Tuesday evening,the Merrill Common Council unanimously approved a Committee of the Whole recommendation to appoint Rick Bjorklund as manager of the new Merrill Festival Grounds.
During the committee’s meeting prior to the council convening, 3rd District alderman Ryan Schwartzman questioned the oversight authority for the position.
City administrator Dave Johnson indicated he would oversee Bjorklund’s activities until the creation of an official Festival Grounds Committee.
Schwartzman requested a provision for Bjorklund to report to the city’s Personnel and Finance Committee instead, along with submitting monthly reports as is standard procedure with other similar positions.
Mayor Bill Bialecki indicated unlike other similar positions, Bjorklund is not a city employee but rather a service contractor.
“We have done the same with other service contractors such as engineering, so I see no issue with this,” Bialecki added.
Another provision which was included with the committee’s unanimous approval, was that of the manager position having no spending or promotional authority. Any such decisions must first be brought to the Personnel and Finance Committee.
According to Johnson, Bjorklund’s position will be effective immediately and is part-time status, with no benefits and a salary of $1,000 per month. At this point, Bjorklund’s duties will be strictly oversight and maintenance of grounds infrastructure and events.
The council also unanimously approved a proposed 3% water rate increase.
According to meeting documents, Finance Director Kathy Unertl indicated the increase request to the Public Service Commission (PSC) is an effort to assist in offsetting costs of infrastructure improvements over the past decade; including improvements to the city’s water treatment facility in 2011-12 and expanded water main replacements.
In her advisory, Unertl also indicated a need for replacement of a city well or a new water tower within the next 3-5 years, as projected by city engineer Rod Akey and water utility manager Kim Kriewald.
Unertl further expressed the city’s Water and Sewage Disposal Committee interest in smaller, annual increases compared to major water rate increases.
The increase will be effective July 1 and will amount to a quarterly increase of $2.18 for average sized residential customers; $2.90 for large-sized residential customers and $14.34 for commercial customers.
In other matters on Tuesday, the council unanimously approved a $28,000 Economic Development loan to Kindhearted Home Care LLC for the purchase of equipment. The loan will have a 10-year term and a 2% interest rate.
The city will have a first lien on the equipment purchased and a Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) would be filed to perfect that lien.
Council also awarded bids to Merrill Gravel and Construction for the Prairie River Water Main Crossing Project ($196,023.60) and a pavement project on Eugene Street ($83,473.65).
The company came in as the lowest bidder of four competitors on both projects.