Thalman joins Alexandria City CouncilFormer Alexandria Township Supervisor Roger Thalman is Alexandria’s newest city council member.
By: Al Edenloff, Alexandria Echo Press
Former Alexandria Township Supervisor Roger Thalman is Alexandria’s newest city council member.
At its meeting Monday night, the council voted unanimously to appoint Thalman to the Ward 2 position, which was declared vacant earler this month when incumbent Sara Carlson began her duties as newly elected mayor.
Thalman was recommended by a committee that included Carlson, council member Dave Benson and City Administrator Jim Taddei. The committee interviewed seven "excellent" candidates for the post, Carlson noted, and it was a difficult decision to make. She encouraged all the candidates to apply for committee roles with the city.
Thalman has lived in the area for almost 35 years and was a resident of Alexandria Township until it was annexed into the city last year.
He has extensive management and business training with Sprint Telephone. At one point, he had 21 employees from 21 cities reporting to him.
As a township supervisor from 2000 to 2011, he dealt with road and water issues as well as the turmoil over annexation and fire protection. He eventually helped draft the orderly annexation agreement between the city and township.
He also helped establish the township’s own planning and zoning board.
“I have always been concerned with what happens in the city,” Thalman wrote in his candidate application. “I feel city leaders have a responsibility to keep Alexandria a vibrant community for residents and businesses and a welcoming place for visitors.”
Thalman has served as the city’s representative on the Alexandria Lakes Area Sanitation Board since 2011 and is currently the vice chair.
He is also actively involved in the community, serving as a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, the Kiwanis Club, and First Lutheran Church’s community garden and building committees.
In addition to appointing Thalman, council members approved a variety of reorganizational items, including a resolution to update city position classifications and salaries.
Here are the 2013 midpoint monthly pay ranges for city positions: parking monitor/secretary -- $2,206; park maintenance, recreation worker I -- $2,375; custodian, animal control officer, park maintenance worker II -- $2,650; retail clerk -- $2,902; assistant liquor store manager, retail executive secretary, fire department maintenance worker, Runestone Community Center (RCC) maintenance, street maintenance worker -- $3,200; account technician I and II, assistant city planner, administrative aide, building inspector, deputy city assessor, deputy city clerk and treasurer, park maintenance worker III, street maintenance worker II, street maintenance mechanic -- $3,480; street maintenance foreperson, personnel director, RCC assistant manager -- $3,871; parks director -- $4,299; building administrator, city assessor, finance director, fire marshal, planning and zoning administrator, RCC manager -- $4,782; assistant city administrator, liquor store manager, police captain -- $5,333; police chief, public works coordinator -- $5,969; and city administrator -- $6,657.
They designated the Echo Press as the city’s official newspaper, meaning that it will once again publish the city’s legal notices.
They also approved 20 financial institutions as the city’s depositories for 2013.
Changes to the council’s meeting schedule because of holidays were also approved. The council normally meets on the second and fourth Mondays of the month but three dates will fall on holidays this year – Memorial Day, Columbus Day and Veterans Day -- so they were changed to the following dates: May 28, October 15 and November 12. All meetings begin at 7 p.m.
The council designated Widseth Smith Nolting as the city engineer on an interim basis as it continues its search for a hiring a new engineer who will also oversee public works.
It also updated the city’s personnel policy manual; designated elected and appointed officials who will be covered under Minnesota’s workers compensation; authorized Mayor Carlson, City Administrator Jim Taddei and Finance Director Jane Blade to make financial transactions for stocks, bonds and other securities; and authorized Carlson, Taddei, Blade and Alexandria Light and Power Finance Manager Chris Olson to have access to the city’s safety deposit boxes, which contain certificates of deposit.
Council member Virgil Batesole voted against the financial transaction and safety deposit box motions. He said it was not right to give city staff the authority to sell millions of dollars. He said it violated the city charter. His motions to require staff to get council approval before making the transactions failed when no one seconded them.
Taddei said that the city staff has to act quickly sometimes in making investment transactions or the opportunity would be lost. He noted that all the transactions are ultimately approved by the council on a monthly basis.
In other action, the council:
--Approved an early retirement incentive plan for city employees. The goal, said Taddei, is to provide cost savings to the city by replacing long-time employees who are considering early retirement with those who will receive less pay. Employees with at least 10 years of consecutive service can apply to receive $1,028 a month for up to 60 months or until they are 65 or eligible for Medicare, whichever is sooner, to finance health care for themselves and their dependents. The city will determine each applicaton on a case-by-case basis. The application deadline was set for May 31, 2013. The council was split on the plan with Owen Miller and Dave Benson voting for it and Batesole and new council member Todd Jensen opposing it. Under the city's charter, the only time the mayor can vote is to break a tie. Carlson voted for it. She said in her nine years on the council she couldn't recall a tie vote before yet now it occurred in her first meeting as mayor. Jensen wasn't convinced the city would save money with the plan. He was concerned about the impact on the quality of city services if several long-time employees opted for it and said that the incentives also amounted to a death benefit because they would be transferred on to the employee's spouse if the employee died within the plan's time frame. Batesole said he couldn't see any cost advantage to taxpayers. Miller said that the private industries and public entities offer similar incentive plans and they've resulted in cost savings while benefitting employees.
--Authorized city staff to study a proposal from the Federal Aviation Administration that would cover 90 percent of the cost of building a new $750,000 hanger at the Alexandria Airport. Todd Roth, airport manager, said 12 people are on a waiting list for a new hanger. The airport commission, he said, is leaning toward building a large corporate hanger instead of a T hanger. This would allow big companies such as 3M and Hormel to park their large aircraft inside rather than having to fly back the next day. Roth said the city's 10 percent share in the project, $75,000, could be paid back within 10 years from the new hanger's rent.
--Authorized City Attorney Tom Jacobson to begin eminent domain procedures, if necessary, to acquire permanent easements from property owners on Bay Lane, Tolena Road and Van Avenue as part of the Phase 4 waterline project. The city needs easements on 24 parcels owned by 19 people. So far, nine owners have signed easements and city staff is hopeful that all the owners will sign.
--Approved a Public, Educational and Governmental (PEG) operator agreement that provides public access programming services on Charter Communications cable channel 7. The city agreed to pay Kevin Howie, a former employee of School District 206, up to $12,000 to do the work. The agreement is contingent upon approval from the city's cable TV commission. Howe has been providing programming services since mid-2010 at a cost of $10,000 a year. The equipment is located at Discovery Middle School.
--Started appointing members to various city commissions and committees. (A full list will be printed after all appointments are made, which is expected to be completed by February 11.)
--Offered congratulations to City Assessor Reed Heidelberger for being selecgted as the treasurer for the Minnesota Assessors Association.
--Discussed offering a reduced sanitary service assessment for three property owners on Kenwood Drive who would finally be connected into the system if a proposed project is approved. Right now, the cost is estimated at $30,000 per owner, which is very high, according to Taddei. The reduced assessment will be discussed at a public hearing on January 28.
--Authorized Taddei to solicit quotes for a project that would replace broken tile in the City Hall hallway leading to the lunchroom and garage.
--Approved a charitable gambling premise permit to allow pull-tab sales at the Tennessee Roadhouse, which will benefit the Alexandria Youth Hockey Association.
--Scheduled a joint meeting with Alexandria Light and Power for Monday, February 4.