Several Mabel residents brought issues forward to discuss with the Mabel City Council during last Wednesday night's meeting. Those issues included blacktopping an alley, the need for additional ambulance members and repair of the Mabel softball field.

Alley discussion

First, Carl Westby and Jeff Rein were present to request the city blacktop the alley at Cherrywood Drive.

City Clerk Karen Larson explained the process that needed to be taken to make this request possible. First, the residents owning the easement need to make a formal request. If the council considers the request, an engineer is hired to evaluate the project.

The council agreed to hire Davey Engineering to evaluate the project and once the engineer returns to the council with results, the council and homeowners will revisit the project.

Jeff Rein asked the council to put up a "Watch for Children" sign or "Slow" sign on Cherrywood Drive to caution drivers to reduce their speed. The council agreed to put up a sign.

Ambulance issues

Liz Folstad was present at the meeting to inform council that although ads have been run recruiting ambulance members, they are having a difficult time fulfilling a schedule - specifically daytime coverage.

Folstad explained that the worst case scenario is the city could lose its ambulance license and those crew members (EMT and first responders) would remain on as first responders and then another service would have to come in and transport.

"We don't want to go that route," said Folstad. "We have eight crew members currently and two are able to work the day shift hours and the rest of us work out of town. We have one on medical right now and out for the month of May."

She also explained that the Mabel service has been utilizing two of the Spring Grove members and now one of them has a full-time job and won't be able to cover. She added, the other is going back on the road this summer.

Folstad thought it would be beneficial, at this point, for the council to allow Holly Hammann, Southeast Minnesota Emergency Medical Services Board, to come to the June council meeting and discuss the options that are available to the City of Mabel.

Repair of softball field

Kati Tweeten and Bobbie Vickerman stepped forward to ask the council for permission to apply for a grant through the Twins Field for Kids program to restore the softball field at the Steam Engine Grounds.

The Twins Community Fund's Twins Fields for Kids program provides financial support to improve baseball and/or softball facilities for youth in the Upper Midwest. The program makes matching grants to non-profit organizations and local government units that operate baseball and/or softball programs.

Matching grants up to $10,000 are available for the renovation or construction of baseball and/or softball fields used primarily by youth. Eligible renovation projects include the upgrading of essential field components, such as new sod, infield, fencing and dugouts.

Tweeten and Vickerman explained that the grant paperwork is to be in by May 24 and the city of Mabel will know by June if and how much has been awarded.

The grant money must be used within a year.

"This is a great way to get some money," expressed Vickerman "It's worth a shot applying for it."

Tweeten shared that Paul Tollefsrud and his shop class have agreed to help build the benches and dugouts with no labor costs if the grant would purchase the supplies. Tweeten reminded the council that the field is used as the high school softball field as well.

The Mabel Legion has agreed to take part as a fiscal sponsor. Tweeten and Vickerman informed the council they will be asking other civic organizations in the community to contribute financially.

The council made a motion to have Tweeten apply for the maximum amount allowed on behalf of the city of Mabel and agreed to support the efforts of the project.

Auto debit

Larson updated council on auto debit options that the city has discussed implementing regarding utility billing.

"If we purchase the Banyon data, we still have to upgrade. We still have to update to this because even though we buy the Banyon software, we would have to get the file to the bank," Larson said. "The other route would be to use Bank of the West. We would upload our files on their website and we can keep all our customers on there, no matter where they bank. We put in their account number and routing number and Nathan Manning, the deputy clerk, would put in their bill amount each month."

She added that fees for the city for automated services are $50 a month for the first 25 users and $0.15 a month for each additional user.

Larson went on to explain "Either route, there are going to have to be upgrades and monthly fees if there is going to be an auto debit program."

The council agreed to rescind their agreement with Banyon and move forward with the auto debit program with Bank of the West.

In a related matter, Larson informed the council that the city offices do not have a credit card for purchasing needed supplies. Larson suggested obtaining a credit card from Bank of the West. The council made a motion to allow her to apply for a city credit card through Bank of the West.

Reconnect fees

Larson had done a study with surrounding towns to see what they were charging for their reconnect and disconnect fees.

"You can kind of see...we are low," she said as she outlined the fees from the other communities. Currently, the city charges a $15 fee.

Council agreed to raise the reconnect fee to $35 as of July 1, 2013. A notice of the raised reconnect fee will go into the next billing.

Electrical rate increase

Larson reported she had received a letter from Tri-County informing the city of a two percent increase. "We have to pass down what Tri-County is passing down on us," stated council member Kirsten Wyffels.

Mireau added that the rates are based on last year's usage.

The council made a motion to hold a public hearing next month about the increase. A notification on the increase will be sent in the next billing.

Public works report

Bob Mireau, Mabel's public works director, shared that a total of nine tree orders were ordered through the shade tree program.

He also reported that the heating system supplies are in for the fire station but installation has not yet been completed. The Emergency Medical Services shingling project has been given to Buxengard Builders.

Mireau provided the council with a Rural Development update as well. He explained there is a hold up in the process; the easement map is in the general council. "We are unable to move forward until that step is completed," he explained "It is concerning."

Mireau also explained the power outage protocol. When a Mabel resident calls in a power outage, Tri-County will send an email to the city of Mabel. Mabel residents do not have a Tri-County account. The city of Mabel holds the account. That, Mireau stated, causes some delay as who knows when city employees will get it, depending on the time of the outage. Mireau and Larson suggested a text would work better.

"It will come to us and we will check it out," said Mireau, "We want to make it simple. We want to accommodate everyone and get the outage fixed timely."

Mireau and Larson are working with Tri-County to set up a protocol that works for its everyone involved.

Finally

The council agreed to purchase the Minnesota flag and two stands to be placed in the council room at city hall. The Mabel Legion has agreed to donate a United States flag.