Published On: Thu, Jan 16th, 2014

City discusses police protection, airport

LAUREL  — The Laurel Airport and the city police department were among the topics discussed during the City Council meeting Monday evening.

Norm Slama, Clay Bode, L.J. “Ole” Mallet and Charlie Paulsen sat in on the discussion concerning the Laurel Airport which is located northeast of town.

The airport uses approximately 20 acres of a 42-acre parcel of land that is leased by the city. In the past several years, the remaining 22 acres have been planted to either soybeans or corn.

The city uses the income from the crops planted on each side of the runway to help with the cost of the lease payments, insurance and mowing.

If there is not enough income from the harvest, the city is responsible to pay the difference.

Norm Slama presented a proposal to the City Council that could be used this year to help cover the costs involved with the airport.

“Basically I tried to come up with a way to make the airport self sufficient,” Slama said.

Slama’s proposal includes switching over to alfalfa production on the land.

The grass area around the runway and hangar could be narrowed, and the land could be included in the area that would be planted to alfalfa.

“We think we could gain around two acres that could be put back into production,” Slama said.

The first year of hay production would only produce two cuttings rather than the usual four-five and would also include the cost of planting the seed.

The proposal includes an offer from Slama Farms to take care of the planting and field prep for the hay field. The windrowing and baling for the first year would also be donated by Slama Farms.

Slama and Bode offered to take care of all mowing and weed control at the airport at no cost to the city during the first year the hayfield would be established.

“We would take over the mowing to help out with the finances,” Slama said “We want to keep the airport here and add to it.”

Board members tabled making a decision concerning the leased land that involves the airport until the February meeting.

Board members and Police Chief Ryan Van Cleve discussed a staffing proposal for the police department.

The city police department currently uses the service of three part-time officers, along with a full-time police chief.

The department will be going to one part-time officer and the police chief.

“We will both be fully certified,” Van Cleve said.

Ron Lundahl, who is a certified law enforcement officer who has been working on a part-time basis, offered to put in more hours to help cover the law enforcement needs for the city.

Board members agreed to increase the hours for Lundahl and up his hourly pay.

“Ron has done a great job,” board member Jerry Wiemers said. “He does a good job and is good with the kids.”

Board members also discussed the need to replace one of the police cars sometime this year. The item will be discussed at a later date.

The monthly summary for the police department for December included one disturbance, one theft, three fix-it tickets, six verbal warnings, three written warnings, three traffic complaints, five parking tickets, one accident, two citizen assists, three agency assists,  one nuisance property, one welfare check, one response to an alarm and 492 building checks.

Board members discussed options on making a land purchase from Rich Erwin. The purchase includes Lot 10 in the Replat of Northwest Industrial Park.

The purchase will be made by the Laurel Community Redevelopment Authority (CRA).

Hillcrest Care Center Administrator Heather Eagle reported there are 26 residents in the nursing home facility and 10 in the assisted living facility.

“We had a loss in the number of residents last month. We dropped from 34 down to 26 in one month,” Eagle said.

Board member Keith Knudsen told Eagle she had done a good job.

“You have had a good run when you look at the whole year,” Knudsen said. “Hillcrest Care Center has money in reserve. You did a good job in building that up.”

Laurel Elderly Housing has 16 apartments which includes 14 one-bedroom apartments and two two-bedroom apartments, according to Angie Roberts, who is the executive director.

“We have one vacancy right now,” Roberts said. “We do have a waiting list for the two-bedroom apartments.”

City Auditor Mike Pommer high lighted a few items in the audit report for the 2012/2013 fiscal year that was presented to the city.

“The audit went well. The number side of things shows the city is in pretty good shape for the fiscal year,” Pommer said. “Everything was positive. You were well within your budget means.”