Council deems City Forester unnecessary

NEW ULM – The New Ulm City Council whipped through a short agenda on Tuesday before holding its first Truth in Taxation budget hearing.

The council received, but took no action on a recommendation from the New Ulm Tree Advisory Commission. The commission had recommended that the city establish the position of a City Forester and employ a person to conduct a variety of tree activities.

The forester would be expected to conduct a shade tree inventory, develop and Emerald Ash Borer management program, including an ash tree removal and replanting plan, evaluate soils at various planting locations, promote species diversity and manage the city’s tree pruning and boulevard tree reimbursement program.

The proposal ran into opposition from councilors who didn’t know where the city would find the money for the position, given its cost-control efforts in the budget.

City Manager Brian Gramentz told the council that much of the work a city forester would do is already being done by various people in different departments. These staffers are sent to annual training where the issues of concern for the Tree Advisory Commission are covered. He said no funding had been included for the position in the 2014 budget.

Council Ruth Ann Webster moved to simply receive the recommendation, and after that action received approval there was no further discussion.

In other business, the council:

Voted to “not waive” the monetary limits on municipal tort liability insurance it has with the League of Minnesota Cities. The city is required by law each year to decide whether it would waive or not waive the limits. Waiving the limits would allow litigants to sue the city for higher monetary awards than the limits contained in the city’s coverage.

Approved a recommendation to amend the city ordinance setting the membership requirements for the Historic Preservation Commission. The HPC has asked the city to modify the ordinance to make the city councilor assigned to the HPC a full voting member instead of ex-officio. The amendment could also eliminate the need for a Planning Commission member to serve on the board. The Planning Commission has sometimes had trouble finding a member to serve on the HPC, which leads to problems getting a quorum for HPC meetings. The council instructed city staff to prepare the ordinance amendment.

Received a report on the condition of the Kiesling House and ordered it filed. The report will help in developing a plan to provide needed repairs for the Kiesling House, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Approved a tree service license for Anthony Strempke, doing business as Anthony’s Tree Service in Little Falls, for the period from Dec. 4, 2013 to June 30, 2014.

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