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Council talks retirement, finalizes land purchase

By Garrett Ammesmaki,

Editor

John Kirchner is retiring from the Lennox Fire Department after over a decade of service.


City Administrator Nate Vander Plaats announced the change in roster at the July 25 city council meeting.


The Monday meeting saw a flurry of approvals, updates on both new and old business, a look at future salary adjustments for city employees, a grant request for the library, and the approval of an Eagle Scout project for a memorial bench at West Evergreen Park.


James Bondesen presented the project for a park bench in memory of Ellen Renz, a local Lennox woman who recently passed away from cancer. The city will purchase the bench, and a sugar maple tree has been donated to be planted beside it in memory of Bondesen’s brother.


Head Librarian Audrea Buller was present at the meeting for an approval to request a grant from the Lennox Area Community Fund. The $1,700 grant will go to new educational items in the library’s childhood development area.


Buller said they also plan to use donations from summer book sales and funds from their memorial account as needed to help fully fund the project.


The City of Lennox has received a revised lease agreement from the restaurant that is looking to take over the Lennox Senior Center location. The agreement is being looked over by the city attorney.


City Administrator Nate Vander Plaats has met with representatives from the American Legion regarding use of the Legion Hall for future senior services.


“The Legion is very supportive of this possibility,” Vander Plaats said.


The cost for a lease with the Legion Hall would be offset by the lease to the restaurant, and only a few minor improvements would be required for senior services. Those improvements include automatic door openers and a pedestrian ramp at the corner of Main Street and Second Avenue.


Commissioners terminated a TAP grant from the South Dakota Department of Transportation, tied up their purchase of the Eining property, and divided and annexed the Opheim tract off South Cleveland Street. They also briefly discussed the annual compensation analysis.



“I anticipate a significant increase in wages this year in order to keep pace with inflation and the market,” Vander Plaats said in a memo to city council.


The rolling consumer price index for our region is at roughly 9 percent, he said. He added that the council should expect some wage adjustments in the range of 12 percent for 2023.


A few positions highlighted for wage evaluations were police officers, part time paramedics and the city administrator.


“Police wages and salaries need further investigation … We have also heard that other jurisdictions are significantly increasing law enforcement wages,” he said. Part time paramedic wages will also need an adjustment to keep up with market wages, and the current employment agreement for city administrator expires at the end of this year.


Vander Plaats instructed department heads to complete their annual employee performance evaluations by August 20, which would let them build cost of living adjustments and merit increases prior to the approval of their department’s budget.

An overview of the entire compensation analysis can be found on the City of Lennox website.


After a few different offers, the city has finalized its purchase of the Eining property. They purchased the land for roughly $533,000. Though the property’s current value is at a little over $474,000, Vander Plaats said the city is purchasing the property for its future value.


“A property at this location has multiple attractive options for either industrial or commercial development,” Vander Plaats said.

Commissioners finished up their meeting with a glance at a development agreement with the Lennox Area Development Corporation.


The LADC is setting up a committee to find and purchase industrial land. As it continues, the city is working with them to see what that service and development will look like.

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