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Mayor asks: What future for Winton?

Finances, imminent loss of local leadership creating concerns for city of 171 residents

Keith Vandervort
Posted 11/17/17

WINTON – Mayor Kathy Brandau admitted to the Community Economic Development Joint Powers Board last week that soon there may no one left to run the city government.

Kathy Brandau said the city …

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Mayor asks: What future for Winton?

Finances, imminent loss of local leadership creating concerns for city of 171 residents

Posted

WINTON – Mayor Kathy Brandau admitted to the Community Economic Development Joint Powers Board last week that soon there may no one left to run the city government.

Kathy Brandau said the city “doesn’t have any money” left since investigating an expensive, months-long loss of city water. She said a water leak was just recently located, on the property of the former Donahue’s bait shop.

“His grandson has the place now and there was a water line break between the trailer and the house,” she said. “We noticed it after it froze and the water started coming up,” she said.

The water plant operations director Terry Jackson noticed it the other day, according to Brandau and the city is giving the property owner the opportunity to get it fixed. “He is supposed to fix it next week,” she said. “We lost half again as much water we use normally (in an entire year),” she said.

Later in the meeting, she speculated that Jackson could retire when his contract is up at the end of 2017. “We’re working on getting a worker for the wastewater treatment plant right now,” Brandau said. “We are waiting on a letter from Terry. He’s getting there. He doesn’t want to do this any more.”

Brandau also noted that Winton City Clerk Anne Jackson’s term is up next year. “That will be huge,” she said.

She looked over at the Town of Morse representatives attending the meeting, as if to question whether the township would take over the operations of the city of Winton.

“No, no,” said Supervisor Bob Berrini. “We checked on that. We don’t have to. You would go with St. Louis County,” he said, which would require that the city transfer to an unorganized form of government.

“You have to have people to run the city,” Brandau said. “(City Council member) Lee Tessier will be done. He doesn’t want to do it anymore.”

Ely Mayor Chuck Novak noted that the clerk’s position is very important for every city. “If you don’t have a decent clerk, you’re screwed. There is a lot of paper work. You have the same amount of paper work whether you’re a big city or a small one.”

Brandau also speculated on combining the clerk and treasurer duties into a hired position, similar to what is done in Ely. “There is a process, but we can do that,” she said. “We would have to do that before the elected position comes up for re-election. I don’t know what is going to happen. Just losing Terry (Jackson) is huge.”

Legislative forum

The Joint Powers Board will hold their annual legislative forum on Monday, Dec. 4 at the Grand Ely Lodge. A lunch buffet will begin at 11:30 a.m. and the forum will begin at noon. The public is invited

State legislators were invited and commitments have been received from U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, State Sen. Tom Bakk, State Rep. Rob Ecklund, St. Louis County Commissioner Tom Rukavina, and Range Association of Municipalities and Schools Executive Director Steve Georgi. Sen. Al Franken’s office has not responded, according to Joint Powers Secretary Tom Coombe.

The Joint Powers Board discussed sending invitations to other governmental, educational and industry leaders.

Berrini suggested contacting representatives from the PolyMet and Twin Metals copper nickel mining projects. A suggestion to invite Gov. Mark Dayton was met with chuckles and skepticism.

“We don’t want Rebecca Otto here,” Berrini said. No candidates will be invited, according to Coombe. Berrini added, “All politicians are welcome to come.”

Joint Powers Board members discussed the agenda for the forum. Bonding bills for the city of Ely’s various projects, including 17th Street improvements, a second business park and the recreational trailhead project, have to be included, Novak said.

“I think we need to talk about what kind of legislation they intend on submitting for sulfate rules and wild rice standards,” he said.

The school trust land exchange issue is on Fall Lake Township Supervisor Mary Tome’s list. “We also need to talk to them about (Gov.) Dayton pulling the (mineral) leases.”

“I’m going to invite (Dayton),” Novak said.

“Not Dayton, Tome shot back “I don’t care if I ever talk to him again. Our guys could have pushed a little harder.”

Brandau wondered if past Joint Powers legislative forums ever accomplished anything.

Ely City Council member Albert Forsman responded, “They help to build trust.”

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