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City may waive certain public use fees

Hastings City Council updated the city's criteria for how it charges special events and added a new policy offering city employees a bonus for giving 90 days or more notice before leaving a position.

Approval of both policies came following discussion at the June 5 meeting, with concerns pertaining to cost and logistics. The council also spoke about whether it should have a role in adjusting the legal age limit to purchase tobacco, ultimately deciding to leave it open for a future discussion.

Special events policy

The council approved a policy on how much the city will cover the costs of its services provided to public and private events. The policy divides events into four different tiers, based on criterions such as whether they are private, public or free of charge.

Administrative Services Director Julie Flaten said she and her colleagues came up with the policy after the city hosted 15 events in 2017 that ranged in the numerous of required services, such as road closures or police presence.

"Often, we're asked, can you waive the fees?" she said. "This will help us very clearly know where an event lies in the policy."

The four tiers range from covering 100 percent of charges for large, public events to 50 percent from charity events. For-profit events are required to pay for 100 percent of the city services used.

Council member Mark Vaughan said he thought the policy was a good starting framework, but that more consideration should be given about what costs would incur from waiving fees.

"The idea is that if it's a public event, if it's public to members of the public, that it would be accessible and that would be something that the city is involved in," said Council member Lori Braucks. "If it's a public event ... we already automatically have a role ... so the idea was to know what's going on on our property and also to capture some of that extra cost where we're expending resources."

Advanced resignation incentive

The council approved a policy that would give $500 for a 90-day notice of resignation from city employees, as well as $1,000 for a 120-day notice and $1,500 for a 180-day notice.

This will encourage outgoing employees to train in new ones and reduce the time a position remains vacant, Flaten said. She added that it would be especially applicable for scenarios in which employees are retiring or relocating.

"I think we're putting ourselves in a position to say, we're going to lose a valuable employee, we want to use that experience to train the next person," Council member Lisa Leifeld said.

Vaughn cited cost and intent as concerns.

"I just didn't know we should be giving out stipends to public employees," Vaughn said. "I get concerned, what is it really going to cost us?"

In response, Flaten said the salary savings acquired from the veteran employee's exit could help cover potential financial impact.

Discussion on tobacco purchasing age

When approving the tobacco license for area country club Rudy's at The Pines, Council member Joe Balsanek asked that the council consider a future discussion on whether the city should raise the legal age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21.

While council members expressed varying views on whether the decision should be made at a city or state level, Mayor Paul Hicks suggested that the council think on it and potentially determine which committee could look into the idea at the next meeting on June 18.