Aitkin City Council members are participating in a series of work sessions to help build a cohesive team and develop a vision statement to guide their work as leaders of the city of Aitkin.
At the March 1 regular meeting of the council, City Administrator Rose Beverly shared some of the preliminary work council members are doing. Aitkin Fire Chief Brian Pisarek is facilitating the work sessions. Beverly asked Pisarek to help with this process because of his experience as an incident commander, trainer and facilitator in the National Incident Management System.
Council members shared their individual visions for the future of the city and Pisarek will use those to create a draft vision statement they can review at a future work session. Council members used such adjectives as unique, welcoming and healthy to describe the Aitkin of the future.
PENDING STATE LEGISLATION
Council members discussed House File 1213, which is going through the Minnesota House of Representatives. It proposes an increase in state aid for municipalities which discontinue the operation of municipal liquor stores.
Cities would have three years in which to discontinue the operations and close their liquor stores. Cities that choose to close their liquor stores would receive a minimum of $50,000 in additional state aid; cities that choose to keep their municipal liquor stores open would be required to hold a referendum in the 2022 general election.
Only if the majority of city residents vote to keep the
municipal liquor store open, would the city be able to do so. The bill includes a moratorium on the opening of new municipal liquor stores in Minnesota after the final enactment, should the bill become law.
Beverly and Mayor Megan Workman reached out to Rep. Dale Lueck of Aitkin, who does not support either HF1213 or HF1277.
Council approved a motion initiated by member Kathy Galliger that the city should create a resolution opposing HF1213 and the analogous senate file.
“The state of Minnesota has had a habit of getting these things done, and then eventually the funding is gone,” Galliger said. “At the county level, the state is gradually taking money from the local units and it’s always a battle. It’s a pattern for the state to not maintain funding to municipalities long term.”
HF1277 would prevent political subdivisions from using public money to fund lobbying.
Beverly said, “Most organizations that serve municipalities (such as the League of Minnesota Cities or the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools) have organizations that lobby for them. The bill’s sponsors want to refocus legislative efforts away from initiatives brought by paid lobbyists and toward more direct representation by individuals.”
Galliger stated, “Without our being able to organize through organizations like RAMS, we would not be represented at the legislature. If RAMS had not intervened on behalf of Greater Minnesota, we would not have received our COVID-19 relief package.”
HF1277 would not prevent individuals from lobbying on behalf of their local units of government. The Aitkin City Council resolved to oppose the bill, which it believes would severely limit the voice of outstate Minnesota local government units by preventing them from contributing to the hiring of lobbyists to represent them at the legislature.
NEW CITY PLOW TRUCK
City council members unanimously approved the lower of two bids received to purchase a new plow truck and associated equipment, for $245,619.68, to be paid over a period of five years. The purchase was planned as part of the 2021 budget and will be included in the bond being issued for the city’s 2021 street improvement projects. This will be a replacement for the old truck, which will be kept as a backup. The life expectancy of the new truck is about 20 years, with good maintenance and service.
IN OTHER BUSINESS
The municipal maintenance agreement that was reviewed at the previous meeting was approved unanimously.
Council members approved moving the proposed July 6 work session to July 7, to discuss the sale of a street and equipment bond. The city of Aitkin’s updated investment policy was approved unanimously. Budget increases for city departments were discussed.
The next regular meeting of the city council will be 6 p.m. Monday, April 5 at the Aitkin Public Library.