After taking care of routine annual appointments Monday, Jan. 11, the atmosphere quickly turned at Crosslake City Hall with Mayor Dave Nevin saying the biggest roadblock he faces is staff at city hall and agreement that more respect is required from both sides.
The comments came as Nevin initiated discussion on an agenda item related to a sign being erected for the new city hall location. It was learned during disjointed discussion that an incident occurred Tuesday, Jan. 5, involving unnamed city staff members, Nevin and council member Marcia Seibert-Volz that included alleged threats and that led Police Chief Erik Lee to turn the matter over to the Baxter Police Department to look into.
The incident occurred when Hy-Tec Construction began work to install the sign at the corner of County State Aid Highway 66 and Daggett Bay Road on Jan. 5, and city staff members questioned that location for the sign. Nevin and Seibert-Volz arrived at the location and apparently words were exchanged.
Nevin started discussion by asking the council where it wanted to place the sign and was the first to mention alleged threats and an investigation.
“We were all high spirited. Under no means did I ever threaten anybody,” he said, saying an investigation is going over the top.
Seibert-Volz then spoke of threats and an investigation also.
“There were no threats at that time, when we met there,” she said. “I’m a little upset too that I have the Baxter Police Department at my door and I had no idea why they were there. And I’m sure all the neighbors wondered why they were there.”
Clarifying events a bit, Nevin said he jumped in his truck and headed to city hall along with Seibert-Volz and her husband after he said City Clerk Char Nelson called him to say staff was sending workers installing the sign home.
“We’re going to dig into this a little deeper because it’s a combat constantly with staff trying to get things done,” Nevin said.
Lee explained the situation to the council, saying he and Sgt. Eric Swanson were called to the area because two city employees felt there was threatening action.
“That’s our job. We come. It involved the mayor and city employees,” he said.
Lee said he slept on it that night and then decided the right thing to do was to farm it out to another police department. He said a plain clothes detective showed up in an unmarked car at Seibert-Volz’s home.
Lee said the Baxter Police Department hadn’t gotten back to him, and he didn’t think any criminal charges were being considered.
“But the fact remains the same that two of our city employees did not feel safe at the time,” he said.
When Nevin asked who made the complaint, Lee wouldn’t say. No city staff members beyond Lee talked.
“We need to be more respectful. And that goes both ways,” Lee said.
Nevin later said: “The moral is, respect has to go both ways.”
Details of the incident were divulged in pieces when Nevin started discussion by asking the council where it wanted to place the sign - on the corner of County State Aid Highway 66 and Daggett Bay Road, “where people driving by can see it,” or in front of the new building on Daggett Bay Road “where staff wants it.” As council members tried to share their thoughts, Nevin and Seibert-Volz interjected about the alleged threats and investigation.
Nevin said the city’s building committee of 22 people spent three months on the project and decided to put the sign on the corner and he had been pleading with Hy-Tec Construction to install the sign before the ground froze.
“They finally get over here to put the sign in and staff shuts them down,” Nevin said, citing “extreme overreach” by city staff.
He specifically mentioned Zoning Administrator Jon Kolstad and Nelson.
The council ultimately agreed to place the one-sided sign on the corner, facing south.
Council member Dave Schrupp said he hoped people could work together. “This is just a sign,” he said, later adding, “A sign is not a big issue in all of the events going on in this country today.”
Nancy Vogt may be reached at 218-855-5877 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.