Cambridge to wait on filling development position

Rachel Kytonen

Cambridge City Council

The city of Cambridge is going to wait to fill its community development director position, but in the interim, has decided to return its city planner position to a 40-hour week position.

During the Cambridge City Council meeting, Monday, April 4, the council discussed its thoughts regarding community development staffing due to the departure of its community development director in mid-March.

“With the uncertainty of what is happening at the State Legislature and the potential reduction/loss of local government aid, I would like to put this on hold until we can have a more thorough picture of our financial future,” said City Administrator Lynda Woulfe. “We also have a unique opportunity to determine what the best structure is for community development as we move forward.”

Since mid-March, Woulfe explained Stan Gustafson, economic development director, has taken on day to day supervision of community development staff, and Steve Wegwerth, public works director, has taken on the Parks and Recreation Commission and any items remaining for the construction of the Cambridge-Isanti Bike/Walk Trail.

Woulfe also explained Marica Westover, city planner, will take on all zoning issues, the Planning Commission staff liaison responsibilities, plats, sign code, and other miscellaneous projects.

As a result, Woulfe requested the council to return the city planner position to a full-time position effective May 1, which would be at a cost of $11,156, but said these costs would be more than offset by not immediately filling the community development director position.

Following discussion, the council approved a motion to return the city planner to a full-time position no earlier than April 14. After April 14, Westover is welcome to return to a full-time position whenever it’s convenient for her. Mayor Marlys Palmer and Council Member Lisa Iverson cast the dissenting votes.

During discussion Palmer said she wasn’t against bringing the city planner back to a full-time position, but thought the council should wait.

“I have no problem with bringing the city planner back to a full time position, but I do have a problem with the local government aid, and the availability of that,” Palmer said. “I think Marcia [Westover] needs to come back full-time, but I think we should wait until after June 1, or when the legislative session is complete. I really think if we wait until June 1, we will have more answers than we have right now.”

Council Member Bob Shogren disagreed, and said local government aid wouldn’t impact the city planner position at all, and felt the council should have Westover return to a full-time position as soon as it’s convenient for her.

Council Member Chris Caulk said he feels the city staff really needs the help, and didn’t have a problem with the additional costs to bring Westover back full-time, since they would be offset.

When Westover’s position became a part-time position a few months ago, Palmer said it was strictly a budgetary decision.

“It was in consideration of the budget for the city of Cambridge,” Palmer said. “The bigger picture here is the citizens of Cambridge. I do realize we will eventually need to bring someone that was in Dave’s [Carlberg] capacity, or similar to Dave’s capacity, back to a full-time position.”

Woulfe said she will prepare a recommendation on community development staffing for the next council retreat.

Interfund Loan

Gustafson explained he is requesting the city council to approve a resolution authorizing an interfund loan for advance cost in connection with tax increment financing district No 6 – 12.

Gustafson said staff has been working with a contractor and business on new expansion in Cambridge. As a part of locating the business in Cambridge, a modification to the TIF district is necessary to provide financial assistance in the form a land write down, site preparation and other qualified costs through the use of TIF.

He explained under state statute, the city is authorized to advance or loan money from the city’s general fund or any other fund from which such advances may be legally authorized, in order to finance the Qualified Costs.

Gustafson explained this agreement would be similar to other agreements of this nature where the city would sell the business the land for $1, create the TIF district, and the funds would be paid back in nine years. The business is located at purchasing 3.9 acres in the southeast portion of the city’s industrial park.

The interfund loan for advance will be $40,000  and taken from the EDA Administration Fund 205.

In other action the council:

• Accepted a proposal from Bernick’s Distributing (Pepsi products) to provide beverages at the concession stand at Sandquist Park. The proposal calls for an exclusive five-year contract, and in return, Bernick’s will donate three scoreboards (two for softball, one for baseball), at an approximate cost of $10,405. They will also provide coolers and vending machines for products sales. The council agreed to the proposal, and a final contract will be brought back to council for approval.

• Authorized the purchase of $23,278 in equipment for the emergency operations center at Cambridge City Hall. The funding was available due to a $25,000 budget amendment made earlier in the year. The largest expense is the purchase of 10 laptop computers at a cost of $10,740, but Woulfe noted the laptops will also be used for training purposes.