Keilley Shores use permit approved

By Robert Williams

Editor

City Clerk-Treasurer Julie Lammers reported the county and city engineers have approved diagonal parking and the moving of the centerline on First Avenue South at the Vergas City Council meeting on Tuesday, July 12.

The change will bring needed parking relief to downtown Vergas. 

Turning lanes are currently being reviewed by the city engineer. The project was on the agenda of Tuesday’s Otter Tail County commissioner’s meeting and they were allegedly comfortable with the plan once the city engineer approves turning lanes, which may take away one parking spot.

City engineer Jeff Kuhn reported there will be some encroachments with the back end of large semi trailers making a 90-degree turn. Kuhn is seeking the approval of the county engineer before sending it to council for final approval. 

The plan will install 10 diagonal parking spots on the south side of the street.

Councilman Paul Pinke also noted prior discussions on installing a dedicated truck route through town to attempt to alleviate heavy traffic on the corner.

Dean Haarstick, owner of Vergas Ford Equipment Company, was in attendance and commented on concerns about First Street between Main and Linden. His concerns were mainly on proper snow removal and the curb in front of his business needing to be addressed to stop winter time flooding in his shop.

The issue was forwarded to the city streets department for further action and will be added to the city’s recently-updated snow removal plan, according to Pinke.

New GIS Service

Congruent to talks about city streets, Lammers reported on a meeting with WiDSETH Architecture, Engineering, Environmental, and Surveying Firm on procuring and setup of the city’s own cloud-based Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping system. 

“This will be very helpful for us to be able to make complete plans for our streets, as well as water and sewer,” said Lammers.

WiDSETH will compile existing GIS datasets from the city and other sources (parcels, roadways, zoning, etc) and upload to the site. Widseth will create a virtual map and dataset for field collection. Once the site is completed, WiDSETH will conduct an on-site training at the city office with staff.

Continually updating data to the GIS site will allow near real-time viewing of the city streets and properties. Total upfront costs for setup and training is $4,600.

The system will allow for precise and live data including curb stops, water line and sewer line locations for individual properties, current construction permit locations, and allow for customized data needed during city meetings making decision-making faster on proposed or ongoing projects and development.

The program allows for all kinds of city-specific datasets and serves as a centralized database of all the city information in one place.

The purchase was approved unanimously.

Keilley Shores third addition

Kuhn reviewed the plans for the Keilley Shores third addition specifications on an already approved conditional use permit by the planning and zoning commission.

“In general, I would say the plans look really good; they follow general engineering standards,” Kuhn said.

Kuhn had a few notations to discuss for clarification that he termed were suggestions, but wanted to look closer at sloping on the west side of the roadway as the road travels to the south wondering what driveway access would look like on the proposed development prior to construction.

One centerline culvert is proposed as a metal culvert. Kuhn recommended a concrete culvert for long-term city installs. A metal culvert could be installed given the road is not being paved immediately, but Kuhn cited longevity as the main reason to go with concrete.

According to councilman Bruce Albright, the planning and zoning commission were going to incorporate any of Kuhn’s comments prior to issuing the permit.

Albright recommended a pre-construction meeting with all parties to solidify the plan to get the project underway.

Developer Keith Bunkowske stated he cannot do anything until the permit is approved and issued. He also stated he cannot order materials and the approval process has delayed his project six weeks to two months.

“It’s now going to be September before anything can happen and I know there won’t be any building this year,” he said.

Bunkowske agreed to an onsite meeting, reiterating he still does not have a confirmed start date and he is guessing because everything has been on hold.

“This has been a real nightmare; this was supposed to start the first of June,” he said. “We’ve been pushing it out and I know there are issues that we have corrected or worked with.”

Bunkowske also cited communication issues between the engineers, the city, and getting a response from both parties.

“I’m very frustrated with what this project has become,” he said. “This is the fourth project I’ve done. The last three, there were issues, but nothing like what we’ve had to do this time. My biggest thing is the communication. We’re just not on the same page.”

Kuhn assured the council he will contact Bunkowske to discuss finalizing the plan to sign off on the project and allow for the permit to be issued.

“As far as I’m concerned the plans do meet the requirements that I see from the city,” said Kuhn.

Kuhn stated his additions were suggestions, not mandatory or something that should hold up construction beginning.

Some of the miscommunication was likely caused by the recent change in city engineering firms and confusion on who has final approval between Kuhn and the council to get the permit issued.

Albright noted that the plan meets the city’s criteria, Bunkowske should be able to proceed after a pre-construction meeting is held. 

Later in the meeting, Albright also proposed the planning and zoning commission’s recently-created one-page form for developments in the city limits that would be given to developers prior to initial discussions with the city to avoid these types of issues in the future.

City attorney Thomas Winters advised a more complete document be created and the document will go back to planning and zoning for additions.

City audit for 2021 completed

The council was presented with the 2021 financial audit results presented by Colleen Hoffman of Hoffman, Philipp, & Martell, PLLC.

The city received an overall favorable review. Hoffman praised the city for managing to move $60,000 from the liquor store profits to the general fund. 

“For a little town like Vergas, that is amazing,” she said. 

Hoffman also praised the city’s employees, based on both the audit’s findings and her personal interactions.

“It’s worth it to keep good people, because they’re very hard to find,” said Hoffman. “All of your city people are great. Mike (DuFrane), Julie (Lammers), everybody that I work with is exemplary. It’s a wonderful, well-run town.”

Hoffman gave a brief summary, but encouraged councilmembers to read the entire document first and contact her with any questions or clarifications. Overall, Hoffman was very positive about the financial direction of the city.

“The city went about $250,000 ahead in 2021,” she said. “What it means is money comes in from different sources and you use it for improvements in the city and buy things and so that adds to the assets of the city and that moves up the city’s equity. That shows in here.”

Vergas has a net position of almost $4 million ($3.7 million). A positive net position indicates the taxpayers have generally funded the cost of services received to date.

The full audit is available as a downloadable packet at cityofvergas.com/meetings/city-council/

Comp plan bumped a month

Tuesday’s meeting was originally scheduled to be the day the council was set to vote on approval of the city’s comprehensive plan. According to mayor Julie Bruhn, after having the June public meeting for feedback on the plan, comments and action plans from that meeting are being taken into account and added to the plan. The comprehensive plan is now scheduled to be presented for final approval at the August meeting.

A few things noted at the public hearing to be added to the plan were:

• A vision statement

• The Community Profile section needs more supporting data and could be improved

• Action sections were left blank in some of the goals as it correlates with the strategies

• A Future Land Use Plan Map should be included and is essential

• More detail is needed for Transportation, Utilities, Parks, Community Services, Trails

Due to election primaries being held Tuesday, Aug. 9, the next city council meeting was moved up to Tuesday, Aug. 2, at 6:30 p.m.