Last week Wednesday, during the council workshop meeting before the regular council meeting, Rick Weible, former mayor of St. Bonifacius and current member of Midwest Swamp Watch gave a presentation to the council on election integrity and the issues he and his organization have found with the Dominion voting machines, the machines which Sherburne County uses. County Auditor Diane Arnold was invited to come and offer a rebuttal of Weible’s claims, but declined to attend.
Weible explained to the council and others in attendance the various ways in which the machines were unreliable. The machines run on Windows 7, which Microsoft no longer supports and therefore they do not receive regular security updates. He also noted that the wifi network, though private and locked, was visible to any person visiting the government center, making it that much easier for a hacker to locate the correct network.
Besides the machines being outdated and hackable, human error can lead to inaccurate counts as well. Incomplete logs of votes and of people entering and exiting the rooms where ballots are stored are two of the issues he discussed.
Weible suggested hand counting the ballots in the upcoming election to eliminate or alleviate these issues.
The full recording of Weible’s presentation to the Big Lake Council can be found at TinyURL.com/RickWeiblePresentation.
After Weible’s presentation, Mayor Paul Knier responded by saying that he was concerned about the issues raised regarding the machines themselves, but that he had full faith in Gina Wolbeck, the city clerk who ran the elections. He promised to continue to research the issue.
Brad Cross, in light of the recent uncertainty cast on the election process in the county, wanted to share his point of view as an election judge. He spoke of the integrity of Gina Wolbeck, city clerk who is in charge of running elections, and had many positive things to say about the way she has run elections in the city. He confirmed that, during the last general election, one of the Dominion voting machines did go down, but that he and another election judge worked quickly to secure the unit. Judges from each party handled all ballots and no ballots were compromised. Cross believes that hand counting ballots would be a bad idea, as he believes this will lead to errors over the course of a long day.
The Northland Meadows Second Addition will feature single-family homes and single-family villas.
Council members and staff discussed some concern about the housing density of the proposed project. The area is zoned for R1 residential, but the proposed project would represent slightly more density, making it R2 (although, according to staff, the true density would land somewhere between R1 and R2). Although all of the units are single family homes, the tightly-packed villas with small yards (which are marketed towards 65 and older individuals who don’t need much space and don’t like to do a lot of yard maintenance) make the density higher than the city intended for the area.
The developer’s representative explained that there hasn’t been as much demand for large yards, and in the current market he doubted anyone would be able to develop the area to an R1 standard.
However, the developer was unsure whether they wanted to pursue the plan, anyway, as there would be a significant cost to providing sewer services to the area.
The council heard an update on the code revision project. Staff is working to make city code more “user friendly” for developers and residents. Staff approached the council to give the council members a chance to ask questions and provide feedback. The new code should be in use by next spring if everything goes as planned.
Norm Michels of the streets, parks, and fleet department gave an update on his department’s preparations for the summer. Spring crack filling has been going on for several weeks. They have also been dragging over the ball fields in preparation for youth baseball.
A local excavator volunteered their truck to move pieces of the Lakeside Park pier back to the lake, since none of the city’s vehicles were capable of doing so. Michels offered his sincere gratitude for the gesture, as did the council members. Improvements were made to the boat landing, which had some significant cracking.
The city is working with Sherburne County to offer a story stroll at Highline Park. Kids who complete all the story strolls in the county and collect stamps from each one can receive a prize from their local library.
Dan Childs of the Water and Wastewater department reported that improvements to the water treatment facility have led to much more water conserved.