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Ottertail opts for natural gas

Following up on a previous discussion, the Ottertail City Council examined the possibility of switching from propane to natural gas for city buildings. City Clerk/Treasurer Elaine Hanson checked on prices associated with that conversion and reported her findings at the Aug. 4 council meeting.

Hanson said she spoke with a representative from the city of Perham and learned that it would cost the city $100 for the first 100 feet and then $3 per three feet.

"We're well within the 100 feet," she said. The cost to convert the furnace will be an additional $200-$300.

"It's an incredible savings. It sure seems like a great idea," council member Don Patrick said after analyzing the differences in cost between propane and natural gas. The vote was unanimous to switch from propane to natural gas at the Ottertail Community Center and Fire Hall.

Step-pay program

The council then looked into a possible step-pay program for city employees. Hanson said she has been talking with staff members from other cities about compensation plans. This type of program is based on performance evaluations and can factor in longevity.

"Having been on the personnel committee, I can see some value in having these guidelines," Patrick said.

He then brought up his hesitancy with implementing a step-pay program by saying, "I do have some concerns with doing things in an automatic fashion, because you can get out of touch with reality."

If the council decides to go this route, a wage system will need to be set up for city employees. There is a salary study that the League of Minnesota Cities releases every year that can be looked at if the city decides to develop a step-pay plan. Council member Mike Windey explained how this type of program is based on hours, so it will take a part-time employee longer to get to his or her step than a full-time employee.

Hanson said she will gather more information on how to maintain a step program and will bring it to the next meeting. Council member Heather Rosenthal, who serves with Patrick on the city's personnel committee, was unable to attend the Aug. 4 meeting. The council members decided they would like her insight into this type of compensation plan before making any decisions.

Creamery sidewalk

Also discussed during the meeting was the issuance of a Right-of-Way Permit for the sidewalk that is planned outside of the Ottertail Creamery building.

"This one has been in the works for about a year," Hanson said.

She explained how once the $1,000 fee has been paid to the state, the state will then allow the city to permit Firestarters to build the sidewalk. The sidewalk has to be constructed to the state's specs and will be approved by the state. Hanson mentioned that two ramps are planned on the sidewalk, along with the required curb and gutter.

A motion was passed to approve the permit to the MnDOT specifications, contingent on all fees being paid.

The council was also reminded of the upcoming OtterFest city celebration, held Friday, Aug. 12 and Saturday, Aug. 13. The annual parade will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday.