Swanville establishes fee for cannabinoid permit

The Swanville City Council established a permit fee to sell cannabinoids, such as CBD, within city limits, Tuesday.

A permit will cost $350 per year to anyone who is licensed to sell such projects and wishes to do so within the city. That compares to Morrison County’s fee of $300 annually to sell tobacco products.

Mayor Sandy Lange said the city’s contracted law firm, Quinlivan and Hughes, of Long Prairie, is looking over a proposed city code regarding the sale of cannabinoid products. Some provisions within it are that no business can be conducted within 300 feet of a school and the products must be sold behind a counter.

“I did have somebody approach me about selling some in town now,” Lange said. “They wanted to purchase a building. I said, ‘The first thing is, it has to be 300 feet from the school and it has to be sold behind a counter.’ I said we were going to vote today on a price for the fee.”

When discussing what to charge for the fee, City Clerk/Treasurer Julie Hollermann said it could be comparable to the fee for a liquor license. That fee, according to Lange, is $2,500 for a permit that includes Sunday sales and on-sale until 2 a.m.. The base price for on-sale only is $2,000.

Council Member Jim Molitor noted that liquor stores have a lot more product to sell than would a potential CBD business.

“Any time you’re going to charge for a license for something, it should be close to what you are going to spend on doing the work for it and enforcing it; the paperwork and time that Julie has to put into it and that kind of stuff,” Lange said. “You can’t charge something like $10,000 for a fee when you’re only going to spend 10 minutes on it.”

She suggested they could start at around $100 to $200 per year, initially. If that is found to not be enough, it could be amended along with the rest of the city’s fee schedule in January 2024.

“It seems to me we kicked around a figure of $200 before, didn’t we?” said Council Member John Dragseth.

Lange said that was the case. She also said liquor licenses are often more expensive because the city has to do background checks on applicants. With the cannabinoid permit, staff members would only have to ensure they have a license.

Council Member Norm Carlson asked if other business owners in town, such as those who run the grocery store, filling station and hardware store, would be comfortable with that cost if they decided they want to start selling those products.

That led Lange to ask if there was going to be a limit on how many permits would be issued within the city. Such a guideline is in place for liquor licenses.

As it is currently written, there is not such a provision in city code.

“What I’m kind of getting at, too, Sandy is, so we set a fee for this individual you mentioned coming in,” Carlson said. “He wants to set up, apparently, a store of his own just to sell this. What if one of these other businesses in town would be interested in it?”

She said they would just have to get a license from the state. If they did so, the fee would be applicable to them, as well.

“They’re surely aware of it, I guess, right?” Carlson said.

“I went to most of them and asked if they were going to be selling it,” Lange said. “Kamp’s (Korner Store) was selling some sort of thing, but they weren’t really selling any.”

Eventually, Lange looked up the cost of a tobacco license in Morrison County and learned it is $300 per year. Based on that, Molitor felt $300 or $350 would be a fair fee for the cannabinoid permit.

“I’d say $350,” he said. “Whoever’s going to be doing this is more than likely going to be exclusive. If some other store comes in, they’re going to have to pay the same.”

Lange said the person who approached her wanted to buy the former barber shop to set up a store. It would sell other merchandise, aside from CBD.

She said the site is OK in terms of being far enough away from the school and having a counter. Though she noted there will be substantial costs involved with fixing up the building for its intended purpose.

“If he doesn’t price it too high, it would save people a trip to Little Falls to get it,” Carlson said. “I’m in favor of it.”

The motion passed, unanimously.

Still waiting to drill

At its March meeting, the Council approved a low bid submitted by Traut Wells to drill a well so testing for PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in the city’s water could take place.

Tuesday, Carlson said he had been in contact with Holly Wilson from Moore Engineering — the city’s contracted engineering firm. He informed her that nobody had been out to drill the well, yet.

Wilson told him she had spoken to Traut, and they indicated it would likely be the end of April or first part of May before the work started.

“I said, ‘Well, that’s a ways off from what they said,’” Carlson said. “‘I know,’ she said. ‘That’s true. But that’s where we’re at.’”

He said he spoke with fellow Council Member Tony Maciej, who was not present at Tuesday’s meeting, and asked him to check with other well drillers about doing the work, though he had not heard back.

“That’s where we’re at,” Carlson said. “We’re concertedly further behind than we thought we would be.”

He said Tyrel Clark, also of Moore Engineering, gave “huge numbers” regarding what it was going to cost to test the water in the well. He asked Wilson about those numbers, but she told him she would have to talk to Clark about it before providing any other options.

However, she did note that the state could possibly test it for the city. In that case, there would not be any charge.

“They would get it done just as fast or faster than this private firm that Tyrel was going through,” Carlson said. “It would save us, what was it, $10,000? I forget what it — the whole thing, how it broke down, but it was an enormous amount just to get the darn water tested, according to what Tyrel told us.”

Molitor told him that one of the tests the private firm will conduct will determine the number of gallons per minute pumped by the well. The state doesn’t do that, he said.

Carlson said he believed that was a separate issue from the PFAS, which he said is the more pressing issue. If there is a great amount of PFAS in the water, “or even if it doesn’t get any less,” he said the city may have to build a treatment plant around the new well.

Lange noted that it takes a while to get testing back in regard to PFAS. Hollermann said Minnesota Rural Water confirmed that in a conversation she had with them.

Lange said going with the state probably wouldn’t speed up the process, but it could save the city some money. Hollermann said she talked to Wilson and gave her the name of the person she was talking to at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

Their hope is, once the well is dug, the state can conduct the testing.

“Hurry up and wait, hurry up and wait,” Lange said. “That’s all we’ve been doing.”

Swanville City Council briefs:

In other business Tuesday, the Swanville City Council:

• Approved temporary financing to pay Moore Engineering for its work on the city’s water system;

• Approved a request to pay Terrain Aesthetics Owner Jenny Koetter to fertilize and spray the lawn at the city park. A 5% discount is offered with pre-payment, prior to the end of April. She will provide treatment throughout the summer, at a cost of about $1,235.95;

• Approved a resolution to join Morrison County’s Hazard Mitigation Plan;

• Approved a resolution to enter into a coverage agreement with the Morrison County Attorney’s Office and Bureau of Criminal Apprehension;

• Approved a request from Maintenance Director Lonny Hutchins to contract with Nelson Sanitation for porta-potties at Pepin Lake. It will provide two porta-potties throughout the summer, which will be replaced on a weekly basis. It will provide an additional unit over the Fourth of July. The Swanville Lions Club will reimburse the city for the cost of one unit, meaning the city will have to pay $78 per month, plus a one-time delivery fee;

• Tabled a decision on approving jetting services for one-third of the city’s sanitary sewer system;

• Approved a request from City Clerk/Treasurer Julie Hollermann to attend a conference with the League of Minnesota Cities, June 21 – 23, in Duluth, at a cost of $225, plus mileage and lodging; and

• Announced that state Reps. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, and Isaac Schultz, R-Elmdale Township, will hold a town hall meeting at noon, Monday, April 10, at the Swanville Senior Center.

“We should all be there saying, ‘Pass our bill, pass our bill,’” said Mayor Sandy Lange, referring to a $3.1 million bonding bill request for the city’s water system.

The next meeting of the Swanville City Council is at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 2, at the Swanville Senior Center.

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