12/17/2013 11:56:00 AM Claremont City Council
Claremont councilman not happy with previously agreed upon budget
By Tara Lindquist
Last month, in a 3-2 vote, the Claremont City Council voted to purchase the property located at 138 West Front Street, from Dodge County. The city plans to use the property that was a tax forfeiture to the state, for a new city hall. Council members Michelle Welsh and Jeff Louks voted against the project.
Later in the month, councilman Jeff Louks, called the city attorney Mark Rahrick to ask two questions: Did Councilman Dean Gray or Mayor Don Gray have a conflict of interest in taking part in the decision to accept the property at 138 West Front Street from the State of Minnesota? Would Councilman Dean Gray or Mayor Don Gray have a conflict of interest if they take part in future decision to renovate the property? Councilman Dean Gray, owns property adjacent to the future city hall building and Mayor Gray owns a building down the street. It was Rahrick's opinion that it would boil down to whether the contracts the city would enter into to renovate the property would result in financial benefit to Councilman Dean Gray or Mayor Don Gray and if so, whether that benefit rises to the level of a conflict of interest. His opinion is that Mayor Gray absolutely does not have a conflict of interest as his property is further away from the property in question but Councilman Dean Gray is less clear due to the proximity of his buildings to the property. Rahrick offered to submit the question to the Minnesota Attorney General's Office for their advisory opinion. Rahrick also stated during the meeting that having a conflict of interest does not mean that someone has or will do something wrong, a person with a conflict of interest can still have the city's best interests at heart and not their own. Councilman Rolly Brown stated everyone in the city would benefit if the property were renovated.
The council also discussed the city's budget for 2014, Mayor Gray asked the public if they had any comments or questions on the 2014 budget or levy and there were none. Councilman Jeff Louks said he had issues with the 2014 budget as the entire budget was a whole wasn't balanced. The general fund has a positive balance and the sewer fund has a negative balance, which has been an on-going issue. Since the rest of the council and City Clerk Liz Sorg were unaware of his concern as the council already discussed the budget and agreed to it at their previous budget meeting, Mayor Gray moved for a recess on approving the 2014 budget, the council will reconvene on this matter on December 18, at 7 p.m.
Other items on the agenda included:
The approval of the 2014 contract between the city and county to provide law enforcement protection at the annual cost of $29,811.60.
Approval of a 2.5% raise for the city's independent wastewater operator, Rich Kucera.
Approval of an ordinance amending section 4.40, subd. 4 of the Claremont City Code. The current ordinance states "Apartments, provided they are located above the first floor level and the space is being used as residential on the effect as of date of this chapter." That is deleted in its entirety and the following is substituted instead: "Apartments".
The council will meet again on January 14, 2014 at 7 p.m.