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New London council appoints former councilor to open seat

NEW LONDON -- The New London City Council appointed a former council member to its open seat.

Margaret Sheldon will begin her duties as council member when she's sworn-in at the next meeting.

The council interviewed two candidates Wednesday for the position. The position has been open since May when former councilman Eric Orson resigned because he was moving.

Margaret Sheldon, Deb Geister and Andrew Nordin applied for the open position. Geister did not show up for her scheduled interview time.

Sheldon's ap-pointment is for the rest of the year. The position, a two-year term, will be up for election this fall.

Sheldon was elected to the council in 2000 when her last name was Pederson. She resigned in 2003. She said Wednesday it wasn't her choice to resign and alluded to a conflict with being on the council and her former job.

She does not work for the same company and now does financial planning out of an office in Willmar.

"I would like to be on the council again because I'd like to finish what I started," Sheldon said.

She said if she were appointed she would want the city to study different ways to assess property owners for street construction. After this year's street improvement project, the oldest streets in the city will be eight years old. It's the perfect time to examine another way of assessing, such as an annual fee for all property owners, she said.

"It's become quite a hardship for residents to pay lumps of assessments," she said.

Sheldon is on the planning and zoning commission, and the council had decided it wouldn't have a council member on that board. Sheldon said she could resign from the commission if appointed to the council, but wasn't opposed to having a council member on the commission.

Sheldon also said the council needs to hold fewer special meetings. The council is at 62 percent of its budget for wages, city administrator Trudie Guptill said.

The council also interviewed Nordin and decided to appoint him to Sheldon's seat on the planning and zoning commission. Nordin grew up in Willmar, has lived in different states and came back to the area last year with his wife and son to be closer to his parents.

He has a background in art and museum and gallery work and said he is interested in capturing the potential of the strong artist presence in the community. He currently rehabilitates older homes.

He hasn't been in public office before, but held officer positions in college groups.

"I want to be part of the community at large," Nordin said.

After the interview, the council discussed the candidates. Councilman Kevin Dittbenner said Sheldon is the most qualified candidate, but added that Nordin was well-spoken.

"She knows the system. She knows how the city works," Dittbenner said.

Also at the meeting, Guptill told the council that asbestos had been found Wednesday in the attic of the former fish hatchery, and demolition has stopped until it can be removed. The state Department of Natural Resources plans to have it removed today, she said.

The contractor has until June 30 to complete the project.

The city has been trying to find a solution for the deteriorating building for years and joked about the snag.

"We should've known it wouldn't go right," Councilman John Bergman said.

In other business, the council set a special meeting to talk with a Minneapolis developer who is interested in acting as a consultant to plan development east of state Highway 23. The meeting was tentatively set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.