NEW MAYOR RAEANNE DANIELOWSKI (CENTER) was flanked by seasoned members Dick Backlund (second from left) and Mike Wallen (second from right) as well as new council members Seth Hansen (far left) and Nick Christenson (far right). (Photo by Bill Morgan)
Wednesday’s first Big Lake council meeting of the year for newly-elected members consisted of forestry protection, city committee appointments and several substantial donations from very generous sources. New Big Lake Mayor Raeanne Danielowski conducted the meeting that had two seasoned affiliates in Dick Backlund and Mike Wallen and two rookies in Seth Hansen and Nick Christenson. Open Forum Wednesday’s meeting began with former council member Duane Langsdorf taking the podium to discuss an email he received anonymously dispatched by Backlund to Public Works Director Mike Goebel. Langsdorf said the subject line said “slap in the face” and the body of text consisted of Backlund trashing Langsdorf and his AutoStop business with the promise Backlund will do something about it. Backlund claims Langsdorf said the public works maintenance staff is not qualified to work on the city’s police cars despite the fact they work on the city’s snowplows, pickups, dump trucks, front-end loaders and mowers. Backlund went on to say in the email that he will be campaigning to take the vehicle services in-house and already has two votes in favor of doing so. He also stated he will meet with the newly-elected council members and is sure it’ll pass by a 4-1 vote. Langsdorf advised council these kinds of “behind the back” stabs need to stop. He also rebuked Backlund by saying, “you sit quietly in meetings, yet you go home and write scathing emails. That’s just not right.” Because the issue was brought up during open forum, no action by the council was taken. City Appointments Committee appointments were voted on and approved by four of the five council members, with Mike Wallen voting “naye” because he has an issue with the West Sherburne Tribune being named the official newspaper of the city. “My decision for this vote is based on the bias the paper displays, especially during the most current election period,” said Wallen. New council members Christenson and Hansen were given their assignments with Christenson appointed to the community education advisory board, the fee committee, public advisory board, public building planning representative, senior citizen representative, tax assessment review committee and a liquor store representative. Hansen was named to the fee committee, library committee, marketing committee, planning commission, public building planning representative, public safety/police department representative and liquor store representative. Forestry Update Sherburne Soil and Water Resource Conservationist Gina Hugo gave an information overview of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) and the steps the city can take to prepare for the bothersome pest. Hugo said Minnesota is the home to more than one million ash trees and the state has the most of any state in the union. She warned the public that the EAB is already in the state and it will attack and kill all species of ash trees if steps are not taken immediately. The goal of Hugo’s presentation and the program is to initiate focused efforts to actively assess, manage and plan for urban forest resources in Sherburne County. Hugo also mentioned she will be working with Mike Goebel to procure volunteers to aid in handling inventory procedures and re-forestation of all trees in the City of Big Lake. She plans to get the program going immediately so she will have results she can present to council by next fall. Spud Fest update Volunteer members of the committee for the Spud Fest annual event appealed to council to consider ways to keep the event and organization alive in the coming years. Spud Fest was established in 1972 and has been an event that has survived on generous donations and volunteerism. Treasurer Patti Borchert said the future of the event is in jeopardy because it continues to see fewer and fewer donations and volunteers every year. Borchert said she and the other members of the festival are looking to the city to see if they have any ideas on how to retain or acquire help. Council Member Wallen voted to put the topic on the agenda for the council’s next workshop. Other News •Robert Eddy of the Eddy Foundation presented two cash donations of $2,000 each to the Big Lake police and fire departments; •The Elk River Lions Club donated $6,500 to the fire department to be used towards rescue equipment; $5,000 to the police department to be used for the reserve program, equipment and technology upgrades and the new bike patrol project; $2,000 to the parks department to be used fort the purchase of picnic tables for the parks; •The Big Lake American Legion donated $1,000 to the fire department to go towards the implementation of their new rescue ATV; •A representative for the east central zone of Minnesota’s Towards Zero Deaths presented Police Chief Joel Scharf with a new traffic LIDAR (light detection and ranging) that measures speed and distance of oncoming vehicles in a more precise and accurate manner. The LIDAR is valued at $3,800. The next Big Lake City Council meeting is Jan. 23 at 5 p.m. The next workshop is Jan. 16 at 5 p.m.