City Council Minutes of October 26, 2015

Date: 
October 26, 2015

 

 

MINUTES OF THE CITY COUNCIL MEETING

OCTOBER 26, 2015

 Pursuant to due call and notice thereof, a regular meeting of the City Council of the City of Saint Peter was conducted in the Governors' Room of the Community Center on October 26, 2015.

A quorum present, Mayor pro tem Zieman called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.  The following members were present:  Councilmembers Parras, Kvamme, Carlin, Grams, Brand, and Zieman.  The following officials were present: City Administrator Prafke, City Attorney Brandt and City Engineer Domras.

Approval of Agenda – A motion was made by Kvamme, seconded by Parras, to approve the agenda.  With all in favor, the motion carried.

Approval of Minutes – A motion was made by Carlin, seconded by Kvamme, to approve the minutes of the October 12, 2015 Finance Committee meeting.  With all in favor, the motion carried and the minutes were approved.  A complete copy of the minutes of the October 12, 2015 Finance Committee meeting is contained in the City Administrator’s book entitled Council Proceedings 19.

A motion was made by Parras, seconded by Carlin, to approve the minutes of the October 12, 2015 regular City Council meeting.  Councilmember Zieman requested modification to language on the Schettler loan modification to indicate his EDA vote was based on a realization that not approving the request “could” force the Schettler’s to declare bankruptcy rather than “would” force the bankruptcy.  Councilmember Kvamme corrected the attendance to indicate he was absent from the meeting.  With all in favor, the motion carried and the minutes were approved as corrected.  A complete copy of the minutes of the October 12, 2015 regular City Council meeting is contained in the City Administrator’s book entitled Council Proceedings 19.

Consent Agenda –  In motion by Grams, seconded by Carlin, Resolution No. 2015-134 entitled, “Resolution Approving Consent Agenda“ was introduced.  With all in favor, the Resolution was declared passed and adopted.  A complete copy of Resolution No. 2015-134 is contained in the City Administrator’s book entitled Council Resolutions 20.

Distributed Generation Engineering Study – Public Works Director Moulton recommended DeWild Grant and Reckert be retained to prepare a study on distributed generation that would provide information on the impact connection of distributed generation systems have on the City’s infrastructure.  Moulton noted the information would then be used by staff and the Council to make decisions about policies and possible changes to rates and fees.  Moulton noted that those who install distributed generation systems “behind the meter” (four customers currently) would not be impacted by any changes, but those who transmit excess generation across the City owned distribution system (one customer currently) may be impacted by any changes.  Moulton also stated that changes to legislation which previously required SMMPA and others to purchase the excess generation at retail rates now allow the sales to be made at wholesale rates. 

Councilmember Parras questioned why more information was needed about the impact to the City’s infrastructure and connections.  Moulton stated it is important to ensure the generation system being connected to the City’s infrastructure is conducive to the system the City has in place to protect the City’s system.

Councilmember Grams questioned the impact distributed generation systems have on the City’s SMMPA power sales contract.  Moulton and City Administrator Prafke indicated the contract is structured so that the City must buy power from SMMPA, but distributed generation excess power is allowed to “pass through” to SMMPA.  

Alex Nadeau, 1007 Sioux Lane, addressed the Council to express concern about Councilmembers referring to local solar energy producers as “freeloaders” and encouraged the City to provide incentives for use of solar power and for the City to eventually become a “solar City”.  Nadeau indicated he did not support penalties or charges for those who produce solar power.

Anna Richey of Conservation Minnesota in Rochester, Minnesota distributed the results of a survey her organization had done in Saint Peter in March of 2015 showing 70% support for use of renewable energy sources by the City electric utility.  Richey encouraged the City Council to make decisions based on what the Saint Peter community wants.

Jim Helgerson, 609 Inverness Lane, addressed the Council to indicate he doesn’t want to be penalized excessively for using less energy if he installs a distributed generation system at his home.  Helgerson indicated he was currently considering installation of a solar system at a cost of $25,000-$30,000 and hoped to have a decision on any future charges as quickly as possible so he could make his decision.  Helgerson also pointed out the City does not offer rebates for installation of renewable energy systems.

Gary Swedberg, 826 West Grace Street, questioned whether there are any large consumers in Saint Peter using distributed generation and, if that were to occur in the future would there be an impact on the SMMPA contract.  City Administrator Prafke indicated it was difficult to determine any possible impact at this time as the City is in a “cash and carry” type contract with SMMPA.  Prafke also noted that the goal of the study is to provide more and better information on which the City Council can make future decisions related to distributed generation.

Councilmember Carlin stated she is a “big fan” of solar and wind power and the City becoming a solar City either through SMMPA developing renewal generation sources or through individuals doing so, and reminded everyone that the impact of less electric revenue would be felt in many areas of the City as funds are transferred from the Electric Fund to the General Fund to finance street repairs and other improvements that most cities fund through property taxes.   Carlin indicated she wasn’t interested in establishing penalties or fines for distributed generation users, but would consider those users paying costs to transport any excess generation across the City’s distribution system.

Councilmember Brand read a lengthy letter from Gustavus Adolphus College professor Jim Dontje indicating that because all utility customers pay a monthly customer charge and a transmission charge that those with distributed generation systems are not “freeloaders” and pointing out solar generation could reduce the City’s demand charges under the SMMPA contract and resulting in those generating renewal energy be subsidizing all other rate payers. 

Councilmember Brand then questioned why the City Council would consider authorizing the study when no one on the Council had been provided with actual copies of either the old or new laws regarding distributed generation.  Brand also questioned why the City was paying for the study and not SMMPA and why changes needed to be made in the City rate structure.  Brand expressed his belief that the idea of making people pay for use of distributed generation is disingenuous.  Brand stated the Council owed it to the community to have a “community discussion” about the topic and questioned who was involved in getting the law changed and their reasons for doing so.  Brand indicated he felt it was a “two dimensional conversation” only being about distributed generation or net metering and suggested the Council look at other options.  Brand suggested the issue was “micro-management” and stated the Council needed better decisions.  Brand then asked the Council to back away from the topic now, have more community conversation and then re-evaluate the need.

Several Councilmembers objected to the claim by previous speakers that Councilmembers had referred to those using distributed generation as “free loaders” when no one could clearly state who had made that claim. 

City Administrator Prafke reminded Councilmembers the goals of the study included review of the City’s infrastructure and data regarding installation of distributed generation systems in the future and a financial analysis of where the City currently stands.  Prafke reminded the Council that no policy decisions would be made by DeWild Grant and Reckert or staff.

A motion was made by Brand, seconded by Parras to table action on the proposed resolution until the Council could have more discussion on the issue. 

Councilmember Kvamme expressed his belief that the study was needed to be “ahead of the game”.  Councilmember Grams indicated he believed in solar power but felt the City was operating in the dark without the study and stated that if he were using solar power he would want to pay his fair share.  Councilmember Carlin indicated her belief that it was important to get more information for future calculations.

Councilmember Brand once again stated his belief that to vote without having copies of the old and new laws, and after listening to the individuals in the audience speak, and without the voice of the community, was disingenuous.

On a voice vote, Councilmembers Brand and Parras voting aye, Councilmembers Grams, Kvamme, Zieman and Carlin voting nay, the motion failed.

In motion by Kvamme, seconded by Grams, Resolution No. 2015-135 entitled “Resolution Authorizing Engineering Study By DeWild Grant And Reckert For Distributed Generation”, was introduced.  Upon roll call, Councilmembers Grams, Kvamme, Zieman, Carlin, and Parras voting aye, Councilmember Brand voting nay, the Resolution was declared passed and adopted.  A complete copy of Resolution No. 2015-135 is contained in the City Administrator’s book entitled Council Resolutions 20. 

2016-2017 Legal Services Contract – City Administrator Prafke presented the Finance Committee’s recommendation for approval of the 2016-2017 legal services contract with Brandt Law Office.  Finance Committee member Kvamme indicated the Committee wholeheartedly supported approval of the contract.  In motion by Kvamme, seconded by Carlin, Resolution No. 2015-136 entitled “Resolution Approving Execution Of 2016-2017 Legal Services Contract”, was introduced.  Upon roll call, with all in favor, the Resolution was declared passed and adopted.  A complete copy of Resolution No. 2015-136 is contained in the City Administrator’s book entitled Council Resolutions 20. 

Assessment of Unpaid Municipal Charges – Finance Director O'Connell recommended the process for assessment of unpaid utility charges be initiated with adoption of a resolution calling for preparation of the assessment roll and a resolution scheduling a public hearing on November 23, 2015   In motion by Grams, seconded by Brand, Resolution No. 2015-137 entitled “Resolution Declaring Unpaid Charges For Municipal Utilities to Be Assessed And Ordering Preparation Of Proposed Assessment”, was introduced.  Upon roll call, with all in favor, the Resolution was declared passed and adopted.  A complete copy of Resolution No. 2015-137 is contained in the City Administrator’s book entitled Council Resolutions 20. 

In motion by Kvamme, seconded by Carlin, Resolution No. 2015-138 entitled “Resolution Calling For A Public Hearing Declaring Unpaid Charges For Municipal Utilities To Be Assessed”, was introduced.  Upon roll call, with all in favor, the Resolution was declared passed and adopted.  A complete copy of Resolution No. 2015-138 is contained in the City Administrator’s book entitled Council Resolutions 20. 

Assessment of Unpaid Miscellaneous Charges – Finance Director O'Connell recommended the process for assessment of unpaid miscellaneous (lawn mowing and frozen water meter) charges be initiated with adoption of a resolution calling for preparation of the assessment roll and a resolution scheduling a public hearing on November 23, 2015.  In motion by Carlin, seconded by Parras, Resolution No. 2015-139 entitled “Resolution Declaring Unpaid Charges To Be Assessed And Ordering Preparation Of Proposed Assessment Of Miscellaneous Charges”, was introduced.  Upon roll call, with all in favor, the Resolution was declared passed and adopted.  A complete copy of Resolution No. 2015-139 is contained in the City Administrator’s book entitled Council Resolutions 20. 

In motion by Kvamme, seconded by Parras, Resolution No. 2015-140 entitled “Resolution Calling For Public Hearing On Assessment of Miscellaneous Charges”, was introduced.  Upon roll call, with all in favor, the Resolution was declared passed and adopted.  A complete copy of Resolution No. 2015-140 is contained in the City Administrator’s book entitled Council Resolutions 20. 

Assessment of Unpaid Improvement Charges – Finance Director O'Connell recommended initiation of the process for assessment of costs related to improvement projects for which the property owners had signed waivers of assessment.  O’Connell noted a public hearing would be scheduled for November 23, 2015.   In motion by Kvamme, seconded by Parras, Resolution No. 2015-141 entitled “Resolution Declaring The Cost To Be Assessed And Ordering Preparation Of Proposed Assessment Of Miscellaneous Improvements”, was introduced.  Upon roll call, with all in favor, the Resolution was declared passed and adopted.  A complete copy of Resolution No. 2015-141 is contained in the City Administrator’s book entitled Council Resolutions 20. 

In motion by Brand, seconded by Carlin, Resolution No. 2015-142 entitled “Resolution Calling For A Public Hearing On Proposed Assessments Of Miscellaneous Improvements”, was introduced.  Upon roll call, with all in favor, the Resolution was declared passed and adopted.  A complete copy of Resolution No. 2015-142 is contained in the City Administrator’s book entitled Council Resolutions 20. 

Reports

Mayor pro tem’s Report – Mayor pro tem Zieman reminded everyone of the general election on November 3, 2015.

High School Groundbreaking Ceremony – City Administrator Prafke commented that although it was very windy and dusty at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new high school, it was a very nice event.  Prafke thanked all those who attended the event.

Curbside Leaf Collection – City Administrator Prafke reminded the public that curbside leaf collection for properties north of Broadway Avenue started on October 26th and the area south of Broadway would begin on November 9th.

Firefighter Recruitment – City Administrator Prafke reported the City was currently hiring for the position of Volunteer Firefighter and encouraged anyone interested in applying to attend the open house for candidates which will be held at the Fire Station on November 5th.

General Election –  City Administrator Prafke also reminded voters of the upcoming general election.

Halloween Fun Run – City Administrator Prafke reported the annual Halloween Fun Run would take place on October 31st and over 1,100 participants were registered this year.

Closed Session:  Land Purchase/Sale/Easement Negotiations – City Administrator Prafke requested closed sessions as allowed under State law to discuss land sale negotiations and land purchase negotiations.  In motion by Kvamme, seconded by Parras, Resolution No. 2015-143 entitled “Resolution Calling For Closed Session”, was introduced.  Upon roll call, with all in favor, the Resolution was declared passed and adopted.  A complete copy of Resolution No. 2015-143 is contained in the City Administrator’s book entitled Council Resolutions 20. 

The City Council adjourned to closed session in the Traverse des Sioux Room at 8:30 p.m. for discussion of land sale negotiations.  The Council returned to open session at 8:47 p.m.

The City Council adjourned to closed session in the Traverse des Sioux Room at 8:48 p.m. for discussion of land purchase negotiations.  The Council returned to open session at 8:58 p.m.

There being no further business, a motion was made by Carlin, seconded by Parras, to adjourn.  With all in favor, the motion carried and the meeting adjourned at 8:59 p.m.