Frequently asked questions from the campaign trail
What are the main differences between you and your opponents?
Jesse Preiner: I have no hidden agenda. I’ve been a resident for 65 years, and politically active for over 20 years. I truly want what’s best for our community. I became involved in local politics on a Mayoral level, when former Mayor Povolny, together with former City Officials Krebs and Watson, made a text amendment — allowing an asphalt plant to be built, on my road, with hundreds of dump trucks every single day in front of my home, and my business. I don’t think it generates enough in City taxes to offset all the dump trucks, and pollution they generate within our community. I can’t imagine why anyone would go against the wishes of over 800 Columbus residents, surrounding neighbors, and the largest commercial taxpayers in the City — who all signed a petition in opposition.
Janet Hegland: The main difference is experience (for Lattin and Watson), and vision (for Krebs). City government is a bureaucracy, we aren’t going to change that. I have years of experience successfully working in that environment — I don’t see that relevant experience for either Lattin or Watson. Simply growing up in the community, is not a qualifying experience. Jody Krebs has experience working within City government, but her vision is different than mine. I am proactive, plan for the long-term, and want to see a good return on investment. Jody’s responses to the Forest Lake Times describe a short-term, reactive vision — that does not create a resilient community.
Ron Hanegraaf: The biggest difference between me, and my opponents, is that I have acted on my commitment to our community. I retired after 32 years as a Police Officer, serving the community in many capacities. I worked over the past four years on the Planning Commission, and also attended most of the City Council meetings. If my opponents were so dedicated, and passionate about serving our community, they could have attended any of these meetings, but they didn’t until the last few weeks of this election. Also, they could have applied to any of the vacant positions on the Planning Commission or the Park Board that were posted over the last year. They didn’t volunteer to help with Fall Fest 2022. I believe service starts with action.
Why are you running for City Office?
Jesse Preiner: I watched the abuse perpetrated on the residents of Columbus during former Mayor Povolny’s reign, and I made up my mind I had enough of seeing him run unopposed for eight years. I wasn’t going to let it continue, and I am inspired daily by Edmund Burke. I felt residents needed a choice. They could choose between someone who understands, and believes in Columbus, by listening to what the residents want, OR someone who will put an asphalt plant on your street, just like they did on mine.
Janet Hegland: I thought long and hard about running for re-election. I’m good at problem solving, and have successfully tackled issues
that challenged Columbus for years. I have more I would like to do for Columbus.
Ron Hanegraaf: I have always believed in civic commitment, and giving back to the community — that is who I am. Now that I’m retired, I have more time to dedicate to residents, and making decisions that best suit all of us.
There seems to be more commercial development in Columbus. What is the development plan for Columbus?
All: That development has been deliberate, and it’s one of the main priorities of the City Council. The objective of the current City Council and Planning Commission is to get the right business in the right place. We use the same thinking when we consider a home business. We also believe “like attracts like”. Recently, Columbus has attracted high-value businesses and residential developments, and that has attracted more. We are on the right track for the future.
How can we ensure safe, secure elections for 2022, and beyond? Will you consider hand-counting ballots?
Jesse Preiner: Elections are held in the City, but Anoka County dictates the equipment, training, procedures, and processes. The County, or State of Minnesota, determines if a hand-count of ballots is necessary. In Columbus, our staff and election judges are well-trained, and we have seasoned poll workers. They take their responsibility very seriously, and provide a tremendous service to Columbus each election.
If you are openly running as a group, why did you choose to do this?
All: It is practical, and we have been transparent about it with voters. It costs money to buy signs, create and mail literature, and organize a group of volunteers to do the work of campaigning. It makes sense to pool resources, and get it all done as cheaply and quickly as possible. We have worked together for the past four years, and have a shared experience with the issues facing our City — whether we combine our campaign efforts or not.
The opposition views our campaign cooperation as a negative thing. They criticized us four years ago, too. We don’t have anything to hide. There is no “collusion”, we don’t have corrupt intentions, and we don’t agree on everything — just watch any City Council meetings from the past four years to see for yourself. Columbus residents can also see that Lattin, Krebs, and Povolny signs are frequently on the same property — is that “collusion” or a cause for concern? Is it cooperation? We aren’t making that a campaign issue.
Why does the City Council use a moratorium to temporarily suspend applications?
All: Moratoriums are established when the City Council asks City Staff to study the official guidelines related to “establishment, use and expansion of a particular business, group of businesses or use.” Applications are suspended during this process. Usually, a study is needed because there have been numerous complaints or issues related to the business, or perspectives have changed on that use and it’s time to update ordinances, or when an interpretation or definition is outdated. For example, Columbus previously had a moratorium on billboards, to determine how many should be allowed, and how closely spaced they should be. The City Council currently has three moratoriums:
1) Residential Zone businesses — The study will focus on regulations designed to minimize the nuisance characteristics, including protection of nearby residential homes and the quiet enjoyment our neighborhoods, balanced with expansion of the City’s tax base.
2) Lake Drive Commercial/Industrial (C/I) District and Mixed Use Low Density (MU-L) Zone — The study objective is to understand future market demand, and appropriateness for future development of:
(a) Building Trade/Contractor (Office/Sales)
(b) Light Industrial (Manufacturing, Processing, Assembly, Storage, Testing or similar)
(c) Recreational Vehicle (Sales/Service)
(d) Appliance/Vehicle (Service/Repair)
(e) Welding and Machine (Service/Repair)
The study will look at how other cities regulate their uses and zoning. We will also consider whether there is a need for additional or more prescriptive standards of approval, and whether there are additional design criteria for these types of uses to incorporate into the zoning ordinance.
3) Pet Facilities (Boarding/Grooming/Training) — The City is responsible for licensing, in addition to permitting, these facilities. Our ordinances needed updating to address this additional responsibility. The study will research permitting, licensing, land-use controls, and development standards to protect the public, and animal health, safety, and welfare.
Are dog kennels outlawed?
Janet Hegland: Absolutely not. New applications are presently suspended (see moratorium question), but current kennel licenses are being renewed on schedule.
I heard the City Council kicked the Seniors out of the Senior Center. Why?
Janet Hegland: For years, the Columbus Senior Club met on Tuesdays in the Senior Center for lunch and activities. In March 2020, public health mandates forced the closure of the Senior Center. During this time, the City upgraded the HVAC system to meet new COVID guidelines, and installed hands-free faucets and restroom dispensers. As Minnesota Department of Health guidelines evolved, the Senior Group was informed, and chose to hold off meeting until COVID rates declined. The City decided to use that time to make necessary repairs to the septic system, restrooms, and walkway.
Recently, the Senior Group decided to return to the updated Senior Center, but asked for the City to first hire an Activity Planning Coordinator. Councilor Hegland is working with them to identify activities, and with City Staff to find available grant funding for these expanded services.
Did Dave Povolny really win ONLY when unopposed?
Ron Hanegraaf: Dave Povolny has been running for Mayor since 2008, when he lost to Mel Mettler. He ran unopposed in 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016. In the 2010 Election, 506 people actually submitted write-ins against him. He was defeated in 2018 and 2020 by Jesse Preiner.
Are these seats nonpartisan?
All: Yes. The Mayor and City Council are nonpartisan positions. We are committed to work for what’s best for Columbus.
What is the pay for City Councilors and the Mayor? Should these be volunteer, public service positions?
All: The City Council and Mayor are paid on a per meeting basis, but this includes required meetings only — like Council meetings, and meetings for Committee assignments. Workshops conducted on the same day as Council or other official meetings are not compensated. The total is $3,000 to $4,000/year, depending on the number of meetings held. Several current City Councilors have asked not to be paid, because they simply want to serve their constituents. However, legal counsel has advised that by City policy, they must accept this nominal fee for their services.
Are you planning to blacktop all City roads?
All: Absolutely not. Currently, the City Council responds to a neighborhood petition to blacktop their road if the residents on that road agree to be assessed for the improvement. However, it is a matter of public record that Dave Povolny, and his previous Council, wanted to blacktop all roads in Columbus.
Are you opposed to more trails for walking and biking?
All: Absolutely not. The City Council has responded to requests to add walking paths on Notre Dame and Potomac, which are County Roads. Anoka County requires residents donate land along a proposed pathway, before they will proceed with planning for walking and biking trails. To date, there has not been a willingness to donate land. However, the Council directed the Park Board to begin work on a Master Plan, to include walking and biking trails. This can be done in conjunction with Anoka County road projects and grants, to link up with existing trails and walking paths/sidewalks, without increasing your taxes.
Does Mayor Jesse Preiner have a permit for his trout farm? I heard he is running an illegal business.
Jesse Preiner: The Trout Monger is my business, and is categorized by the State of Minnesota as aquaculture/agriculture. Like other agricultural businesses in Columbus, it is exempt from the permitting process, and perfectly legal.
Was Jody Krebs on the Planning Commission, while her husband Bill Krebs was on the City Council? Was that legal? Is this still possible?
Ron Hanegraaf: Yes, Jody Krebs served on the Planning Commission, while Bill Krebs served on the City Council. Since that time, the Planning Commission bylaws have been updated with a nepotism policy, to prohibit spouses from serving concurrently on these Boards.
Is hunting allowed in Columbus? Why is Dave Povolny talking about the U.S. Constitution 2nd Amendment, “making firearm use safe and legal” in his “Columbus Examiner”?
Jesse Preiner: I can assume that he brings this up to imply that the City Council has the ability to change State and Federal laws. The City, City Council, and Mayor have no jurisdiction over anything regarding the 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution. Hunting is allowed in Columbus. Firearms are allowed in Columbus. It’s a non-issue, and to suggest otherwise is simply political scare tactics.
What were the results of the traffic speed study? Will speed limits change?
All: The City regularly receives your complaints about excess speed on many city streets, and requests to lower the speed limit on city streets. When the State of Minnesota changed the law to allow cities to set their own limits, the City Council directed the City Engineer to conduct the required speed study.
The preliminary findings were presented at the City Council meetings September 13, 2022, and October 11, 2022, with a presentation — all available on the City website. The Council will act on the recommendations at the meeting November 9, 2022.
Why did the City hire a Compliance Officer? Will it be intrusive or will I be told what to do with my own property?
Jesse Preiner: The City has not hired a Compliance Officer. While the City Council agrees that lack of code compliance is a significant problem in Columbus, we haven’t decided on a way to solve it. This position was not approved in the 2023 budget. The Council has asked for other solutions to be presented at the December 2022 budget meetings.
There is agreement that businesses, and residents, should comply with the conditions defined by their Zoning and City Permits. Lack of enforcement creates nuisance issues, along with safety and public health concerns — impacting our property values, and our quality of life. Ultimately, it is the job of City government to enforce City Zoning ordinances. As elected officials, we have a responsibility to protect the health, safety, and welfare of residents.
Did you really sue Dave Povolny?
Janet Hegland: A recent issue of the Dave Povolny-produced newsletter, "Columbus Examiner," ran with the headline — “Dave Povolny Sued for Alleged Campaign Sign Violations.” He was NOT sued. In several of the elections prior to 2018, residents noticed Dave Povolny had not included any of the required disclaimers on his election signs about who paid for them. The complaint was made by a resident to the Office of Administrative Hearings, with documents and witness testimony, that he ignored the rules for election signs and campaign materials. Dave Povolny never denied that allegation. The court relied on Dave Povolny’s explanation — he pulled his materials from a dumpster, and did the printing himself. He also claimed he didn’t spend any money, so he wasn’t guilty of the violation of not having the disclaimer. Former Mayor Povolny tried to claim that the complaint filed was frivolous, and sought to have his attorney fees paid for. The Court clearly says in their order that the complaint was not frivolous, and it did not award Povolny reimbursement of attorney fees.
Why did the City of Columbus hire Anoka County to be their tax assessor?
Jesse Preiner: Until recently, Columbus had an Independent Tax Assessor, who also served other area communities, but retired in 2019. Contrary to the information in the Povolny "Examiner," we did hire a replacement Tax Assessor, who retired at the end of his contract in 2021. Before he retired, he identified significant accuracy problems with the information that had been entered into the property tax records. The Anoka County Tax Assessor’s Office confirmed this finding, and recommended a full City assessment to correct these inaccuracies. After an exhaustive search for a replacement assessor, with no qualified applicants, and with the knowledge that a full City assessment was necessary, the Council approved a contract with Anoka County for Assessor services. The job of a Tax Assessor, whether independent or hired through the County, is to fairly assess the value of property, according to State statutes, and County guidelines. The citizens of Columbus will be equally represented by either our own, or the County’s assessors.
What’s the controversy about Love’s Travel Plaza?
Ron Hanegraaf: There really is no controversy about Love’s Travel Plaza. Somebody mentioned the other day, they thought gas prices were more competitive now in that area. That’s good to hear when you are doing the weekly fill up. Contrary to Dave Povolny’s allegation, there were no text amendments made by the Council. The previous Council, under Dave Povolny, made it a permitted use. The location is perfect for travelers to stop for fuel, a bite to eat, and other amenities. All traffic is easily handled by the new bridge. Columbus residents enjoy the benefits, without affecting our peaceful, rural neighborhoods.
Was Running Aces really built on the old Trout Air property?
Jesse Preiner: No. The former Trout Air property, home to three generations of the Preiner family and their businesses, is now the Preiner’s Preserve neighborhood. The land, purchased and developed by Running Aces, has no relation to Mayor Jesse Preiner and his family.
Does Jesse Preiner sell trout to Running Aces? Should he recuse himself from any decisions that the Council makes on Running Aces requests?
Janet Hegland: Yes. The City Attorney is aware of the business relationship between Mayor Preiner and Running Aces, and advises Mayor Preiner if recusal is appropriate when there is Running Aces business before the Council. The Mayor has always followed the attorney’s advice on this matter.
We have a 5-acre minimum, so why am I seeing homes built on smaller parcels?
Janet Hegland: In the Rural Residential zoning district, we have an ordinance requiring a minimum of 5 acres. This district is what most of us live in, and is defined partly by our private water and septic systems. In large developments like Thurnbeck Preserve, the previous Council amended the ordinance to allow a “lot average” option — the average lot size across the development must equal 5 acres. The end result is that some lots are more than 5 acres, and some are less, and this is predominantly determined by where the wetlands are. Each lot has two adequate sites for sewer, and must adhere to setbacks. It gives developers flexibility in platting around the wetlands to maximize the number of buildable lots.
In the Freeway District, and the northeast end of Lake Drive, there is municipal water and sewer, to support the primarily commercial development planned for that area. The new St. Clair Lakes development on Lake Drive, and the Preiner’s Preserve neighborhood on Zurich Street are NOT in a Rural Residential Zone, so the rules for development are different. The Met Council expects higher density housing in areas with municipal water/sewer. It makes sense, that when you move away from the rural parts of our city, we can meet our obligation for increased housing density, by allowing houses to be built closer together, without compromising the peaceful feel of the Rural Residential district.
What’s happening at the intersection of Camp Three Road, since the traffic study?
Jesse Preiner: In response to citizen complaints, the City requested Anoka County study the problematic intersections of Camp Three Road/Kettle River Boulevard, and Lake Drive/155th Avenue/Kettle River Boulevard — to determine how to make them safer for drivers.
The County proposed several solutions, including a roundabout at the intersection of Lake Drive/155th Avenue/Kettle River Boulevard; and terminating Camp Three Road in a cul-de-sac at Lake Drive. The cost of these remedies was significant, but grant dollars were available, and the Council directed the City Engineer and Anoka County to submit a grant proposal to fund their recommendation. We were just informed that the County’s grant submission was funded for up to two million dollars, which pays for the vast majority of that improvement. The timing of the project is proposed for 2027.