Which Direction?

Back in January the Newly Elected Three fired the City Administrator and boldly stated “We are headed in a new direction.”  Now, 10 months later, many are wondering if any of the three know how to read a map.  No one seems to know what direction we are headed in.  It has become painfully clear the new direction has nothing to do with saving money.  These three are spending money like crazy! Since January, the fine folks of Kasson, the taxpayers of this community, have paid our City Attorney $86,000!  Yes, that is correct $86,000!!  And, we are not done.  At a recent meeting the 3 Amigos agreed to pay another attorney $150 an hour to defend them for firing Tom Ricke.  We all know that move was indefensible, so I’m sure WE will be paying a settlement on top of the attorney fees.  Now we have hired a new city administrator at, roughly, the same pay as we were paying Randy Lenth.  Unfortunately, the new administrator has nowhere near the experience Randy Lenth had.  I hold nothing against her, but she has an uphill battle to fight. Remember there were two candidates for this job.  Mike Martin was the other candidate, with far more experience, plus having worked in Kasson for the past 10 years.  It will be interesting to see if there is any fall out from that decision.  I have not spoken to Mr Martin, but I have to wonder if he isn’t upset by the fact that Judy Ruport was part of the selection committee.  She was not a fan (and was very verbal about it) of Mr. Martin during the whole Shopko deal.  I would think as soon as Mr. Martin put his application in, the mayor would have removed Mrs. Ruport from the committee.  That whole “conflict of interest” thing.  Think there might be yet another lawsuit waiting to happen?

So, what direction are we headed? I think everyone, including the Anointed Three, are clueless.  We have a council member ordering city staff to repair pot holes on private property, we have another council member holding illegal meetings in his garage and a mayor who puts out a list of facts that is nothing but a list of lies.  I’m not sure what direction we are headed, but I know I don’t like it.  Here’s an idea; how about the council member who ordered the repairs on private property offer to pay the city back for those repairs?  And how about the council member who held the illegal meeting in his garage offer to resign?  Those two gestures would go a long way to restoring our faith in our elected officials.  These folks need to remember they work for US, and not for themselves.

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These “Facts” confuse me….

A couple of months ago Mayor Johnson handed out a sheet titled “Facts.”  He explained that he wanted to put on paper why the new council was doing what they were doing.  He said they need to reign in the budget and the rampant spending.  I read the “Fact” sheet a few times.  Things just didn’t seem to add up.  So, over the last several weeks I’ve been doing some research and asking some questions.  I guess I was doing what I would expect someone to do before they put out a sheet such as this.  It appears the “Facts” do not add up.  I’ve got several pages of notes which would cause one to wonder “What is the mayor doing with this mis-information?”  At first I laughed, but then I thought to myself, “This is really disrespectful of the people who put him in office.  This is not only wrong, but irresponsible.”

To give you a taste of what I have found, let’s take one or two of his “Facts” and look at them.  The first one is “The City of Kasson gave Mantorville $5000 for a dog park.”  Now I remembered reading something about this in the paper when it happened, but I couldn’t remember exactly how it went down.  I finally tracked down someone familiar with the Park budget.  The year this money was given to Mantorville, the Kasson Park Board had budgeted $15,000 for a dog park in Kasson.  The plan was to build a dog park in Kasson.  Yes, $15,000 was budgeted for it.  Then, the Mantorville committee contacted Kasson and asked if they would like to partner with them. The answer was, “Sounds like a good plan.”  Would we really need two dog parks within 4 or 5 miles of each other?  So, Kasson spends $5,000 instead of $15,000. That would be a SAVINGS of $10,000.  Isn’t that what the mayor was trying to get at?  Why is this a bad “Fact”?

He also highlights how much was spent on the City Engineer in the last 10 years.  How much has the city grown in the last 10 years?  Each new development requires engineering.  The 16th Street project was huge!  There are several different projects and developments that could be pointed to.  I guess if you don’t want to spend money on an engineer, don’t grow.  However, at a recent meeting our new council approved $180,000 on engineering expenses for a short piece of road behind City Hall.  So, is it okay for this new council to spend money, but previous councils shouldn’t have?  I guess I’m confused by the “Facts” here.

Have you driven through Byron recently?  I hate to keep comparing us to them, but it really is depressing to drive through that town and see things happening and all you hear about from Kasson is illegal meetings and committees that are put together and then disbanded.  Byron is creating walking trails all through town for their citizens. Nice wide walkways and signage.  It really is nice to see them doing things for their people.  This is what could be if we had some leadership.

Laws? What Laws?

Our new “Fire Department Investigative Committee” was supposed to meet on Monday. Everyone else met, just not the committee.  Seems councilman Borgstrom was just too busy to notify anyone, except his committee members.  This is both overly arrogant, and unprofessional.  Of course, this resulted in another less than flattering article in the Post Bulletin.  But, let’s back up some here.  At the last council meeting Chris McKern asked Borgstrom why he had not responded to the questions McKern asked two weeks ago.  And, why he had not answered the email McKern had sent him asking for answers.  Borgstrom’s response? “Uh, I don’t look at that email.”  Excuse me? You are a servant to the public. Your email address is published. You need to be doing what you can to communicate with the public!  Right in the council agenda it says something about “questions from the public will be responded to within two or three days.”  This is a disgrace!

Wait, though, it gets better. Now we find out the Fire Department Committee did meet.  Yes, they did! In Borgstrom’s garage. Just the committee members, no public.  YOU CAN’T DO THAT!! The City Attorney even said so.  The laws apply to you, too, Mr. Borgstrom!

This would be a good time for Mr. Borgstrom to admit he was, and is, wrong and step down.  I would be willing to bet Mayor Johnson knew all about this, too.  You can’t condone something like this.  Mayor Johnson, this would be a good time to step down, too.  The time of evening scores with people you don’t like has come to an end.  Let’s face it, this council is an embarrassment to our City.

The real problem is, the businesses who were looking at Kasson, have now moved on to other cities.  Mayor Johnson says he has received phone calls from other cities telling him he is doing a good job?  Yeah, I’ll bet, from other mayors thanking him because businesses that were looking at Kasson have moved to them.  It’s all very sad and it is time for it to end.

Scattered Thoughts….

I was talking with a friend of mine the other day, this friend lives in a different town, and this friend says to me, “Kasson has taken the title from Wabasha County as having the most dysfunctional government!”  Gee, there is something to be proud of.  What I can’t figure out is why the three amigos don’t see this.  Don’t they know everyone in SE Minnesota is making fun of us?  Don’t they care?  Heck, it isn’t even SE Minnesota.  I have heard from people in Kansas and Colorado asking what is going on.  With today’s social media, this news is traveling far and wide.

Mr. X made a comment about city administration staff sitting quiet and letting this council blunder through things.  I talked with a city staffer (not someone from city hall) who had been told by one of these administrative folks that they were instructed to not speak during meetings unless asked a direct question.  Seriously? I’m assuming the three amigos were getting tired of being confused with facts.  They try to act like they know everything and when it is pointed out they are wrong, they get angry.  However, this led me to another question about how the hand off went when they took over.  I was able to find an answer to this when I ran into former mayor Nelson at Hardware Hank a few days ago.  I asked him what information he shared with the incoming mayor.  He said he sent Steve Johnson an email after the election and offered to sit down with him to talk through what was on the plan and to answer any questions he might have.  The answer from Johnson?  “No thank you.”  I guess this means he knows everything.  Google will be out of business soon!  I was shocked.

Were you at the last Council meeting? Did you watch the video?  Chris McKern got up and asked some very, very good questions.  Questions that demand answers.  I’m looking forward to tonight’s meeting as I am hoping the mayor and council have answers.  If they don’t, I think that will say a ton about their character.  This should be good.

This is a lot of scattered thoughts, but I needed to just start typing.  I hope to see you at tonight’s meeting.

Stop the Bullying!

Did you go to last week’s council meeting?  Did you watch the video? I think we saw the results of some bullying.  Both Burt Fjerstad and Councilman Coleman said they had been bullied by the mayor.  Okay, they didn’t use the word “bully,” but the stories they told were just that.  Why does the mayor care if Coleman goes out to Public Works and talks to the guys??  That is his job! He represents the people. If he needs a question answered, he has to go to the source.  I’m sure it used to be if a councilperson needed a question answered they would contact the City Administrator.  I guess that isn’t an option any more.  There is no reason for the Public Works Supervisor to get those kinds of calls from the mayor either.

Next topic. Conflict of Interest.  This was brought up at the last meeting.  Doug Buck should not be allowed to vote on the Streets Supervisor position.  Plan and simple. There is a definite conflict of interest here. It is well publicized, very well publicized, that his step-son was not selected for the position.  This is a personal vendetta on Buck’s part. He should not vote.  There will be anther vote on August 12 regarding this position.  Please call Buck and tell him to abstain. Please call the mayor and have the mayor instruct Buck to abstain.  If he doesn’t, I think we’ll see a lawsuit coming our way.  That won’t save us any money, will it? Please make those calls!

Saving money.  Another good topic.  Wasn’t it Borgstrom who said, “We need to stop the bleeding.”  He thinks the city isn’t doing a good job of handling the finances.  Funny, wasn’t it Borgstrom who couldn’t pay his bills?  And he is giving us a lecture on finances?  Come on!  When I hear an auditor say the city is in poor shape, then I’ll believe it, but I think the last audit came back in very good shape.  Can someone read that to Borgstrom?

Everything that has happened since January 1 has been for a reason.  Paybacks and personal vendettas.  It is painfully obvious the three amigos had a list.  They are working their way down it.  First was the city administrator.  Second was the city engineer, then the Streets Supervisor. Next will be the Fire Chief.  I have actually heard that Borgstrom is going around town saying this is Chief Fitch’s last parade as fire chief!!  SERIOUSLY?!?!?!  He is saying this out loud??  That proves my point.  I wouldn’t relay it here except I have heard it from multiple people. Not one or two, multiple!  We deserve better than this.  We deserve a lot better.

These are not elected officials who care about Kasson’s long term outlook.  These are people with an axe to grind.  Meanwhile communities around us are preparing themselves for DMC and rapid growth.  No growth in Kasson anymore.  This will take years to fix.

Thank You

Yes, I realize it has been a long while since I posted.  I was worried people weren’t paying attention to what was going on.  I saw on TV last night that people are, indeed, paying attention!  It looks like it was a packed house at the Train Station (city hall) last night.  This is a good thing!  Maybe this will make the mayor and his side kicks wake up and realize this is NOT what people want.  What happened at the last council meeting and last night was a travesty.  Although, it verifies something I’ve been thinking about since January.  I firmly believe these three have a list and they are working their way down it.  Randy Lenth was obviously at the top of the list.  Next was the city engineer, now Tom Ricke.  I have a feeling we’ll be seeing the Police Chief and the Fire Chief getting axed next.  I don’t want to see it, but I am afraid.

First, let me get something off my chest here.  When did it become okay to wear hats and sleeveless t-shirts while sitting at the desk in the council chambers??  Talk about an unprofessional image!  There are enough people making fun of our city now and then the mayor shows up looking like he just finished changing oil on his lawn mower.  Have some pride in yourself and the position you hold!  No wonder people outside of Kasson think we are a bunch of hicks.

Okay, back to the council meeting on Wednesday night.  I’m thinking there were some things which occured which really smelled bad.  Adding the elimination of the Street Supervisor position to the agenda at the last minute was number one.  Doug Buck, who’s step-son works under Tom Ricke, making the motion to eliminate the position was number two, and then for number three you need to go watch the video.  You will see Buck, Borgstrom, and Johnson all looking at some paperwork. Those are the only three who have it.  It sure looks to me like they had met before hand and had all this worked out.  Borgstrom pulls some minutes from a meeting from last year and reads it.  He just happened to have that?  Come on!  This smells really, really bad!

So, they say they are doing this to save money.  So they save, what, $60,000?  Not even enough to fix one of our streets.  Speaking of which, I thought there was a plan to fix three streets this year.  What happened?  Have you driven around town?  Have you seen anything going on anywhere?  No, no projects going on what so ever.  Nothing.  Last year there was a flurry of activitiy.  This year, nothing.  Sad.  Could this be due to a lack of a city administrator?  Someone who would be keeping everything on schedule?

Go back to that video of the last council meeting.  Do you see how these three are so unprepared? They start talking about the SRO position with the Police Department.  They say they don’t like how much that costs.  Did anyone bother to call the Police Chief and ask some basic questions? Nope! They plow ahead until the Police Chief stands up and goes over the history of how the position came to be and low and behold, we find out the city is actually saving a half FTE with this arangement! The silence from those three is wonderful.  Borgstrom was also talking about the “terrible things going on at the fire hall.”  Eggler asks him if he talked to the Fire Chief.  All Borgstrom can say is, “Uh, no.”  Gee, why would you want to do that?  Because you might have to deal with the facts?  The facts can be so aggravating at times, cant’ they?

Back to the Streets Supervisor.  I called Randy Lenth late last fall to ask about some work I saw being done.  During that conversation he told me how the work I saw being done (By City Employees) would have previously been contracted out, but with Tom Ricke on staff, he had the knowledge and the ability to do it in-house. So, in effect, he was saving the city money.  Do we now have to go back to contracting that out?  Oh, yeah, back to the “Good old boy” network!  They can contract that out to the mayor’s good buddy, Scott Lampland and SL Contracting!  Back to “follow the money trail.”  Excuse me while I go throw up, I think I’m getting sick.

Hey, THANK YOU to everyone who turned out on Tuesday night.  It looked awesome on the news! Please turn out again Wednesday July 22 to let them know how you feel. Watch the videos, too.  You need to stay informed.

Time for Some Schooling

By now you have all heard how Borgstrom ramrodded the Conditional Use Permit and the variance request for the old school through Planning and Zoning.  I have heard the word “bully” used several times in connection with this.  Folks, that is just plain sad! An elected official representing not only us, but the city.  The name “Kasson” is now joked about around the water coolers in offices all over SE Minnesota.  This is really sad.

 

Let’s take a step back and cover a few things, first.  So, I read a letter to the editor which said it isn’t KARE who bought the old school, it is the 1918 Kasson School, LLLP who bought it.  Let’s be really clear here, YES, it is KARE.  The same people who made up KARE make up the LLLP.  They just added a few others who had spare change in their pockets.  Boil it all down and it is KARE.  Along with that, the LLLP is set up in a way that makes it hard for the average joe to figure out who all is an owner.  Is Coy Borgstrom an owner?  We know for sure his mom is.  Steve Johnson had invested.  He says he sold his investment.  How do we know for sure?  If those two still own shares, their votes would be illegal.  We should see paperwork.  Speaking of Borgstrom and his mom, there is a perception that he is doing this because of Mom.  That perception is almost enough that he should abstain.  Nope!  Not Coy.  He made the motion to pass the Conditional Use Permit!  Did anyone else see the puppet strings working there?  That’s right, they were connected right to Mom’s apron strings.

 

Let me add something else here.  You need to make sure you understand this next point.  This had NOTHING to do with saving the old school.  That’s right, it has NOTHING to do with saving that building. This is about a small group (KARE) wanting to make a point that they can do this.  The vast majority of Kasson residents did not want this building saved.  The vast majority understood what they were voting on all those years ago when they voted to not approve spending the money on this building.  KARE wants to prove they can do this.  My proof for this?  Look 2 miles to the north.  The old school in Mantorville came down last summer without a single letter to the editor, without a single sign in a yard, without anyone standing around with a t-shirt on.  NO ONE CARED!!!  The old school in Mantorville was arguably more architecturally intriguing. It was a really fun building to look at.  NO ONE CARED when it came down.  Now if KARE was all about saving “historic” buildings, wouldn’t they have raised a ruckus about this?  Wouldn’t they have at least written a letter to the editor?  Where were Flo and Joe when this was happening?  Nothing. It wouldn’t have mattered what went into the Kasson school.  These folks don’t care.  If someone came along with the money and wanted to put a brothel in there, they would have sold. They just want to make a point.

 

So, this company from Kansas is going to put low-income housing in there contingent on them getting federal grants.  How much are the feds going to give them?  I remember when the city was dealing with this, I thought they said it would take 10 million dollars to rehab the building.  10 MILLION!!  Everyone tells me construction costs are going higher and higher.  What will it cost later this year or next year?  I just don’t see the federal government handing over $10 million.  If they don’t get the full 10 mill, what happens? Do they move forward?  Rent some of the apartments to regular folks?  Imagine what that rent would be!

 

Want to know what this building will look like in a few years?  Drive by the old city hall on Main Street.  All the junk stacked up outside that place?  There is only one person living there.  Multiply that by 90 and think about what will happen.  Reality folks!  It ain’t pretty.

 

A commenter asked what can be done?  Can we ask council members to step down? ABSOLUTELY!  I think that should be the next step.  At the next council meeting someone needs to stand up and tell Coy Borstrom he is no longer representing the interests of the majority and the best thing would be if he would resign.  He needs to be put on notice that we will not take this anymore!  What ever Mom wants is not what the rest of the community wants.  It is time to STOP!

 

Have you been reading the Post Bulletin lately?  Two more businesses are opening their doors in Byron. One of the business owners was even quoted as saying several of his employees live in Kasson and he looked at both communities.  Yes, he looked.  He heard what was happening in Kasson, and he decided to spend his dollars in Byron.

 

Why am I so worried????