Nancy Edmonds Hanson
Dan Mahli, who joined the city of Moorhead as assistant city manager almost three years ago, has been tapped to temporarily take the reins of administration by the Moorhead City Council. More discussion of how to proceed in finding a permanent replacement will resume at the next meeting on June 22.
Mahli’s appointment as acting city manager begins June 28, the day after the incumbent, Christina Volkers, leaves to take a similar position in the Twin Cities suburb of Oakdaleb. Volkers has served as city manager since January 2017, nine months before Mahli was hired as second-in-command.
Mayor Johnathan Judd departed from the item on the council’s agenda, a proposal to engage executive recruitment firm Baker Tilly Virchow Krause of St. Paul to find candidates to fill the position. The mayor cited the cost of the executive search – $23,000 plus various expenses – as well as “a number of very well qualified in-house candidates.” He suggested, instead, the council form its own search committee and open the position to city staff first. “If we can’t find someone withinour own walls, then we can open it to a regional or national search,” he suggested.
City attorney John Shockley pointed out the Moorhead city charter states that the only city employee employed directly by the council is the manager, giving the group “a lot of discretion” in how it chooses to proceed.
Council members discussed transparency in the hiring process and the opportunity to include diverse members of the community in the hiring process. Several raised the possibility that hiring an interim manager from out of the area – again, recruited through Baker Tilly to manage the city during its search for a permanent manager – would emphasize the impartiality of their eventual decision. Others stressed that someone already familiar with Moorhead and its strategic plan would best serve the community.
In the end, they passed a resolution to appoint Mahli acting manager and defer a decision on whether, and how, to proceed with the interim appointment and search process. It will be on the agenda June 22, along with options on how to proceed after research by Shockley.
Wastewater plant bids
The council approved awarding $18 million in contracts for improvements to the city’s wastewater treatment plant. The projects include replacement of bar screens and grit removal equipment; a new cover for the waste digester, which collects methane gas subsequently used to generate power; a storage facility for the city’s portable generators, pumps and other emergency equipment; and rehabilitation of 7,000 feet of aged brick sewers, largely in the downtown area. City engineer Robert Zimmerman reported that bids came in almost $1 million below the department’s initial estimate.
Funding has been secured through a loan from the Minnesota’s Clean Water Revolving Fund. The interest rate, Zimmerman said, was originally expected to be 2.7%, but the current rate is only 1%. “We’re using 1.5% in our projections to be on the safe side,” he said. The loan will be repaid through an increase in the wastewater charge applied to water users’ bills.
ISR Homes gets exemption
Dan Parrow, the principal of ISR Homes, requested and received a property tax exemption for the company’s new 12,000-square-foot headquarters building at 4218 29th Ave. S.. ISR plans to begin construction this month on the lot, fronting on Interstate 94 on the southeast edge of the city. Completion is projected for November.
The building includes a showroom, offices and warehouse for the home construction firm, along with three condos for lease to smaller companies. The project’s total cost is $1.3 million. It qualifies for the Economic Development Authority’s 10-year property tax exemption, which the council approved.
Due to an editing error, an interview with Mayor Johnathan Judd from June 2019 was published on page one of the June 2 edition of the Moorhead Extra.
The correct story – headlined “Mayor Judd: ‘We have to stop this us-against-them mentality’” – is available online at www.thefmextra.com.