by Adam Gruenewald
In the true spirit of community activism, Cologne City Council members heard a variety of queries from visitors during their regular meeting on Monday, Aug. 7.
Among the issues discussed were an unusual hunting request, the recent purchase of a property, concerns regarding fire hydrant access and parking and information on the upcoming Firehouse Drive-In.
Most unexpected was a request by Chuck Buckentin of NYA, who sought permission to bowhunt within the city limits, specifically near a fenced-in area by the city treatment ponds.
“I noticed all these deer tracks down there and I was just curious to see if it is possible to bowhunt down there,”said Buckentin, who works for Wickenhauser Excavating. “I’m here to ask permission from the council.”
While Mayor Matt Lein and others certainly expressed some hesitation, as it would conflict with current city code that does not allow hunting within the city limits, council members, including Kyle Evenski, agreed to have City Administrator Jesse Dickson look into the issue.
“I think it would be awesome,” said Evenski, citing the example of Frandau State Park in New Ulm that will issue 56 permits through a lottery system this year. “Frandau State Park is half the size of Cologne, but I definitely have thought about it.”
Mayor Lein cited the small amount of space compared to Frandau State Park, but Evenski supported having just one or two people a year bowhunt for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“This is just a few small acres,” said Lein.
Council members and Lein agreed to have Dickson take some initial steps into contacting the DNR and determine exactly the area of land that might be used for a potential bowhunt.
“I think our first step is contacting the DNR and seeing what actions we would have to do from a city standpoint to allow an individual such as Chuck to go in and have the opportunity,” said Evenski. “I think reaching out and asking that question wouldn’t be hard to do… by no means am I going to say yes to shotgun, bowhunting only.”
Cologne resident Ron Hilgers also shared his concerns regarding parking on Naples Avenue, seeking additional enforcement or potential signage.
“People are parking in front of the fire hydrant,” said Hilgers of the ongoing problem. “I’m advocating for flags and parking signs.”
Mayor Matt Lein, City Administrator Jesse Dickson as well as Carver County Sheriff’s deputies present at the meeting said they would look into different options while working with the homeowners association that owns the private property.
“We have to make sure it’s properly signed,” said new night deputy Matthew Flucas of the Carver County Sheriff’s Office, reminding that it is unlawful to park within 10 feet of a fire hydrant. “Whether it’s private or public they can receives fines or notices.”
In other news, Cologne council members also heard from Cologne Fire Department member John Hendel on the upcoming Firehouse Drive-In and an update from Chief Chuck Joos on the pension fund.
Council members agreed to pay $1,684 towards portable restrooms and movie showing fees for the Drive-In event on Aug. 18 and 19 that benefits the Cologne Fire Department.
“It’s cool we are drawing people other than Cologne to our community,” said Hendel. “This lets people know the city is big part of what we’re doing… it continues to be a great event for our community.”
Chief Joos also reminded council members of the ongoing payments to support the pension fund.
Back in October 2016, council members had voted in favor of a defined benefit plan for the Cologne Fire Department at $1,500 per year of service. As reported at the time, for the last 40 years Cologne Fire has had a “split the pie” pension and requested a defined contribution based on the number of years of service.
Joos explained that the audit revealed a $262,660 deficit, slightly higher than the expected $262,600 expected deficit, that will need to be paid off in the next 10 years.
“(About $23,230) is thee minimum that would have to be put in by the city,” said Joos in terms of this year’s budget, anticipating $21,275 next year. “There’s no penalty in paying it off early.”
Cologne council members also OK’d an employee recognition policy that was reviewed by the city attorneys and included 5-year recognition plaques to city employees, heard from new Carver County Sheriff’s Office night deputy Matthew Flucas, approved a gambling permit and temporary liquor license for St. Bernard Church on Oct. 7, approved the 10th pay request of $446,817.70 to Di Mar Construction for the water treatment facility and heard from Cary and Bryan Pawela who are purchasing the Klein property that the city had initially looked into acquiring.
The Cologne City Council will next meet at 5:30 p.m. for a budget meeting and at 7 p.m. for a regular council meeting on Monday, Aug. 21. Looking ahead to the second September meeting, council members are planning a tour of the water treatment plant, which remains on schedule with construction completed in late fall or winter.
“We should be seeing water running through it in February,” said Dickson, anticipating brick on the green water proofing should improve the appearance of the building “soon.” “We’re still good on time.”
Follow Adam Gruenewald on Twitter @adamgruenewald.