On Dec. 18, the Spring Grove City Council approved two labor contracts. The first was with the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees Local #1944.

The second was with the same organization, but covers only one position that of police chief. Both agreements cover the two-year time period of Jan. 1, 2013, to Dec. 31, 2014.

Employees within the (seniority) steps will receive pay increases on Jan. 1, 2013, and Jan. 1, 2014. Those equal 2 percent of wages. In addition, the pay grid was upped 1 percent prior to adding the steps, resulting in a 3 percent raise in 2013 and a 2 percent raise in 2014.

Also approved were comparable step increases for non-union employees in 2013. A future council will decide if non-union employees receive the 2014 pay hike.

In addition, a series of policy updates were approved which cover non-union employees. Those are intended to match the labor contracts and are essentially exact copies of that document.

WHKS reports on Main Street

Tim Hruska of WHKS reported that he'd had multiple conference calls with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) since the last council meeting and several new developments have occurred.

MnDOT will send the final agreement for the project back to the city council for signing sometime in the latter part of January or early February, Hruska said. That's because the central office has a backlog of paperwork to process.

The new council will be able to do a certain amount of "tweaking" to the plans.

"We can't make any wholesale changes to the plans at this time," Hruska said, "so there's no change to the geometry of the roadway. It's aesthetics stuff more than anything.

"Changes can be made via the addendum process, through supplemental agreements or change orders." Aesthetics would include items such as planters and benches.

"All shrubs and perennials are provided 'by owner,'" Hruska added. That means they aren't included in the plan, but are intended to be added after-the-fact. That process sometimes takes several years, depending on the project.

Through the MnDOT Partnership program the state will pay for all of the plant materials, as long as they are perennials, Hruska stated.

Communities are expected to provide labor when it comes to planting and tending those materials.

The council voted to allow Hruska to sit down with incoming council members and the mayor and bill the city for those "educational meetings."

City Attorney Joe Hammell said that was OK as long as the three incoming council members have not been sworn in, but cautioned existing members not to attend because of open meeting laws.

The council voted to accept a professional services agreement with WHKS. The company will perform construction administration and observation duties on behalf of the city, keeping track of items such as sewer and water work.

Hruska said the duties would be billed hourly with an estimated total fee of $66,500. That cost is already included in the estimated project total, he added.

Truck purchase approved

Members voted to allow Public Utilities director Paul Morken to spend up to $24,820 for a new pickup truck via the state bid process, adding a note that Morken must dispose of an aging city vehicle in notorious condition.

The funds will come from several depreciation accounts that were established to save money towards vehicle replacements.

Comprehensive plan approved

A comprehensive plan outlining future city development was approved on the recommendation of the planning commission.

A hearing was held by the Spring Grove Planning Commission earlier in the day to take public input on the plan. Look for an article elsewhere in this week's Herald about the hearing.

"It's very much a first step," Councilmember Robert Vogel said who also serves on the Planning Commission and EDA.

On a related note, the council voted to appoint Deb Lesner to the Planning Commission. Lesner will fill a vacant spot on that board.

Other news from the council

Hammell recommended writing off $2,158 on unpaid utility bills from residents who have left town with no forwarding address.

"The statute of limitations has run out on these," he said. The council assented to his advice.

Hammell also reported that the Steven Bergrud annexation is moving forward and asked permission to meet with the Spring Grove Township Board for reimbursement talks.

Those types of agreements are standard procedure in Minnesota, Hammell said, and address property tax losses to the governmental body that gives up a parcel.

Payments are often minimal, he added. Members agreed by consensus.