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BE wants administrator by March 25

By Staff | Dec 22, 2019

Blue Earth Area school nurse Ann Crofton addressed the Blue Earth City Council during their work session last Monday about the issue with vaping in the schools.

The Blue Earth City Council took care of more than a dozen items during a long meeting last Monday night.

Two of the more important items were passing the 2020 city budget and property tax levy for next year, and second, formulating the plan for replacing the city administrator.

With Tim Ibisch’s last day as the city administrator set for Friday, Jan. 3, the council discussed how to proceed to find his replacement.

Mayor Rick Scholtes had taken input from council members and created both a plan and a timeline for the search.

Since several council members had expressed a desire to be more involved in the hiring process than they were five years ago when Ibisch was hired, Scholtes’ plan has the council narrowing the number of applicants down, and deciding how many and who to interview, instead of an outside agency.

DJ Bullerman addressed the council about the problem and showed them a large variety of vaping items and materials which had been confiscated at BEA just this school year.

The city would still work with Wendell Sande of the South Central Service Cooperative, Scholtes said, like they have in the past.

“I talked to Wendell and he would still do the background checks and give us a list of qualified candidates,” Scholtes said. “Then we would each read all the applications and rate the candidates ourselves, deciding which ones to interview.”

The names on the applications would be redacted, so the council members would not know who they were rating. Sande would also still come up with a list of questions the council would ask each of the finalists.

The council hopes to interview three to five finalists during the week of Feb. 10-18.

The overall proposed timeline has the city advertising the open position from Dec. 21 to Jan. 20.

Councilman John Huisman questioned why a month is needed and thought it could be just two weeks.

“Anyone interested is going to see the notice and decide right away whether to apply or not,” he said. “Some probably are already aware of it.”

The answer given was that a month is needed, especially with the holidays for the first two weeks of the application time period.

Background checks will be done from Jan. 21-25, with the council reading all the applications and doing their ranking of the candidates from Jan. 25-31.

After the interviews are completed sometime during the week of Feb. 10-15, the council would make a decision and then approve a contract at their regular meeting on Feb. 17.

They would expect the new city administrator to be able to start in Blue Earth by March 25 or earlier.

As for the budget and levy, the council had delayed action after their Truth in Taxation Hearing held on Monday, Dec. 2, but they did pass it last Monday.

The 2020 levy was set at $1,673,500, which is an increase of 8.5 percent from this current year.

However, the mayor and council members were quick to point out that the increase will not actually mean that large of an increase on Blue Earth residents’ tax statements next year unless the taxable valuation of their property has been raised.

“The increase will be covered by the natural value increase of all property in the city,” city administrator Ibisch said. “This is a way we can capture the growth (in property valuation) and have it be a negative impact on the taxpayer.”

The excess funds will go towards the street project fund and the debt service fund, Ibisch said. He added he fully expects the council to be able to return to the modest 3.5 percent increase for 2021 and beyond.

Ibisch also pointed out that Blue Earth will still have the lowest property taxes in the county.

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

Heard a report from Blue Earth Area Schools school nurse Ann Crofton and school resource officer DJ Bullerman about the issue of vaping at the BEA Schools.

Bullerman handed around a package filled with vaping devices which had been confiscated at BEA. Crofton discussed the many health risks involved with vaping.

The council is considering raising the age to buy tobacco (and vaping) products in Blue Earth from 18 to 21.

However, some council members want to try and have other cities in the county, and the county itself, join in with the raise in age.

Bullerman said one issue is that students are easily buying the products over the Internet.

Set the city fees schedule for 2020. Two new fees which were added were a fine for illegal dumping at $500, and the fee for having chickens in a yard was set at $50 per year.

Voted to accept a union contract for some of the city employees which would have a four percent wage increase in 2020, and 3.5 percent in both 2021 and 2022.

Voted to raise the monthly storm water fees for Blue Earth property owners by 25 cents for residences and 50 cents for businesses, per month.