Menahga City Council talks about finances, zoning
They held a work session on March 29.
The Menahga City Council expected a “deeper dive” into city finances.
In early March, the council approved Eide Bailly LLP as forensic accountants to review the city’s financial data and confirm that it is correct. Consulting service fees were not to exceed $5,000.
At their March 29 meeting, City Administrator Curt Kreklau reported that Eide Bailly reviewed December 2020 through January 2021.
“What’s that going to tell us?” asked council member Robyn Keranen. “It was my understanding they were going to go back ‘X’ amount of years.”
Council members Art Huebner and Durwin Tomperi agreed with Keranen.
Mayor Liz Olson commented that the determination is made by the forensic accountants.
“What they’re trying to do is get our accounts reconciled so that we even know where we’re at,” Olson said, noting the council hasn’t received “reconciliation of anything. All we’ve got is bank statements that show how much is in there, but we don’t know if there are checks outstanding.”
Kreklau said a reconciliation delivered by an objective, third party is important.
“That’s what the attorney wanted us to do,” Olson replied.
“I still think some day we have got to go back further,” Keranen said.
Olson said she emailed the city auditor, who said he hadn’t received any more financial information from Kreklau since February. She asked Kreklau if the auditor had given him deadlines in order to complete the audit on time.
“I have to stay on top of this,” Olson said “because I feel that’s why I was elected.”
“That’s fine. I will help you,” Kreklau said.
Zoning violation questions
Kreklau informed the council a cease-and-desist order was filed against Wild Walleye Eatery, effective March 26, “based on violations of the zoning code.”
Olson said that the planning commission is an advisory committee and any action is supposed to go to the council, according to the municipal code. She asked Kreklau to provide the record of the restaurant’s noncomforming uses to the council at its next meeting, as the city zoning code says. “Apparently, you are periodically inspecting building structures and uses of land to determine compliance with the terms of this,” she said.
Olson inquired if all the planning commission members have received training, given the complexity of zoning regulations. The League of Minnesota Cities also has resources, she noted.
All entities must be treated equally, Olson continued. “In this case, I’m wondering, ‘Was it necessary to go this route?’”
Kreklau said the only reason he brought the matter to the planning commission in December was to discuss whether it was a hard violation of the ordinance.
“The consensus was, and my decision was, if there was a misunderstanding of the zoning district and someone had invested significant money to try to take advantage of an entrepreneurial opportunity, I wanted to play out the steps slowly and in constant communication with this citizen,” he said. Kreklau said he, the fire marshal and police chief made an inspection, with safety their primary concern.
A letter was issued based on those findings, Kreklau said, and corrections were made and verified. The zoning violation remained, with the remedy being that the owner apply for a conditional use permit (CUP). Kreklau said he has not received the permit application yet.
“The ordinance requires me to do what I did and I shared the city attorney correspondence with all of you regarding the administration rights,” Kreklau said.
Olson said the council was never informed that a zoning violation remained and a cease-and-desist order would be issued. “That, to me, is pretty serious,” she said. “Have you ever served such a thing on anybody else in the city since you’ve been here?”
Kreklau said he never has. The council has the authority to issue a CUP, “so I’m not usurping the council’s authority.”
Council member Durwin Tomperi asked if the structure must be designated as a hotel.
Kreklau said hotels are allowed in a commercial district, and there is a need to house pipeline workers.
Olson said the council should be aware of what’s happening in the city. “I feel that’s our job.”
In other business, department heads expressed their preference for committee meetings rather than work sessions. Olson noted the council has only had three work sessions. She asked them to give it some more time to work.