As I said the last time I “covered” the City Council meeting for Locally Grown, I am NOT a Reporter. However, I had to be there last night so I might as well bring some disturbing, discouraging news to the citizens of Northfield.
The disturbing news is the way the Council is handling the “Leftover 8” items from the list of potential issues for investigation by the State Auditor. As you may recall, the Council considered 12 items for investigation. They selected 6 to send on to the State Auditor. The rumors on the street are that the 6 selected by the Council Members are all related to the Mayor’s involvement in the Liquor Store Site Selection Process and that the Leftover 8 are all related to ethically, and perhaps legally, questionable behavior by the Council Members and the City Administrator.
Although the Northfield News, Locally Grown and, last night, Victor Summa have called for the Leftover 8 to be discussed and considered publicly, the Council has stated that they will resolve them out of the view of the public. Last night Former Council Member Dixon Bond urged the Council to address these issues in public, saying if they are not, the Council’s “actions would be suspect”.
The State Auditor Office, which declined to investigate the Select 6 items, recommended that a private investigator be hired to look into these 6 items and determine whether or not any of the Leftover 8 should be considered. It appeared to me that several Council Members vehemently worked to block public investigation of these other issues. Using expressions like “control” and “limit the investigation”, they argued that they could handle the Leftover 8 by themselves.
Personally, I found it to be quite disturbing.
The discouraging news is the way the Council ignored the request that a Building Board of Appeals be created in Northfield. Staff and Board from the Northfield Downtown Development Corporation (NDDC) were joined by several downtown building and business owners to request that as part of the Adoption of the 2007 Minnesota State Building Code, a Board of Appeals, made up of local professionals, be created.
The new Code will result in increased requirements and costs, particularly in the areas of ADA Compliance, Fire Suppression, and Plumbing. In fact, two of the building and business owners present said that they believe that there will be no new or expanded restaurants in downtown under the new code requirements.
For these reasons, the NDDC was asking the Council to provide leadership to the City Staff encouraging clear the building officials provide as flexible in their interpretations and consider whatever alternative systems or materials whenever possible as allowed by law. The NDDC folks suggested that the best way to assure this flexibility and consideration is to create a Board of Appeals, made up of local professionals, to provide the opportunity for Northfield business and building owners to have decisions reviewed. These decisions would be reviewed for the interpretation of the language of the Code and the effectiveness of alternative methods or materials in meeting the requirements of the Code. Such an opportunity for review would seem to be part of business-friendliness.
The Council voted, 4 to 3, to adopt the 2007 Minnesota State Building Code. There was no mention of the creation of a Board of Appeals.
Personally, I found it to be quite discouraging.
I urge every interested citizen of Northfield to go down to the Historic Carnegie Library and check out the video of last night’s Council Meeting. See if your view of the proceedings on these two topics differs from mine.