After numerous meetings and lengthy discussion that was often heated, the Crosslake City Council decided on a split vote Monday, June 11, to advertise for the third planning and zoning position vacated by Lane Braaten.
Whether to advertise for the position has been the subject of two special council meetings and two regular meetings since Braaten's last day, April 13.
The vote passed 3-2, with Mayor Darrell Schneider and council member John Moengen against. A motion to approve the position's job description also passed 3-2 with Schneider and Moengen opposed.
Schneider and Moengen have expressed concern over the amount of man hours required for planning and zoning, and concern over saving the city money. Citizens spoke at both special and regular meetings, asking the council not to hire a third employee to save taxpayer money.
Other citizens spoke in favor of the position. Advertising the position was recommended by both the city's personnel and planning and zoning committees.
Monday night, the council revisited a request from citizens to seek advice from the county on planning and land use.
More than once during open forum, citizens cited an award Crow Wing County recently won for its consolidation of five departments into one and its major revision of ordinances as a reason to seek county advice.
Council member Dean Swanson said the county and city land use ordinances were not comparable.
"Their rules are entirely different than the city rules. They're working with unincorporated property. We're in a city," Swanson said.
"I still think it's a very, very good option to look at," he said.
Roe questioned whether money was the only reason not to hire the third employee.
"Are there personnel issues?" he asked. Roe said that by his calculations of duties and the amount of time they take, he could justify three and a half employees for planning and zoning.
In response, Schneider said he felt the public needed to know why the city has three planning and zoning employees. He also said he feels the city has good employees.
Council member Rusty Taubert made the two-part motion to advertise the position. Part one was that the council "forget about the county," and part two was to advertise the vacant position.
"We have gone over six weeks without replacing an employee in planning and zoning and we're getting even further behind," Taubert said.
Swanson seconded the motion.
Moengen said he believed planning and zoning operations can be done more efficiently.
"I called a bunch of like cities and I got some information," Moengen said. He then read a list of cities and named their sizes and the number of city employees those cities have.
Most of the cities had two to three employees, counting city administrators.
After the vote was passed, Roe made a motion to set a work session to talk over issues with city staff.
"I really think there are some policies that we ought to be following regarding citizen service, enforcement issues, P.R., etcetera. If we don't sit down and talk about this ... all will be for naught," Roe said.
The meeting was set for 5 p.m. Monday, July 9, before the regular council meeting at 7 p.m.
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