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Vergas will see two races this election

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In the Vergas City Council race, Mayor incumbent Dean Haarstick will vie for another term against challenger Tracey Buhl. The position is a two-year term.

There are two seats open on the city council, with incumbent Myles Flateland running against challengers Kevin Zitzow and Paul Pinke. Seats carry a four-year term.

City Council alderman

Paul Pinke

Age: 64

Family: married with a son and a daughter

Occupation: self-employed at Vergas Ace Hardware

Q: Why did you decide to run for Vergas City Council?

A: I used to be on the council -- past council member, past mayor. I have been off for a while. I feel there is a need to get our council back online to be more consistent. A number of things have bothered me. The council now makes decisions based not on the current city ordinances. They make special provisions and special provisions can come back and haunt a person.

And now another question comes up, aren't you going to do it the same? You did the provision for this person, why aren't you going to do it for this person. If you're going to make provisions, you should change the ordinance, it's that simple.

There are some other things that have been problems for a long time and should have been addressed a long time ago. We don't have all of our city records in our city office; they are in a private residence. I feel strongly it's time we got everything back to the city in the city office, and have more city office time. Right now we (are only open) 10-4 two days a week. We should maybe have more time. Granted we're not a big town, but we should have more time available for the citizens.

I feel the some of the citizens haven't been addressed and listened to as much as they could have been. Sometimes the council members feel they are representing the citizens, but they actually make their own decision not based on the citizens' feelings, but their own feelings, which may or may not represent the majority of the citizens in the town. And that's what a councilperson or mayor needs to consider.

Do you see any future issues you'd like the council to address?

A: We're getting into some new development, potentially some new homes being built. With that, there's a sewer problem.

The city, when we just put in sewer, did not address that location as being potential for housing, so we don't have any sewer set up for it. So, who's going to pay for that? We have one person hooked up in that area and froze up last winter. So, we've got to address that.

They were all too shallow for the current sewer system and that has to be corrected somehow. Usually, when someone builds a development, they paid all the city water and sewer and then they assess it to the person buying the lot. That was the normal way.

Since then, we've had a situation where the city went beyond that and went a different route and paid for part of that hook-up. And that's where the rub comes in at. You've got to figure out what's fair for everybody.

Q: Anything else?

A: There are three people running for two positions -- Myles Flateland, Kevin Zitzow and myself. Myles is running for re-election. Myles is a good CPA; he knows his numbers. Both Kevin and myself feel it takes two to correct a council because there are four voting positions, and we have two that are still on, and we need two voting positions, not one, to get on and have a fair correction of the council actions. So, the two of us are kind of running together. Our goal is a common-sense approach to operating the city.

Myles Flateland

Age: 54

Family: married

Occupation: retired Certified Public Accountant, now does some carpentry and landscaping

Q: Why did you decide to run for re-election on Vergas City Council?

A: I decided to run for re-election cause I've done a lot of financial work with the city, helping them earn more money on their investments, helping them understand financing alternatives. Looking at a new auditor, which we did find. Nobody else on the council had the expertise to go interview a new auditor, and I did, being a former CPA.

I've also managed to decrease the tax levy the last two years with the help of the council, and it was my proposition that did that. If I can keep doing that for a while, people can see an actually benefit from what I'm doing, that is perhaps their taxes are being decreased a little, on the city level at least. Also, again, making more money for the city than they would otherwise make.

Q: What are some of the biggest issues facing Vergas now, and do you see any future issues you'd like the council to address?

A: The codification, which is basically amending and cleaning up the ordinances, is a big thing. Right now we have some conflicting ordinances that are tough to figure out. With this codification, they are going to clean them up and make them more straight forward, combine some, eliminate some.

The other thing, I did a 20-year cash flow projection for the water and sewer fund, and the water fund is going bankrupt in probably another 10 years. Well, if we do some changes now, we can keep that from happening, keep the thing solvent.

We have to address it now and not later. Even though it's unpopular to raise water rates, the alternative is unthinkable. We have to let the people know that's the case. I think we're trying to do that, but people still get misconception that we're raising them for no reason, but we have a very good reason, and that is potential bankruptcy of the water fund.

Q: Any other comments?

A: As a city council, we should be able to look forward more than one or two years. Have some long range plans, whether it be how to invest some funds or running a certain fund or even city growth. It's too easy to get caught up in the short term items going on in the city, but you still have to keep one eye on the longer term items. I try to do that, and I try to bring it up to other people on the council, but sometimes the more pressing issue is the current stuff, not the long term. It's a balance between both. I'd like to try to keep everybody informed on both those items.

Kevin Zitzow

Age: 28

Family: single

Occupation: owner of Vergas Auto Repair

Q: Why did you decide to run for Vergas city council?

A: I've been going to the last three years of meetings, and I've had quite a few people ask me to run. I think I can benefit the community by being on the council, make some educated decisions and hopefully bring a level of equality to the town.

Q: What are some of the bigger issues Vergas is dealing with now, and what would you think the council needs to take a look at in the future?

A: One of the bigger issues is the town is growing and it needs an organized approach at growing. It needs some good leadership in town in order to take charge and maybe change some of its outdated practices and ordinances in order to develop. The town isn't a little town of 100 people anymore. We need to take an approach as a city now versus a little small town village.

Q: Any other comments?

A: Vergas is a great place to live and it's a good town. It's a well-known community and a tourist community. I'd just like to keep town a great place to be.


Tracey Buhl

Age: 43

Family: married with three sons, two grown and one graduating this year

Occupation: special ed paraprofessional at Frazee-Vergas High School

Q: Why did you decide to run for mayor of Vergas?

A: I haven't been in town very long; we've only lived here for just over five years, but I have been very active in the Vergas Lions and helping out, just being part of the community. I've gotten a very warm reception from the people we work with and that I've met.

I just decided I could do a very good job of communication with the public and sharing information between people that have whether it's a concern, comment, or something great that they want to share, having open communication between that and city council members, just keeping track of when someone says something, just making sure the lines of communication are open and also to be out there and set a positive image for our community and promote our community.

Q: What are some of the bigger issues Vergas is dealing with now, and what would you think the council needs to take a look at in the future?

A: The board is currently working on codification of the ordinances that are old, which just in the time I've been here, not necessarily understanding what's gone on in the past cause things get modified and amended, I see that as being a real issue.

You need consistency in how you deal with everyone, and that's not to say special circumstances won't come up, but that seems to be a really big thing.

The other thing I see is the communication with the public. Not everybody is going to agree with what the council decides, but you need to feel like you've been heard. Trying to improve, keep that open so people feel comfortable in calling any one of the council members or the mayor. They need to know that there is a number, that if it is important to them, it should be heard by somebody.

Q: Any other comments?

A: Like I said, I haven't been in town very long, but it is very wonderful small city. The population is much bigger in the summer because there are so many people around.

I would like to see that we not just continue to maintain where we are as a city, but to improve it so we continue to get the summer visitors and tourists.

With the cost of everything in our lives going up, we really need that, but it's gets harder and harder for people to come to the lake. Even if they own their own cabin, I know of people who did not even make it to the cabin all summer. So, we need to work at making it a place they really want to work to get to. Just be proud of our city and keep it beautiful and a nice place to be for both children and adults and retired people and everybody.

Dean Haarstick

Age: 58

Family: married with one grown son

Occupation: self-employed mechanic

Q: Why did you decide to run for mayor of Vergas?

A: I think the town needs an experienced leader to assist with projects. We are in a growing stage right now where you need some history to make some decisions for the future.

Q: What are some of the bigger issues Vergas is dealing with now, and what would you think the council needs to take a look at in the future?

A: We first need to take a look at the past. We've done a lot of positive things; we've done the bike path, we've done considerable community center upgrades, there's also lots of new housing going on in the area.

We have improved some of our road projects. We have to continue with some of those, they're not all done. Not everything can be done at once.

I think the board probably has to improve the relationships, promoting more positive attitudes, work with the community organizations for better long range plans so everybody knows where they're at.

We have to be realistic on your dollar expectations, what you can and can't do. Sometimes you have to spend and sometimes you have to cut back. You need to keep maintenance up so everything looks to be a positive town, which it is.

We also need to do more long range planning. This includes road improvements and parking. There are many places people are looking at developments and that has to be looked into as a long range plan.

I think our parks and recreation, we need to continue to keep improving on those because more and more people are coming to town and it's important to have these things for both guests who come to town and for citizens who live in town can also make use of such fine facilities.

The ball diamond in the past has had considerable upgrade. A lot of people have fun up there. The parks are the same thing. The parks are a very good draw for us. We still have to look at a few things -- there is a scoreboard for the ballpark that is going into place. That goes back to my statement before about relationships between organizations and the city council. It all works together as one for building a strong community.

Q: Any other comments?

A: I have been involved in city work as early as a citizen volunteer since I came to town in the late '70s. It has been a marvelous privilege to work with the city of Vergas.

It's a fine community, lots of fine people. I enjoy their comments. If someone does have a complaint, I do address every complaint. I have visited households where complaints were issued. I went to whatever means I had to to solve the problem or come to a resolution. I think communications with our citizens is really important, and I encourage everyone to do that.