The coronavirus and its potential impacts overshadowed much of the April 2 meeting of the May Township Board, which was held online for the first time.
Supervisors and Stillwater officials discussed concerns that job losses would hamper citizens ability to pay upcoming property taxes and the potential for reduction in permits and fees. If people become delinquent on their bill, the township will have to front the money from the town coffers. Government officials are beginning to review the potential budget impacts of tax shortages, as well as looking for other revenue sources, such as state aid to local government.
Township board chair, Bill Voedisch, warned that some previously planned road and street projects may need to be delayed. The Board is meeting with financial advisors to discuss borrowing for road projects, and whether to put capital improvements and park projects on hold.
The supervisors weighed these delays against the benefit of keeping private sector workers employed.
“There are a couple of roads almost beyond patching,” Voedisch said. “This year and next year we could still patch, but the neighborhood would like to see us redo those roads.”
Stillwater Fire Department contract
The Stillwater city administrator, finance director and fire chief attended the meeting. Supervisor Pazlar explained the township’s concern both with the 24% increase across the 3-year contract, and the fact that the township received the contract after the city levy had been approved.
“We’re concerned about the growth and the ability of our tax base to keep up with that, to the detriment to the rest of our budget,” Pazlar said.
The Stillwater fire contract fee is $131,239 for 2020 and increases to $145,299 in 2021 and $161,497 in 2022. The levy for 2021 has already been approved and cannot be changed.
Stillwater city administrator, Tom McCarty, explained their yearly financial audit is released in June of the following year, later than the lead time needed by the townships with which they have contracts. They don’t have a solution to this problem. Pazlar asked them to consider a longer contract, which would allow the townships to plan better.
The increase includes a portion of the cost of the new fire station, as well as training costs for new firefighters and wage increases. Stillwater did a wage analysis in 2016-2017 and wages were raised to bring firefighter pay in line with comparable employees around the state. Also, public safety workers’ compensation costs and insurance costs increased.
The Stillwater administrator said while he couldn’t guarantee costs would go down in the next contract, he would expect that contracts going forward would be more in line with the normal cost of operations – a 3-4% increase, not a 9-10% increase.
FEMA grant award
for 2019 flood damage
May township received a grant for $72,462 from FEMA to cover the cost of flood damage to gravel roads in the spring of 2019.
citizen concerned about internet
Citizens have complained about poor coverage or lack of access to the internet.
“We looked into this a couple of years ago and tried to apply some pressure [to existing providers] but we have no way to compel action,” said supervisor Pazlar.
The township lacks the population density to make expansion attractive.
Supervisors had also talked to Midco (the service provider in Marine) and asked them to extend their service for another half mile or quarter mile. “The numbers they came back with were staggering -- $2,000 to $4,000 a household,” Pazlar said.
Pazlar said the Federal COVID assistance fund has some money targeted toward broadband buildout. The township could look into getting on the list for a grant. Supervisors also suggested residents create a petition to see if they can get action.
No progress was made to resolve the building violation at 13003 177th St. While the homeowner cited the coronavirus stay at home order as the reason for lack of action, the supervisors believe a letter or phone call would motivate progress toward a resolution.
Dog owners are failing to pick up their dog’s waste when visiting the public park. Town staff will research the cost of signage with plastic disposal bags and a garbage can for disposal.
bee business ordinance
Nature’s Nectar appeared at the last board meeting to request permission to sell bees from their home. The Board amended the town code to allow small business permits on residential property as an interim use, provided that the use is clearly secondary and incidental to residential use. And further, that limited activities dealing with agriculture are acceptable and not in conflict with the rural residential character of the town.
A May resident complained the bee sale days shouldn’t take place because of the COVID risk, but the Board did not agree. Nature’s Nectar explained people will stay in their vehicles and they will put the packaged bees into the trunks for them. There will be no direct person-to-person contact.
sewer contract amendment
Supervisors met with the MPCA in February, prior to planning a community meeting this summer to explain a Nitrogen Mitigation Plan and needed work on the sewer system. Because of the low number of users on the system, it’s possible that May Township could qualify under Rule 44-20d to operate with a permit under Washington County, rather than the MPCA. This would raise the nitrogen target, reduce monitoring needs, and likely reduce costs.
In order to qualify, the township needs to assess the daily effluent flow rate for 90 days, and then monitor weekly for 9 months. The sewer company has provided an adjusted contract that increases costs from $3,800 to $10,569. This increase is only for 2020 while the increased monitoring is being done.
If the township does not qualify to switch its permit, it could be looking at pre-assessments to fund work that would begin in three years. This would increase costs beginning in 2020 for the 83 users on the township system. The township could apply for a low interest loan, and if it were to get on the MPCA’s Project Priority List, it may qualify for grants.
The township will be sampling the gravel at 130th and Keystone, as well as 121st, after complaints about gravel quality. Township staff called the dust control company last year after receiving more calls than usual about dust control application. Staff suspect the truck applying the liquid applied too much, paused in certain locations, or applied it too soon after rainfall. The township needs to work with the applicator to ensure it’s done properly this year.