Last week I was contacted by a business owner in Burnsville who had some concerns about the way City deals with those who conduct business within the city’s boundaries. A business located in the Towne and Country Mall at the corners of Cliff and MN-13 claimed there was a definite disconnect between what was being said by the City Council and by the City Staff and they were disappointed in the hoops business owners have to go through in order to conduct successful business within the city’s limits.
I contacted the business owner via phone to hear their side of the story. They were looking to attract new business and decided to apply for a permit to have an outdoor event to do so. They previously hosted six other events where they applied for and received a specific permit so they would be able to carry on with their business they felt that this event fit within those guidelines. With these prior instances in mind they again approached the city and applied for the same permit. Unfortunately the permit was denied and they were informed that they needed an entirely different permit instead. After paying for this second permit the event was approved and they went about placing signs advertising the event around the city. The next day their signs were confiscated without notification.
After the business owner spoke with councilmembers Charlie Crichton and Mary Sherry, Councilmember Crichton retrieved the signs and a note from City Staff stating the need for the original permit they applied for in the first place. While the City Councilmembers claimed this business should not be charged for yet another permit, the staff was adamant and the business is now out several hundred dollars due to an ineffective and confusing system within City Hall. The business owner went on to state:
The negative attitude you are confronted with when you talk to city hall to bring business to Burnsville is why I believe nothing happens in Burnsville. There are some terrible staffing problems in there and the staff and the council are not working together to make this an easy process.
Mr. Michael Roess, owner of the Towne and Country Mall spoke with me about the issues businesses are having in the city and he said:
Businesses are struggling all over Burnsville, just like the PAC is, and yet the city is making it difficult to do things to increase business. If the city would just make a few small tweaks to their operations things would work out a whole lot better for everyone.
So, based on these discussions I decided to contact staff member Ron Anderson who is a code enforcement officer with the city and the city staffer the business has dealt with in the past. I gave him a call and spoke with him about the situation. While listening to his version of events I admitted I was confused about the lengthy permit process to which he replied, “yes, you ARE confused.” After letting his comment sink in for a minute I reminded him that there was no need for him to be rude and that he should remember that he is a public servant. He then replied, “I do not have time to sit here and talk to you about this.” After sitting in stunned silence for a bit before asking if he was sure he wanted me to take that down in my notes I apologized for my “wasting his time,” and he ended the phone conversation.
After my unfortunate and uninformative phone call with Mr. Ron Anderson I contacted the City Clerk’s office to contact the supervisor for the permit department. After being forwarded on to voicemail I left a message stating that I had questions which Mr. Anderson did not have time to answer and would like a return call. I received a call back from Tammy Omdal, Deputy City Manager, who took the time to give me background on the situation and to apologize for the poor interaction I had with Mr. Anderson and to swear he’s been talked to and told never, ever, ever, to do it again and made to pinkie swear to ensure he’s not lying when he says he won’t. Mrs. Omdal was insistent that the City Staff is just enforcing the city’s admittedly tough stance on signage and that they do not have the time to contact those who may have had their signs confiscated. When I mentioned the fact that Mr. Anderson admitted to knowing who owned the signs and having processed a permit the day before for them and thus had easy access to their contact information Mrs. Omdal stated that while they do encourage their staff to do everything they can as staffers, Mr. Anderson just doesn’t have the time to be contacting anyone. When I pressed her if this was due to the economic issues within the city and the general lack of common sense displayed by staffers like Mr. Anderson, Mrs. Omdal refused to answer my question.
While I have had my own frustrations with dealing with Burnsville’s City Staff, it’s always for different reasons (slow/stonewalling to release information mainly), but in this instance it was clear to me that at least one department which Burnsville businesses must deal with reguarly in order to be successful in this market is making it extremely frustrating to deal with the city. Burnsville needs to really try a little harder and put its best foot forward when dealing with businesses–especially those which are not along the CR-42/Burnsville Center/HOC corridor. There are other businesses of consequence in Burnsville and they need just as much attention and care as the rest.
So what do you think about the hoops business owners and residents alike have to jump through in order to follow the law in Burnsville? Do you think that it’s a purposefully confusing system brought on by individuals who are rude and uninterested or was this simply an issue created by an isolated employee? Do you think that the City of Burnsville should work harder to ensure that the City Council and City Staff are on the same page for what they do or do you think that it’s right for there to be conflicting messages sent? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear what you have to say.