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Abandonment issues for Hancock City Council

Dealing with abandoned buildings and abandoned vehicles tends to be an ongoing problem for communities and was part of the discussion for the Hancock City Council on Monday night. After hearing a report from HEDA board member Bruce Malo about possibly replacing some buildings on main street, council went on to discuss another abandoned property, the former Blue Chip Feed elevator and storage shed.

The owner of this property has neglected to pay the taxes for several years and thus it has gone back to the county. The county has virtually washed its hands of it as the land on which the buildings sit is owned by the railroad. Therefore, if the county, or even the city, remove the buildings it will not benefit them as they could not claim the cleared property.

City Clerk Andrea Swenson told the council that she sent two letters to the railroad company asking them to clean up the property however, has not received a response. The second letter was sent certified so she knows they have received it. Council directed her to continue to send the letters and this time to include any charges incurred by spraying or mowing.

Police Chief Don Heikkinen told the council that he will be sending out letters in the near future about abandoned vehicles. He stated that he usually does this twice a year. He also asked council for permission to purchase a new computer which was approved.

ATV regulations

Heikkinen and City Attorney Neil Simonson brought up a possible ATV ordinance for the city. Simonson explained that there are State Statutes governing the use of ATVs in municipalities however, those communities can also put their own regulations in place. He added that the city could do one of three things.

1. go on with the policy as it is;

2. prohibit ATV use entirely;

3. set up some regulations.

After some discussion it was decided to leave the policy as it is which follows the state statutes. It was mentioned that there were some problems with a few individuals last year. However after Heikkinen talked to them the problems settled down. He stated that as of now it is not that big of an issue.

There was also some discussion about the use of golf carts in town however, no action was taken since there doesn't seem to be any problems.

Other business

* The city has agreed to purchase the Rainbow Rafter building as a city garage. The agreement is to lease it for the first year for $1,000, the second and third year for $1,500 and then purchase it for $35,000. The first year was less because the city paid for some wiring in the building. Public Works Director Vern Christie stated that all the equipment from the former city garage and the items behind it have been moved to the new location.

* Swenson asked council if she could extend Leah Zierke's position at the city office on a permanent basis. She would work 10 hours a week strictly on utility billing. Her title would be Utility Billing Clerk. Council approved this request.

* Fire Chief Allen Thiel presented one name for one of the two openings on the Fire Department. The city approved the new fire department member with a six month probationary period.

* The Franchise agreement with Otter Tail Power Co. will expire on May 2, 2010. Council decided to include in the new agreement wording that would allow them to add a fee that would be collected by Otter Tail and then returned to the city. Council will probably not utilize the fee unless there are LGA cuts in the future. It was noted that other communities in the area already have this type of fee in place.

* Christie told council that he had investigated some sewer problems reported by homeowners on Belle Avenue and it was found that the sewer line was nearly plugged with a grease build-up. He hired a jetting company to clean out the line. Assuming the problem may have come from Buddies, he talked to them about ways to break down the grease before it gets into the sewer line. The jetting cost from the manhole on Belle north to Buddies was $835.75 and council approved billing Buddies for this expense. The entire cost to jet the lines was $1000.

* Due to the wet weather, the contract for sidewalk work on 5th Street was extended by one week.

* In their final action of the evening the council approved refinancing of the 2003 Bond which will result in an $80,000 saving for the city.