Council lets worker tap funding

FAIRMONT – A request for financial assistance from the city to demolish a house on Linden Drive sparked debate at the City Council meeting Monday.

Fairmont has a limited amount of funds available on a first-come, first-served basis to demolish blighted properties, if the applicant retains ownership of the property.

Luke Schultz, a city employee, lives at 117 Linden Drive and requested $5,000 to help tear down a house on the adjoining property at 111 Linden Drive. The blighted property also abuts five other properties in the neighborhood. The estimated rehabilitation cost of the property is $35,000, according to information from the city.

Meanwhile, Fairmont has a personnel policy titled “pecuniary interest,” that prohibits city employees from financially benefiting, directly or indirectly, in a contract for services with the city. However, the policy also states the council can make an exception.

Mike Humpal, city administrator, denied the application, citing the policy, but several council members requested the issue be put on the agenda.

In an email to the mayor and council, Humpal recommended denying the appeal, calling it “a bad idea” to set a precedent in which a city employee benefits from the limited funds available. But he also deferred to the council’s decision.

“I understand we have rules and regulations, but I don’t know what ‘pull’ he (Schultz) would have just because he works for the city,” said Councilman Chad Askeland.

He referred to the blighted property as “kind of an eyesore in the neighborhood.”

“It’s a perception issue; it’s not a reality issue,” said Elizabeth Bloomquist, city attorney. “It just depends on how people perceive it. Luke didn’t pull strings to get here.”

Askeland made a motion to approve the $5,000 request, Councilman Darin Rahm offering a second.

Councilman Terry Anderson immediately moved to table the issue, adding, “I want the full council here.”

Council members Wes Clerc and Joe Kallemeyn were absent.

Bloomquist advised that a motion to table superseded the original motion, and the subject could only be revived at subsequent council meetings by the member who originally tabled the issue.

Anderson’s motion died for lack of a second.

“This is setting a precedent we don’t want,” he said. “City staff are some of the better paid employees in the city of Fairmont.”

“I think it’s really unfair to judge finances,” Askeland countered.

“It will improve the community. Nobody else has stepped up to buy that house. I think we’re just judging the decision on its merit,” Rahm said.

The motion passed 2-1 vote, Anderson dissenting.

In other action, the council:

o Approved a full liquor license, including on-sale and Sundays, for the Asian Palace.

o Approved 28 beverage license renewals for bars, restaurants, grocery and convenience stores, pending receipt of all necessary paperwork and insurance.

o Denied an application for a taxi license from Ryan Selbrade, due to an unsatisfactory criminal history review.

o Approved a fireworks display permit for J & M Displays of Urbandale, Iowa, for July 4 in Fairmont.

o Increased the city’s donation to the fireworks display to $1,500, up $300 from the past several years.

o Entered into an agreement with the City of New Ulm for services of a building official, while Fairmont is in the process of hiring a certified building official. State law mandates that municipalities have a certified individual to administer state building code.

o Accepted a bid for the sanitary sewer lining project from Hydro Clean of Des Moines for $84,856, the lowest of three bid received.