Weather Forecast


City Council endorses Citizens Energy Policy concept

WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council has endorsed the concept of a local group developing a national energy policy. But the council delayed a decision on making a financial contribution to the group.

The council approved the recommendation of its Finance Committee to endorse the concept of the Citizens Energy Policy.

The group was founded by five local people and is attracting interest and financial support from other individuals, companies and agencies including the Willmar Municipal Utilities and Kandiyohi Power Cooperative.

The group is seeking support at the University of Minnesota and plans to hold an energy summit and invite nationally-known speakers within the next few months.

The group intends to bring together open-minded and diverse individuals and organizations that have a deep interest in protecting the environment, promoting energy independence and enhancing the quality of life. They intend to draft and present a national energy policy to Congress next September.

"It doesn't seem like the nation is getting on with the policy,'' said Bob Bonawitz, Municipal Utilities Commission president and group co-founder.

Bonawitz and co-founder Lee Byberg, vice president of operations for Life-Science Innovations of Willmar, had asked the council's Finance Committee for a $5,000 financial contribution, along with support for the concept.

The committee recommended the council support the concept but delay the contribution while the council discusses the 2009 budget.

"There is no money in the budget for that,'' said committee chairman Denis Anderson at the council meeting this week. "If it's the will of the council to do that, then we'll have to take money out of something else to fund this.''

The utilities commission on Oct. 14 approved a resolution of support and proposed contributing $5,000, subject to review by City Attorney Rich Ronning and Bruce Gomm, utilities general manager.

However, the council tabled the commission's resolution until Ronning reports to the council whether the contribution falls within the realm of public purpose.

"I think we need to make sure there is a true public purpose before that money is expended,'' said council member Bruce DeBlieck, liaison to the utilities commission. He offered the motion to table the MUC resolution.

Council member Doug Reese spoke against the motion and said he supports the initiative. He said the resolution states that Ronning and Gomm will review city policy for compliance with public purpose.

Voting to table were DeBlieck, Steve Gardner, Rick Fagerlie and Jim Dokken.

Voting against were Reese, Ron Christianson and Denis Anderson.

In other business, the council:

- Received a report on the service territory agreement and territory compensation model that were signed last week by officials of the city, the Kandiyohi Power Cooperative and Willmar Municipal Utilities.

- Approved the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission's 2009 budget of $487,713.

- Voted to transfer the terms and conditions of the fixed-based operator agreement with Willmar Air Service to Brian Negen, the new owner of the fixed-based operation.

- Accepted a $134,152 federal grant for the police department's Gang Enforcement Team for 2009-2010.

- Voted to hold a public hearing Nov. 3 on the proposed social host ordinance. A person could be charged with a misdemeanor who hosts an event or gathering where alcohol or alcoholic beverages are present and who knows or should know that an underage person will or does consumer any alcohol or alcoholic beverage. Further, the host would be charged for failing to take steps to prevent possession or consumption by the underage person.

- Approved a change order for certain equipment for the new wastewater treatment plant. The change order reduces the plant's cost by $397,788 from $49.1 million to $48,702,212.

- Overturned a Labor Committee recommendation to appoint Anderson to an advisory board working with Rice Hospital Board and a search firm finding a replacement for Lorry Massa. Massa resigned as Rice Hospital chief executive officer. The council replaced Anderson with Dokken, the council's hospital board liaison.