During Tuesday night’s meeting, the Clarkfield City Council voted to approve a garbage exemption form. The decision comes several weeks after the Council voted to contract residential and commercial garbage removal directly with Olson Sanitation, rather than individual residents. City Administrator Amanda Luepke researched how other cities implemented exception policies, and reported to the council that there wasn’t a clear standard.

Beginning in April, residents will pay their garbage bill directly on their city utility bills, rather than making separate payments to Olson. The city is using existing customer information to update their own system. They are documenting accounts that need a trash can dropped off to their property.

The move prompted some cries of protest from residents in attendance, with one man saying that the decision presented a “conflict of interest” because of Mayor Dale Stringer III’s employment with Olson Sanitation. “I have a serious problem with what you’re doing,” the same man added.

Luepke clarified that Stringer III had already consulted with the city attorney, who told them that because Stringer III doesn’t stand to profit from the contract (since he does not own, or have a stake in, the company), it was not necessary for the mayor to recuse himself from the vote. “I think it’s a perception issue, not a conflict of interest,” said Luepke.

Another resident in attendance at the meeting asked the Council what they were doing to crack down on residents who hoarded garbage on their property. Luepke pushed back, arguing that the new garbage removal policy would help relieve this problem. “We wanted to clean up the town,” she said. “We felt we could do this by requiring people to have garbage removal.”

Council member Jerry Kaupang also defended the policy, explaining that it was a measured solution to a serious problem. “There’s a difference between taking care of your city and living in a communistic state,” he quipped.

In other news:

Shari McNamara updated the Council about recent financial numbers from the Clarkfield Care Center. She reported a net loss of $36,000 in December, but added that the facility was still above its year-to-date financial target. Occupancy was reported at 69.6%, bringing the annual occupancy average to 78.4% (also above their budgeted projections).

McNamara asked the Council for permission to engage in group purchasing of facility supplies. Council members expressed concern over potential liability for the city, and noted that group purchasing was not in the previous contract. McNamara said the Care Center already engages in group purchasing, which seemed to concern the Council. The Council promised to look into the matter during their next meeting.

The Council approved a request from McNamara to establish a line of credit totaling $100,000 to help cushion any future financial problems for the Care Center. Access to the money is contingent on the Care Center making monthly payments of $7,300 into the escrow account (something they are already doing), and will require a fourth-fifths vote by the Council. The motion passed unanimously.

The Council debated whether or not to sell their 1982 International Plow Truck. An advertisement for the truck was previously issued by the Council with a minimum offering price of $3,000. Although the city received an offer above the minimum price, Mayor Stringer III expressed concern about the deal, saying, “I feel we should advertise wider. We can get more [for the truck].” Luepke said that this would be legally dubious given the offer is above their minimum asking price.

Stringer III also question the wisdom of selling the truck. Public Works Director Dustin Kramer interjected, saying the city doesn’t need the old truck. Luepke agreed, adding that the city has been discussing the sale since last summer. The Council ultimately approved the sale, with both Mayor Stringer III and Council member Dale Stringer Jr voting against the motion.