Plumbing company faces city council after sending out confusing mailingMembers of Bluewater Services, a Duluth-based plumbing and heating company that mailed a citywide advertisement that caused some confusion in Two Harbors last week, faced members of the Two Harbors City Council Monday night.
Members of Bluewater Services, a Duluth-based plumbing and heating company that mailed a citywide advertisement that caused some confusion in Two Harbors last week, faced members of the Two Harbors City Council Monday night.
Despite an argument by Bluewater Services attorney Thomas Skare that the company’s mailing was clearly an advertisement and not masquerading as an official city communication, the city stood by its decision to exclude Bluewater Services from the water meter project.
“Phone calls, text messages, Facebook messages. I’m going down to the grocery store and got asked ‘Who’s this Bluewater?’ ” Councilor Seth McDonald said.
City Attorney Steve Overom said that if his mother lived in Two Harbors and had received that letter, she would have called Bluewater Services. Then he would have told her to call someone else.
“Unless one of your citizens says, ‘We insist. We absolutely insist on this company doing this work’ and we get a sign-off saying the city is not responsible for any other actions, any other things that happen … other than that, I strongly recommend you continue the practice that was established a week ago on this, that this company not be allowed to participate in your water meter program,” Overom told the council.
“There is no constitutional right to contract with the City to install water meters,” he said. “The city has the right to choose who it wants to do this.”
Employees of Bluewater Services appeared with Cloquet attorney Skare before the council. Skare said that Bluewater Services had not intended to fool anyone, and he expressed concern that Bluewater Service’s advertisement was called an unauthorized act or advertisement.
Skare said several elements in the Bluewater Services mailing showed that it was not an official document and was not meant to be one: The advertisement indicated a potential client could call Bluewater for information, that Bluewater would provide an ordinance, and that potential clients must call Bluewater by the end of the month with an asterisk near it that indicated that additional fees could accrue at that point.
The letter Bluewater Services sent to Two Harbors residents was superimposed over the city ordinance on water meter installation and read in part: “Home owners must call contact Bluewater Services no later than March 31, 2012, to schedule the water meter install and receive this service at no cost.”
Skare asked that Bluewater Services be able to continue to perform water installations.
“They want to do this quickly for the residents and I think they have the expertise to be able to do this in a timely manner and to not incur any additional costs for the residents. That’s their pledge here,” he said. “Not only that they put in the meters but if there are some extra requirements that are required to be met in order to get those meters in, they will do it at their expense.”
Overom said an administrative decision has been made and that Bluewater Services was not going to be permitted to participate in the water meter installation project. He told the council that unless they wished to change it, no action needed to be taken.
“There’s an adage that former President Bush was confused on: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.’ My view is that that opportunity does not need to be provided to this company,” Overom said.
No members of the council moved to overturn the administrative decision.
Employees of Bluewater Services declined to speak to the News-Chronicle and directed all questions to their lawyer. Skare said he was disappointed that his client’s innocent action was blown out of proportion.
“There is a due-process issue here,” he said.
Skare said although the company has not undertaken formal polling, one of its 160 clients told Bluewater Services they knew it was an advertisement. “They understand it was an ad,” he said.
Pet ordinance addressed
Animals also weighed on the council’s mind.
Earlier in the evening, Public Affairs Committee members, the police chief and concerned citizens discussed a proposed new pet ordinance that would broaden the current limit of two pets per household to three dogs and three cats, Councilor Seth McDonald said.
“We’re proposing three dogs and three cats and there would be an amnesty period,” McDonald said. “If you have four dogs and four cats right now, go ahead and license your pets and then over time, when your pet is not with you anymore, you will not be allowed to have any more than the three and three.”
McDonald said the Humane Society would be the sole license-issuer for dog and cat licenses and it would be allowed to use the revenue to help pay for their operations.
The Public Affairs Committee is recommending at this point that no chickens and pot-bellied pigs be allowed to reside in the city limits, McDonald said.
“If in the future we get a huge demand to have chickens, we can address it at that point,” he said.
At the 7 p.m. meeting the council voted to have City Attorney Steve Overom look over the first draft of the new pet ordinance.
Golf building needed
City Councilor Jerry Norberg brought up his recommendation for a 10-by12 building to be added to the Lakeview National Golf Course at the 5 p.m. meeting. After meeting with golf course superintendent Tracy Pearson, Councilors Jerry Norberg and Steve Detlefsen were told that a building was needed to house chemicals for the golf course in the restrictions they must be stored in and contained.
“We’re not meeting those requirements right now. It could mean him [Pearson] losing his license to the chemicals,” said Norberg.
Interim Public Works Director Larry Fabini is working on what the building would cost. It would need to be heated in the winter for the chemicals.
“It has to be done. There has to be a containment system by law, so if it leaks it doesn’t leak into the ground,” said Norberg.
“It will have to be done this spring,” he said.
Swanson’s last meeting
The council also said good-bye to Councilor Chris Swanson. Swanson represents Ward Two and has served on the council for nine years. Swanson said that because of his business and family commitments, he is regretfully stepping down.
“It’s been a true honor to serve with each of you,” he told the council. “Your passion for this community is recognized. I am proud to have been a part of this.”
Swanson was presented with a certificate of appreciation by Mayor Randy Bolen, who also went through the timeline of Swanson’s service to the city. Swanson will be presented with a plaque later this week.
The Council passed a motion unanimously to appoint someone to fill the vacancy of Swanson’s spot at the March 26 City Council meeting from among people who submit letters of interest in the position to City Hall by March 22. The appointed person would serve until a special election is held during November’s general election. The winning candidate would take office immediately after the election.