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Village plans to return to plowing sidewalks
In Soldiers Grove
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The Village of Soldiers Grove will resume removing snow from residential sidewalks this season after halting the practice last year.

During the public works report at the village board meeting last Thursday, snow removal from private sidewalks by village workers was revisited.

Village President Laurel Hestetune began the discussion by asking the board if they’d like to return to plowing snow off all sidewalks or continue doing a more limited amount of plowing like last year.

Hestetune explained that given the rates of pay and benefits to village workers and other conditions, the village was not saving much by not plowing all of the snow, as had been done in years previous to last winter.

Village trustees Paul Nicholson and Jerry Moran favored returning to plowing all the snow off the sidewalks and in an area adjoining Our Savior’s Lutheran Church.

Hestetune noted that village workers drove past snow on private sidewalks to plow snow on village-owned sidewalks last year. This practice irritated some of the affected some residents.

Village trustee Shayne Chapman explained that it didn’t bother him to have the crews plow the snow they were driving by, but he didn't think the village should be plowing snow in “the flats” and other areas.

Nicholson insisted the justification for the change was based on the idea that the village would be saving money by not plowing private sidewalks and that really didn’t turn out to be case. 

Moran emphasized that the way the town is now laid out with Solar Town separated from the other areas requires plowing to keep it connected.

Moran made a motion to return to plowing snow the way it was plowed in the village prior to last year. Nicholson seconded the motion. On a roll call vote, village trustees Roy Davidson and Shayne Chapman voted no, while trustees Bob Froiseth, Jim Helgerson, Jerry Moran, Paul Nicholson and village president Laurel Hestetune voted yes.

While no one was on hand to present the Soldiers Grove Fire Department report at the village board meeting last Thursday, the board heard the department wanted to pay $12,328 to firefighters for calls and for the officers’ salaries. The department also planned to spend $3,500 for a Christmas party on Saturday, Dec 14 at the American Legion. However, the department checking and savings account has $11,159 in it, according to village clerk Tammy Kepler.

Village trustee Jim Helgerson said that he needed to know how many firefighters were currently on the roster. Trustee Shayne Chapman also said he wanted to be certain of that number.

Two firefighters have recently resigned and there are others on the roster, who are not active, Hestetune explained.

In money beyond the checking account, the department has $21,145 in CDs in the truck fund and more money in the Red Coats account, Kepler told the board.

It was pointed out that the department bought a truck this year and had bought another truck two years ago.

The board decided the public safety committee should meet with members of the department to discuss the situation.

“They need to understand the money isn’t there,” Chapman said of the department’s checking account.

At one point, Helgerson asked why the library had to stay within their budget, but it seemed the fire department did not.

Nicholson agreed the department did indeed have to stay within their budget.

The matter was tabled until the next board meeting after the public safety committee meets with the department.

The Soldiers Grove Community Development Corporation (CDC) report presented by Hestetune indicated a local microbrewery was still continuing efforts to purchase the old food store and operate their business at the location.

In other business, the Soldiers Grove Village Board:

• heard the village has lost the services of police officer Peggy McCormick, but agreed to pay her for eight hours served in July and another three hours in August.

• voted to increase their contribution toward the operation of the Gays Mills swimming pool from $500 to $750 for 2014

• agreed to contribute $1,000 to the SMRT bus

• approved a health insurance proposal for village employees at the premium rate of $2,544 per month instead of waiting for Dec. 1, when the premium for the upcoming year will be $2,700 per month

• approved a contract with CASA for taking care of animals in the village for $175

• approved the preliminary 2014 budget as adjusted

• scheduled the public hearing on the 2014 Preliminary Budget for the Village of Soldiers Grove for Thursday, Dec. 5 at 6:15 p.m. before the regularly scheduled board meeting.

After adjourning to closed session to discuss employee wages and personnel policy, the board reconvened in open session. Then, the board passed a one-dollar-per-hour raise for village clerk Tammy Kepler and a 1.5 percent raise for the other five village employees, both full-time and part-time.