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BE council not happy with choice for a new Senior Center director

By Staff | Jun 8, 2014

There is still no new director at the Blue Earth Senior Citizens Center.

And, there may not ever be one.

The Blue Earth City Council decided not to follow the recommendation of the Senior Center Board and, instead, wants to explore options which could include having some other community group operate the center.

At last Monday night’s regular meeting, the council learned the Senior Center Board recommended hiring Linda Jahnke as the new director.

Jahnke has been serving as interim director of the facility since August of last year, when director Middy Thomas took a leave of absence.

The Senior Center Board had earlier interviewed four finalists for the position and had ranked their top three choices after the interviews were completed.

Jahnke was the top choice for the board members. At No. 2 was Michelle Klinkner and at the third spot was Vicki Zabel.

The council, however, was not ready to say yes to Jahnke or any of the other two candidates.

“I think we need to reopen up the whole application process,” city councilman Glenn Gaylord told his fellow members. “I am not comfortable with any one of these choices, to be brutally honest with you.”

City administrator Kathy Bailey listed the qualifications of each of the candidates, at the direction of the council. She also said the center board members were strongly in favor of hiring Jahnke.

Councilman John Huisman said it was difficult for the council to make the selection when none of them except councilman Russ Erichsrud were involved in the interview process.

Councilman John Gartzke agreed. “I thought we were going to do the interviewing,” Gartzke said. “Why were we not part of this?”

Mayor Rick Scholtes said it had been decided the board would do the interviewing and present the top three choices to the council.

“But maybe we need to look at whether we need a director at all,” Scholtes said. “Do we just need someone to open it up every day.”

Huisman presented an alternate plan.

“How about we align with Interfaith Caregivers,” he suggested. “They struggle (with finances) all the time. We could let them have space at the senior center in exchange for operating the place.”

The question about continuing to serve noon meals at the center came up.

One problem is finding volunteers to bring the meals to the center from Parker Oaks in Winnebago.

Another issue is raising the price to $6 per meal, which is thought to be too high.

“I think the meals are eventually going to go by the wayside,” Gartzke said.

In the end the council tabled any action until Huisman could find out more information about joining with Interfaith Caregivers.

“We need to take our time and get this right,” Huisman said.

In other business, the council closed the meeting three times on Monday.

The first closure came right at the start of the 4:30 p.m. regular meeting and lasted until 5:05 p.m.

This closure was to enable the council to meet with its attorney from the League of Minnesota Cities, Pat Beety.

According to city attorney David Frundt, the council consulted with the attorney on several various cases, but did not specifically name them.

The second closure came at the end of the meeting and Frundt said it had to do with city Public Works Department employee Wes Bell and related to his job performance at the pool.

Frundt said no final determination in the case had been made at this time.

The third closure took place immediately after the previous one and dealt with the evaluation of the city administrator.

The council had also had a closed session at a previous meeting where they discussed administrator Bailey’s evaluation without her or the public being present.

Last Monday Bailey was present for the review with the council.

After the 30-minute closed session, Mayor Scholtes reported that the council had evaluated the administrator in 10 areas of job performance, including technology use, administrative ability, responsibility, communication, professionalism, ethics and more.

“We averaged all of the evaluations from each councilman in each of the 10 categories,” Scholtes reported. “On a scale of one to five, she received an average score of 2.3.”

In other business at last Monday’s meeting, the council:

Held a special hearing for the abatement of the bonds for the new construction of the Faribault County Fitness Center, owned by the city.

What it means, said Doug Green of Springstead, the city’s financial advisors, is not the normal definition of abatement.

“Nothing is being reduced here, really,” Green said. “It means the city will pay for the bonds with money from the levy.”

However, the city also intends to reimburse that expense for the bonds with revenues from the fitness center.

Next, Green reported that the $4.31 million in the city’s general obligation bonds had been sold that morning.

The sale came in with a true interest rate of 2.66 percent.

The funds will be used to finance the fitness center as well as various street reconstruction projects from last summer.

Heard a project update from city engineer Wes Brown that detailed work on Second Street and on Highway 169.

Brown also said work is expected to begin soon on both of last summer’s street projects, Highland Drive and also 11th Street.

“We have a punch list of items which the contractor has to come in and fix,” Brown says. “They also will be applying the second lift (of asphalt).”

Discussion of the proposed ball field improvements, tabled from the last meeting, was again tabled until the June 16 meeting.

Spent some time discussing the proposed new Tattoo Parlor Ordinance, specifically where this type of business should be allowed.

The council decided to allow it both in the highway business section and the downtown area. They will vote on the ordinance later.