Peterson council meets sheriff candidate, middle school buyer

By : 
SCOTT BESTUL
TRI-COUNTY RECORD

The Peterson City Council welcomed several visitors at its September meeting, before turning its attention to some old business items.

Sheriff candidate visit

Fillmore County Sheriff candidate John DeGeorge has been working the campaign trail hard lately, and he took some time to address members of the Peterson City Council. DeGeorge, already well-known to many council members after his many years with the sheriff’s department, admitted that he was at first reluctant to run for the elected position. “I’m a cop,” DeGeorge said. “I don’t have a political playbook.” But encouragement from his colleagues helped him make the decision, and now DeGeorge says he’s excited about the position if he’s elected. “I want to not just get elected, but to become a good sheriff,” he said.

DeGeorge, who worked for years as an undercover member of the drug task force, said he’d like to focus on drug abuse prevention, as much of the county’s crime problem is drug-related. “As long as there’s a market [buyers], there will be a supply, when it comes to drugs,” he said. “Removing or reducing the market is the best way to combat the problem.“ DeGeorge also emphasized social media safety. “Nearly half the world population is online,” he said “That smart phone our kids have is more than just a phone, it’s a computer that connects them with all those people. And not all of them are good people.”

Policing small towns like Peterson, who can’t afford a police department, will also be in DeGeorge’s job description if he’s elected. “You are our responsibility,” he said. “If you want more [coverage] we need to have a realistic discussion about what we can provide. Before I can have that discussion, we have to get our house in order first. Once I do that I would like to return periodically to keep communication open. I will never leave a [meeting] room and have you wonder what I’m up to.” The council thanked DeGeorge and campaign manager Tony Webber for appearing.

Repurposed school building

Appearing at the end of the meeting was Roger Anderson, who has announced his intention to buy the Peterson school building. Anderson will use the facility to train aviation mechanics and pilots. While Anderson anticipates being able to teach up to 200 students, he feels initial class sizes will number about fifty. Anderson said there is some mold to take care of in the building, as well as the adding of insulation and air conditioning. “With luck, we should be done with those projects within two months,” Anderson said.

Councilor Rue asked Anderson if he had large-scale planning and zoning details the council could examine. “The building is zoned for multi-family housing,” Rue said. This clearly took Anderson by surprise, and he responded, “Well change the zoning, and I’ll go ahead and buy it.” Rue also asked if Anderson’s school was a for-profit endeavor, or would he be asking for tax-exempt status. “This is a small community, and that’s one of the largest properties.” Anderson said he would be willing to talk about taxes with the council.

Councilor Colbenson commented, “I’m glad you’re interested in the building, and I’m glad it will stay as a school.” Anderson replied “It’s a perfect place for us. Think of the local kids, who might want a career in aviation. They can train with us, and after graduation, have a job anywhere in the world.” Anderson also noted the aviation school would be a benefit for the communities of Peterson and Rushford, as students would need housing and food and can be an economic benefit in other ways. The council thanked Anderson for attending the meeting.

Electric meters

City Clerk Chris Grindland discussed the upcoming installation of new electric meters at homes in the city. “There will be 198 meters needed, and probably 90 percent will be taken care of with little cost to the city,” Grindland said. Councilor Rue asked if installation costs could be absorbed by city residents. “It’s my assumption that for $120, most residents would just pay it off.” Rue then asked what a vendor would pay for meter installation. After some discussion, Mayor Hallum asked Grindland if he could get a more exact figure on installation cost and report back at next month’s meeting.

Property compliance

The council then discussed the removal of inoperable/unlicensed vehicles within city limits. Clerk Grindland reported that he had talked with other city clerks about the issue. “If we decide to tow, we’re entering private property and taking possession,” he said. “We may see it as removing junk, but the owner may feel something else.” Grindland noted he could have the sheriff come to the city and accompany him on a drive-through that would identify such vehicles. Councilor Rue asked it the owners of [unused/unlicensed]vehicles could be ticketed and taken to court. “That’s the criminal route, and we can go that route if you want to,” Grindland replied.

Mayor Hallum noted that vehicle owners had been warned and asked to take action. “We’re forced into this,” he said. “We don’t want to do it, but we have to move forward with enforcing ordinances. We’re not the bad people here, we just have to do this.” Grindland responded that he’d be willing to pursue this route, but only with the sheriff involved. Councilor Boyum noted that vehicle licensure should be verified instantly with an online database search. Rue asked how long delinquent owners had to respond, and Grindland replied that letters sent to owners would dictate 10 days to come into compliance.

Campground concession/bathroom cement work

Mayor Hallum noted he’d received a bid to install new concrete around the city’s campground concession stand and bathroom area. The project would include the removal of old concrete, the recycling of existing blacktop, and the installation of a 21’x16’ pad in front of the bathroom and a four-foot sidewalk. Cost of the bid is $3,600. “The project can be done this fall,” Hallum said, noting that the city would have to install a privacy fence around the cemented area after it was installed. He also said the Sentence to Serve crew could paint. The council approved the project.

2019 Tax Levy

While there are several months left before the city has to declare a tax levy for the upcoming year, City Clerk Grindland presented a levy of 8 percent for 2019. This would generate approximately $91,499 for the city. The levy for 2018 is 3 percent, which will generate $84,721.00 by year’s end. “This is only a proposal, and we can increase or decrease it going forward,” he said. The council voted to approve the proposed levy.

Schedule

The next meeting of the Peterson City Council will be Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 6 p.m.