Council to decide the next steps for city manager

Published 9:04 am Monday, September 13, 2010

With Albert Lea City Manager Jim Norman being placed on paid administrative leave, the Albert Lea City Council will vote tonight on how to proceed with an interim city manager and other duties usually fulfilled by this position.

During the Thursday preagenda worksession, the council was presented with the idea of authorizing Human Resources Director Mike Zelenak to proceed with the search for candidates for interim city manager.

The council did not discuss whether these would be people already serving within the city or if they would be from the outside.

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Because purchases over $500 must be approved and signed by the city manager, the council will also vote whether to authorize the finance director to approve these purchases.

Lastly, the council will decide whether to authorize Zelenak to review and approve changes of status of personnel usually completed by the city manager. This would include step increases for the year.

Norman was officially placed on paid leave earlier this month after criminal charges were filed against him in Freeborn County District Court, alleging he misused the city credit card for personal purchases.

During tonight’s meeting, the council will also:

• Vote on the proposed 2011 proposed tax levy for the city.

Cities are required to establish a proposed tax levy by Sept. 15 each year. After public hearings in December, the council may choose to lower the levy but they may not raise it higher than the proposed levy.

• Vote to set the dates to receive public input on the proposed 2011 budget.

• Vote whether to approve a plan by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Shell Rock River Watershed District to have a lake reclamation on Lake Chapeau.

The project aims to draw down the water level in the lake to facilitate a rough fish kill.

According to a letter from the DNR, last fall the watershed district installed an electric fish barrier to prevent rough fish from entering the lake from downstream areas.

“It was hoped that winter kill would eliminate problem fish,” the letter stated. “Unfortunately, this did not happen.”

Thus, plans are in place to apply rotenone, a fish toxicant, to the lake and nearby ponds and ditches to erratic problem fish, including carp, black bullheads and other rough fish.

• Vote whether to authorize an agreement between the city and the Department of Employment and Economic Development for a Small Cities Development Program grant to be used toward qualifying owner-occupied houses in need of rehabilitation. It would cover 23 houses needing owner-occupied rehabilitation assistance in specific target areas.

A separate part of this request asks the city to waive all the building permit fees associated with the grant, estimated at almost $3,500.

• Vote on contracts with the Albert Lea Figure Skating Club and the Albert Lea Hockey Association regarding the use of City Arena for the upcoming season.

Both entities paid $130 per hour for ice rental during the past season.

Councilors indicated Thursday they are considering raising the fee.

The Hockey Association also utilizes the concession area, which will include a separate fee.

Have a public hearing regarding the adoption of downtown parking maintenance district assessments from August 2009 through the end of July 2010.

Assessments are on a per square foot basis for each lot minus $50 per stall for privately-owned and improved off-street parking stalls open during normal business hours.

Total assessable costs are $40,342, according to background information provided by the city.