By unanimous vote, the Spring Grove City Council ratified two Spring Grove EDA appointments on April 15. Mayor Bruce Poole nominated Howard Deters and Craig Bender for the open positions. For Deters, it's a reappointment. He currently serves as president of the organization.

On a related note, members approved a contract that the EDA has negotiated with CEDA (Community Economic Development Associates) to provide two days per month of services at an annual cost of $11,124.

The council also voted to reappoint Jocelyn Rostad to a second term on the Spring Grove Planning Commission.

In other actions, the council approved the purchase of a timecard software suite that will interface directly with the city's payroll system. Councilmember Lorilyn Dehning said that the software will allow laptop computers to keep track of hours for city employees. That necessary hardware is already in place at both the Swim Center and Corner Store, where the system will be used initially. The cost, with training and technical support, is $2,690.

Another vote approved the purchase of a warranty extension for a city server. The program will pay for the replacement of a recently failed hard drive, and provide other parts and materials needed to keep the device up and running for one year at a cost of $425.

Councilman Robert Vogel, who also serves on the city's planning commission, asked members to place a 12 month time limit on building permits. They agreed. Vogel also asked that fees be collected for all permit applications, regardless of whether or not they are granted. That suggestion was not approved. Finally, the council did agree to sell demolition permits for structures larger than 196 square feet. The cost will be $50.

Members approved a slate of summer recreation hires, along with a wage scale. Pay rates will remain the same as in 2013. Swim Center statistics for last year were also reviewed, but some numbers (such as concessions purchased) were not available due to difficulties with the pool management firm hired last season. Council members agreed by consensus that those stats should be kept in the future.

"We were down a little bit last year (in attendance), but not too bad," Dehning reported.

City attorney Joe Hammell reported that a judgment in the city's lawsuit against USA Pools could occur "within a month."

The council also voted to establish a no parking zone near the Spring Grove Pop building so that a resident will have room to exit her driveway.

Council member Nancy Nelson gave a preliminary report on the 2013 audit. "We have come in under budget in all of the budget categories except for one, and we cut out a lot of money from the council (line item) and administration.... Even though the one budget item that went over was the police department, and fire and ambulance, that went over because instead of having a half-time officer, we now have a full time officer. But even with doing that, all the other cuts and non-spending that we did, as a total, we came in under budget."

A final report, with exact figures, is due on May 20.

Finally, the council spent approximately 50 minutes discussing the Corner Store, and whether the city should be in the business of running a liquor store or not.

Pat Longmire of Red's IGA said that he was interested in opening an off-sale outlet.

"I need to expand my business," he stated, "but in part I need another piece to go in it to make that worthwhile. So I was looking at this liquor store..."

Longmire said that Minnesota laws protect municipal liquor stores from competition. Hammel agreed, explaining that as long as the city runs a municipal liquor store, it cannot issue off-sale licenses for private competitors.

"I guess what I'm looking at is taking Spring Grove into the future," Longmire said, "and not holding on to the past. I feel that the liquor store has always been up and down.... When you're talking about a $5,000 profit per year, that's ridiculous."

Nelson stated that if furniture and remodeling costs were subtracted from the profit and loss statement, the Corner Store has generated over $40,000 in profits over the last five years. In addition, the establishment has provided a considerable amount in salaries and benefits for employees, she added.

Vogel said, "The way I see this, if we have an established local business who wants to expand, and he wants to take over a quasi-business venture that the city currently owns, as soon as Red invests in the facility to house his liquor store it will start paying taxes, and we, the city, get about 70 percent of every dollar of property tax that he's going to pay on that."

Hammell said that if Red's IGA wants to add liquor off-sale to its site, a separate entrance and separate shopping area will be required. The sale of the Corner Store would actually represent two separate items. One bid would be for the building, with another for the business.

No decision was reached on Longmire's request, and no public hearing was set on the possible disposal of the city-owned business.