the time they spend on water, sewer, storm water and liquor store work.

In matters of consent and general matters, counsel:

  • Renewed the city’s contract with planner Ben Oleson, AICP of Hometown Planning for an additional six months.
  • Approval of a Land and Water Conservation (LAWCON) grant agreement with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to fund reconstruction of the Depot Park tennis courts. The city received a $250,000 LAWCON grant and committed $60,000 to the project, in addition to donations raised by the Park Rapids Tennis Association.
  • Paid $3,500 to Paul Bunyan’s drug task force for its annual dues.
  • Paid $5,720 to Tyler Technologies for services related to setting up the city’s new financial system.
  • Paid $2,233 to Thelen’s Excavating for the emergency repair of a broken four-inch cast-iron water pipe on Washington Street, using city-supplied materials.
  • Paid Streicher $4,851 for police uniform vests. Staff note that one of the vests is replaced by an insurance claim and that the trauma plates on two of the vests are subject to a subsidy.
  • Granted Deanna Harvala a Public Use Permit to hold a wedding ceremony on June 25 at Red Bridge Park.
  • Recognized donations to the city totaling $3,101, all for library programs.
  • Approved accounts payable totaling $42,677 and prepaid accounts totaling $140,128.

The next regular council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 24 at City Hall, following a council workshop at 5:30 p.m.

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