New Marquette mayor, council member appointed

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By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

The Marquette Council unanimously approved the appointment of Larry Breuer as mayor and Steve Eagle as a council member at its Feb. 16 meeting. 

Eagle attended the meeting and immediately took the oath of office. Breuer was not in attendance, but expressed his interest in the position in a letter, promising to display dignity and professionalism.

“I promise to be open minded and work to solve the problems that will help to promote the safety, wellbeing and fairness that we all would like to have,” he said. “I bring to the table with me a long list of life experience and expertise in zoning, building and management and plan to use my knowledge to make Marquette a better place for all who live, work, play and pay taxes.”

Breuer and Eagle replace David Schneider and Rinda Ferguson, who resigned as mayor and councilperson, respectively, at the end of January. The resignations came in the wake of the council’s decision at its January meeting not to enforce its zoning, in allowing David Evans to keep a mobile home on his property at the Timber Ridge subdivision while he finishes building a permanent home.

The council chose not to enforce its zoning in this case rather than appeal a court order that called on the city to award the proper and appropriate permits to Evans so that he would be allowed to complete the project and then remove the temporary structure in a timely manner.

At the January meeting, city attorney Jim Garrett stated that issuing a permit goes against city code and state law. He noted that the city would likely win the appeal since he felt the magistrate did not have the authority to make the city issue a permit.

Upon their resignations, Schneider and Ferguson cited concern over the precedent the decision would set for the community. They were also uneasy about the council going against the city ordinance, state law and Garrett’s advice to appeal.

Councilwomen Cindy Halvorson, Pam Brodie-Fitzgerald and Eleanor Soulli, who voted not to appeal, said they were just following the court order.

Halvorson stressed that again to those gathered at the Feb. 16 meeting.

“The city was simply ordered by the courts,” she said, “so we complied. By no means did that change the zoning ordinance.”

Halvorson said she would like the community to move forward from the issue, mentioning that the main concern now is to develop an evacuation route off the bench, in case of a train derailment.

“Seventy-five percent of the population is on the bench. Friends and family are up there,” she stressed. “If something happens, we can’t get to you. We need to put our time, energy and finances into a secondary road off the bench.”

Resident Tracy Melver spoke during the audience address period, expressing displeasure with the council members’ statements that it was court ordered to stop proceedings against Evans. He said he could not find that in the court order.

“The problem is, a mistake was made and not corrected,” he said.

He also questioned the council on the status of the building permit for the home Evans is constructing, stating that an extension is set to expire at the end of February, something city manager Dean Hilgerson confirmed.

“The extension is done at the end of the month. Then what are you going to do?” Melver asked. “Is the council going to allow him to build without a building permit?”

Halvorson, who presided over the meeting as mayor pro tem, cut Melver off, stating that she wanted to proceed with the meeting.

“It’s over and done,” she said.

“But it’s not over and done,” Melver replied. “Just ask the people at Timber Ridge.”

Resident John Winter also spoke up, wondering if the council was going to make Evans remove the mobile home by Nov. 1.

“Does he know how he’s hurting [developer] Robyn Denning and how he’s hurting the city?” he asked.

“I will personally go up there and talk to Dave,” Halvorson said.

Melver also charged Halvorson with trying to defuse the zoning situation by bringing up the bench evacuation route.

He and Ferguson, who was also in the audience, asked Hilgerson if the bench evacuation route had been discussed in the last two years, when they said Halvorson and councilman John Ries were first put on a committee to work on the project.

Hilgerson responded that the project was not addressed until this past year, when he brought it up, referencing city efforts to work out a route from the bench through the Ohmer property, to McGregor.

“We did talk about it,” Halvorson quipped.

Chamber

Halvorson also brought up that she would like the city to once again support the McGregor-Marquette Chamber of Commerce, which it ceased funding in 2013.

“We have over $70,000 for advertising from hotel/motel tax,” she said. “It’s time the businesses and the town of Marquette support the Chamber that’s bringing tourism to town.”

She suggested the city contribute $7,500, the annual amount the city last contributed before pulling funding.

Former mayor Norma Mason, who was in the audience, said she would prefer to see a proposal, as well as some results.

“We can support them, but don’t start out crazy,” she said.

Several months ago, Ries and former councilman Jason Winter were put on a committee to work with the Chamber, but Ries said they did not develop concrete plans or figure out how to best jointly fund the Chamber.

Ries said he agreed advertising dollars are better spent jointly, but he wanted to figure out what the city planned for advertising and how it could best work with the Chamber.

“We need to have a gameplan on how the money is being spent and where they need gaps filled,” he said.

Ries, as well as Brodie-Fitzgerald, said they would both meet with the Chamber and return to the March meeting with plans.

Budget

The council approved the city’s fiscal year 2016-2017 budget, which estimates an ending fund balance on June 30, 2017 of $2,985,119, with anticipated total expenditures of $2,925,085. Notable expenditures will include water treatment and capping of one of the city wells, as well as the bench evacuation route. The estimated total tax levy rate per $1,000 valuation on regular property is $6.24.

Water

Public works director Jason Sullivan updated the council on the city well near Timber Ridge, which requires corrective work after tests found water had higher amounts of radium. At the last meeting, Sullivan said he planned to work with the DNR to cap the well, as radium is coming through the deeper part of the well. This month, he said, before the city moves forward with that, the state geologist suggests performing a hydrologic packer test.

“It’s like a bladder that’s sent down, then you can test the water,” Sullivan explained.

Sullivan said he will move forward with that and also pursue quotes on radium treatment equipment.

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