Lansing City Council approves FY 2017 Budget, addresses variety of other matters during regular session

by B.J. Tomlinson

At its regular session Monday night, March 7, the Lansing City Council reviewed and approved the Fiscal Year 2017 budget. Although a special meeting had been scheduled last month to trim the budget by $45,000 in an effort to alleviate what had been projected to be an increase in property taxes, Mayor Mike Brennan said the cuts were unnecessary because a figure had been placed in the wrong column during the initial budgeting process. After that correction was made, the result was that property taxes would actually go down slightly and no cuts to the proposed budget would be necessary.
Greg Stirn addressed the Council regarding complaints about snowmobilers racing down Main Street, cutting across yards and other disturbances. Stirn said more signs, stakes and tape have been added to the trails and club members have been alerted in an effort to prevent further incidents. During the discussion, Stirn and the Council agreed that perhaps the reported problems stem not from members of snowmobile clubs but from independent snowmobilers. Stirn encouraged the Police Department to issue citations if/when necessary. Snowmobile trails in the local area are scheduled to be closed March 23.
Local arborist Tom Burke asked the Council if it was possible to create a wood chip pile for free public and City use. The Council agreed to the plan and instructed Burke and Street Superintendent Ken Ripp to find a suitable location to store the chips. Burke also requested permission to take down an ash tree on Mt. Hosmer at no cost to the City so that he could train his crew on the procedure in light of the Emerald Ash Borer becoming more prominent in the area. The Council approved that request as well.
The Council reviewed and approved a five-year rental agreement with S & S Rentals. The agreement calls for an annual rate increase of three percent over each of the five years of the agreement.
Street Superintendent Ken Ripp requested permission to change the City shop lights from HID to LED. Ripp said Alliant Energy offers a 50% rebate on the lights, the move would save between $400 and $500 a year on electric bills, and the light bulbs would not have to be changed for 20 years and would furnish better light. The Council approved the plan. The Council also approved the purchase of a new time clock at the City shed and also instructed Ripp to open Mt. Hosmer as soon as possible; if another snowstorm occurs, the road can be closed again.
Police Chief Ed Stahl reported that all the police department vehicles are now up and running. Councilman John Rethwisch questioned the legality of drivers heading west on Main Street pulling into the head-in parking spots in front of the Post Office. Stahl said the practice is not considered a U-turn but is still illegal according to State Code; however, there is nothing mentioned in the City Code. Stahl will investigate the issue and report at the next Council meeting. Similarly, backing out of a head-in space and crossing one lane of traffic to proceed in the opposite direction is also illegal.
Councilman Don Peters wondered if there is a paid accountant to review the City’s financial records. Councilman Ross Kolsrud said the City Treasurer had resigned some time ago and was not replaced because no one applied. The Council agreed that a City Treasurer was a good idea and would pursue the matter.
Councilmen Rethwisch and Peters also raised the concern of dog droppings on City sidewalks and boulevards and on the berm around the City Marina. Police Chief Stahl said a citation had been recently  issued, adding that  citations of this nature require a mandatory court date. He will be on the look-out for violators.