The Medina City Council, Tuesday, May 18, reviewed Gov. Tim Walz’s relaxed COVID-19 restrictions and agreed that the time to resume in-person meetings is approaching. The specific date is up in the air. A council decision could come as soon as June 1.
At the meeting, the council also took up other business. Here are meeting highlights.
IN PERSON MEETINGS
The city council, planning commission and parks commission met in virtual settings for more than a year. Mayor Kathleen Martin summed up the reasons. The Medina city council chamber is small. If city staff and the city council would spread out in the chamber to meet social distancing requirements, no room would be available to seat members of the public.
Martin and City Administrator Scott Johnson agreed that moving meetings to the Hamel Community Building would require time-consuming movement of electronic equipment for presentations and recording meetings. Both preferred to hold meetings in the city council chamber. The Hamel Community Building could be used if a large crowd is expected at a meeting.
City staff consulted with City Attorney Ron Batty about timing for returning to in-person meetings. He said the city has three reasons for holding virtual meetings – a pandemic, a state declaration of emergency and a local declaration of emergency. Once these three reasons go away, in person meetings must resume. The governor has not discontinued the state of emergency, and June 14 might not be the last time the state of emergency is extended.
Batty said Walz has announced a timeline for sunsetting public health restrictions. This could happen on July 1 or when the state meets its vaccination goals. He recommended that Medina plan how it will end its local emergency and transition back to in-person meetings. Only the City Council can terminate the local emergency.
Mayor Martin asked city councilors for input on when to resume in person meetings. Joe Cavanaugh and Dino DesLauriers said the local emergency should end at the same time as the state emergency ends. All council members said they were looking forward to meeting with the public face to face.
The council came to a consensus. The city council should take action at its June 1 meeting for resuming no later than July 6 in-person meetings of the council and planning and parks commissions.
ANNUAL AUDIT OF CITY FINANCES
Turning the subject of city finances, the city council heard the audit report of Medina’s 2020 city finances from Steve McDonald and Justin Nilson, of Abdo, Eick @ Meyers, certified public accountants. McDonald said Abdo gave Medina an unmodified opinion.
The council and the two CPAs agreed that Abdo needed to clarify language in the management letter related to federal CARES Act grants to the city for pandemic expenses. Otherwise, city councilors said the audit report was acceptable. A resolution approving the audit report will be on the consent agenda for the June 1 city council meeting.
Medina Finance Director Erin Barnhart said city 2020 finances came in $491,000 over budget, and $139,000 of this was due to pandemic expenses. The rest of the overage was due to expenses for constructing a railway quiet zone. Medina has been reimbursed for both.
McDonald said he recommends that Medina have at least 50% of funds needed for the following year’s expenses on hand on Dec. 31 to pay bills until the city receives money from property taxes in the spring. At the end of 2020, the city had a 68.8% unassigned fund balance, a “positive trend in the right direction.”
Nilson said Medina’s 22% tax rate is favorable for cities under 10,000 in population. Medina’s 2019 expenditures per capita amounted to $693, compared with $791 for class 4 cities and $872 for cities in Hennepin County.
Nilson and McDonald’s 19-page audit presentation covered the General Fund, Water Fund, Sewer Fund, Storm Water Fund, Capital Projects Fund, Debt Service Funds, key performance indicators and more.
The city council also:
APPROVED the 75% design for the Hackamore Road improvement project.
AUTHORIZED wetland replacement costs related to the Chippewa Road extension project. Medina would purchase wetland replacement credits at a ratio of two to one. Wetland replacement costs are projected at $615,000.
APPROVED the application for Wetland Conservation Act Replacement Plan for the Chippewa Road extension project.
AWARDED the contract for installing lights at Paul Fortin Memorial Field to Killmer Electric, which submitted a bid of $72,950.