Council members debated hiring a part-time administrative assistant at city hall during their April 2 regular meeting.

One suggestion was to have an added person work up to a set amount of hours every week, while another was to have a person "on-call" who would only come in when staff is short-handed due to circumstances such as illness or vacation.

After an extended debate, councilmember Robert Vogel made a motion to hire an assistant for up to 14 hours per week for a three-month trial period, based on a job description provided by Clerk/Treasurer Erin Konkel.

Councilmember Nancy Nelson said, "We are undoing what we said the first meeting in January - that we are going to cut the office to two, and we're going to keep it there. We are undoing our campaign promise, and I can never vote for this."

"I can see that we need some extra help in there," Mayor Bruce Poole replied, adding that staff members are having a hard time getting all their tasks done while constantly answering the phone and helping customers at the window.

Councilmember Lorilyn Dehning said that with only two people, tasks such as finding grants that may save the city money are not getting done.

The motion passed 3-2 with Nelson and councilmember Rachel Olerud voting no.

A pay rate was not specified. Konkel offered to bring a sample of the job advertisement to the next council meeting. The pay issue will be open for debate then.

Park restoration to be pursued

The council voted unanimously to develop a restoration plan for Roverud Park, utilizing expertise from the Root River Soil and Water Conservation District.

"I just want to see a coordinated plan," Poole said.

Also approved was a request from Jim Gray to be allowed to place four birdhouses on fence posts in the park.

Summer Rec fees to be reduced?

Nelson suggested reducing summer recreation fees to make programs more affordable for families.

Vogel said that participation fees now cover about half of the program expenses, but agreed with the concept of helping families that have a hard time affording the cost of sending children to activities.

He noted that "about a half-dozen" local businesses have had a program in place for several years, which essentially offers scholarships for kids to participate.

"The problem I have about the fees is, we subsidize some activities far more than others," Vogel noted.

"I'm not averse to kicking in some tax money (to keep fees affordable)," Nelson added.

No action was taken, but Dehning said she would bring some specifics on the program to a meeting in the near future.

Parade float raises concerns

A previous proposal from the Syttendi Mai Committee to see if a city truck could pull the organization's float in local parades was not pursued by the council.

Poole said he checked with the city's insurance carrier, and Spring Grove would need to basically take over the management of the event in order to have city employees pull the float with a city vehicle.

According to the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust, only parades within city limits would be covered, he added. That would leave almost all the parades that the float now visits without a tow vehicle.

Other news from the council

Members voted to review various city fees at the next council meeting.

"We ought to look at everything that got doubled," Poole said, referring to the previous city council's decision to raise a number of fees such as golf cart permits, liquor licenses and so on.

Resident Roger Bender said that a good example of an excessive city fee is golf car permits, which are now at $50.

Members voted to accept a MnDOT limited-use permit agreement allowing "highway beautification" along the Main Street corridor. There was no discussion.

Some other items were either tabled or not acted upon.

One was a discussion on the salary for the relatively new position of clerk/treasurer.

A resolution in support of the Rochester Destination Medical Center proposal was also tabled.

Next meeting announced

The council's next regular meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 16, at 168 W. Main St.