Renewed administrator search underway in Cologne

One meeting after deciding to start a fresh search to fill the open city administrator position, the Cologne City Council received an update on the process during its meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 19.

Personnel committee members Jill Skaaland and Mayor Matt Lein informed the rest of the council that the city had received another 17 applications for the position, and that number had already been narrowed down to six or seven candidates.

Skaaland said that of those 17 applications, 15 were new and two were resubmitted from the first round. After Skaaland and Lein cut the remaining candidates to two or three finalists, the rest of the council will get involved with the interview and hiring process.

Council members had originally hoped to have a new administrator in place by the turn of the year after former administrator John Douville was fired last fall, but a protracted negotiating process with the finalist for the position eventually caused the council to reconsider its choice and rescind the job offer on Feb. 4.

While council members acknowledged that there is a sense of urgency to fill the position, they have agreed that taking extra time to make the right choice is the top priority.

In related business, the council discussed an invoice from Springsted, the consulting firm that has assisted the city so far in the administrator search process. While some charges were expected, the council was surprised by other charges such as mileage, $65 to contact unsuccessful applicants and $600 to sit in during the interview process.

Council members expressed frustration that they had not been notified that some of the services would entail extra charges, thinking that a $4,000 amount that had been agreed upon was covering Springsted’s services.

After discussion the council agreed to pay the amount that had arranged beforehand, but hold off payment on the other items for the time being.

In other business, the council:
• Learned that a construction company would like to purchase a section of city land where the old city shed is located. The company would use the land for storage and would construct a building on the site.

Some discussion ensued about vacation of the alley, what to do with the shed on site and what the possibility might be to relocate a sewer line under the property.

Lein said the city would need to check with engineers about the sewer line, and consult with the city planner as well as determine what the land is worth.

• Agreed to let the Cologne LEO Club meet at Lewis Hall without a rental charge at the group’s request, since the LEOs do work for the city such as weeding. Councilors made clear, however, that if an outside group pays to rent the hall, it would receive priority over the LEOs if the times overlapped.

• Continued to discuss the trees on the Benton Lake peninsula where the fishing pier will be located. Council members agreed that the city does not have enough staff to remove the trees at present, and said that a $500 grant from the Department of Natural Resources to replant trees in the area might not be enough to plant the desired amount of native trees.

In addition, the trees may have to be removed by a contractor during the grading process to make the pier ADA accessible, so the city will hold off on removing the trees on its own at present.

Contact Paul Downer at [email protected]