It took only one meeting for the 2005 Brainerd City Council to stir up controversy.
At issue was a $15,000 lease payment owed by the city to Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad for the former city garage site at the corner of Laurel and Southwest Fourth streets. The city council Monday, in a 5-2 vote, approved the $15,000 payment to the railroad. Voting against the payment were council members Bob Olson and Mary Koep.
Olson, reading from a four-page memo he presented to the council, said the council never approved the $15,000 payment for the 2004 budget, only $2,200. In his memo, Olson said City Administrator Dan Vogt knew the $15,000 wasn't budgeted in 2004 but said it was at the council's Dec. 20 meeting in order to "deceive" the council.
"The city administrator was not honest, straightforward, upfront with council when he told the council this was budgeted," said Olson, who informed the council he would be contacting the state auditor's office for further investigation.
Koep said it was her understanding that the city council voted to terminate the lease with BNSF in June, and asked why the lease would be continued when the city has no use for the building.
As Olson was reading from his lengthy memo Council President Kelly Bevans cut him off, saying Olson's document would be entered as a matter of public record. Bevans also said that if any council member had an issue with the actions taken by an employee, there were procedures that should be taken outside of the city council chambers before council members address the issue.
When Olson asked that his memo be included in the minutes, he was informed that the council's minutes, per city policy, are not verbatim and thus his memo wouldn't be part of the minutes. Olson was assured by Vogt that his memo would be kept on file as part of the public record.
"Yes, this letter will be on file, the Olson-wants-to-get-rid-of-Dan-Vogt file," said Council Member Mark O'Day twice.
In other action, the council:
Named O'Day as the council vice president.
Adjourned to 5 p.m. Monday to appoint council members to city committees and to discuss an ordinance regarding Consolidated Telecommunications Company's application for a cable franchise agreement in Brainerd.
Set the city council retreat at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 25 at the Ramada Inn.
Made 12 committee and commission appointments based on recommendations from Mayor James Wallin.
Called for applicants for two terms on the Cable Advisory Board, one term on the Kitchigami Regional Library Board, two terms on the Parking Commission and one term on the Transportation Committee.
Created a committee with Olson and Koep as members to look into issues regarding Kitchigami's proposed joint powers agreement.
Approved hiring Elizabeth Harris as the city's crime prevention specialist at $20 per hour. Harris had been on a one-year contract with the city.
Designated the Brainerd Dispatch as official newspaper for 2005.
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