Corcoran: No new development on Hamel fire situation

Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson stresses a point in his report to the Corcoran City Council. Johnson said the county board recently appointed a new county administrator, and also gave a budget update. (Sun staff photo by Aaron Brom.)

Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson stresses a point in his report to the Corcoran City Council. Johnson said the county board recently appointed a new county administrator, and also gave a budget update. (Sun staff photo by Aaron Brom.)

Two weeks after terminating the Hamel Fire contract, the Corcoran City Council said there were no new developments, but assured the audience that there would be fire coverage for the affected area.

The council also heard from Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson with an update, and told a resident he has 60 days to remove non-conforming exterior vehicles from his property.

 

FIRE CONTRACT

Citing five specific breaches, the city Feb. 15 terminated the contract for fire protection with the Hamel Fire and Rescue Department. The breaches were level of service, budget process, contract payments, Fire Services Joint Advisory Committee and other miscellaneous concerns.

During open forum of the recent council meeting, Corcoran Planning Commissioner Dorothy Theis asked the council about the situation. Mayor Ken Guenthner said there would be an update on fire coverage, and city administrator Dan Donahue confirmed the update would take place March 28.

The city is separated into four fire zones, with Hamel covering Corcoran’s southeast quadrant.

Theis asked, “Don’t we have to have a contract for every area?”

Guenthner responded, “That was discussed. We will have a more thorough report on coverage, but we’ve reached a level of assurance that we would have coverage.”

 

JEFF JOHNSON

In other news, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson was present with an update about the county and county board.

He said the board unanimously selected David Hough as the replacement to Hennepin County Administrator Richard Johnson, who retired in December. Hough was the deputy county administrator.

Johnson said the county recently broke ground on the new sheriff’s 911 facility in Plymouth. “The current facility in Golden Valley was outdated,” he said. “The board was talking for a decade about this change, and it’s going to happen. This is a very important addition to public safety.”

He said the 911 facility would be finished before the end of next year.

As for the county budget, Johnson said it went up between 4 percent and 5 percent, with a 1.3 percent increase in the property tax levy. “I didn’t support the (property tax) increase, but others have been higher,” he said. “What we see next year no one knows for sure. What happens at the state or federal level affects the budget. We’ll know more in April.”

After the council thanked Johnson for his time, city administrator Dan Donahue added thanks to Johnson for his support of the youth sports grant that was received for the city and Rockford School District.

 

EXTERIOR STORAGE

In other matters, the council addressed an exterior storage code enforcement complaint with the owner of a property at the 10000 block of County Rd. 10.

The owner said his family has stored equipment on the property for 80 years, and said someone at city hall indicated to him in 2009 that he could store vehicles on the property as long as the site was fenced in. The cars belong to customers for his business.

The owner said removing the vehicles would cause a substantial loss to his business, a fact with which councilor Rich Asleson was sympathetic. Yet Mayor Guenthner said there is little the city can do but enforce its ordinances. Guenthner also said the owner had “clearly” expanded vehicle storage in recent years.

“The bottom line is vehicles and the number of vehicles are not an allowed use on your property,” Guenthner said. “It’s wrong in about five different ways. The reality is, whatever we come up with, we’re not willing to look the other way. We’re trying to create an environment for properties to have their most value.”

The owner said he’d like more time to remove vehicles.

The mayor recommended giving the owner 60 days to remove the vehicles “or we take action.” The owner agreed to meet with staff to further discuss the matter.

In other action, the council:

AUTHORIZED a zoning amendment to allow a simplified process for approval of an amendment to an existing conditional use permit. Staff said this would allow CUPs to be processed in an expedited fashion that would amend a CUP without a planning commission hearing.

DISCUSSED the process to hire a new city administrator, after current administrator Dan Donahue announced his retirement at the previous meeting. Staff recommends a July 1 hire date, with Donahue to be hired through the remainder of the year as a consultant to the new administrator.

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