County tax assessor Ron Vikre was on hand on Monday evening, April 8, when the Lanesboro City Council held the local board of appeals and equalization public meeting prior to its regularly scheduled meeting. Vikre was there to hear from citizens who make use of the opportunity to question the current year's property assessments.

Vikre first gave a thorough explanation of the meeting's purpose and procedures, and also the scope of the local board's rules and duties, including what it can and cannot do.

He provided a brief summary of property sales in the county during 2013. For the City of Lanesboro, in 2013, he reported the total value of properties at $56,404,400, new construction at $283,300, and agricultural and rural land at $1,653,000. Residential properties are at $42,483,100, seasonal recreational at $2,228,500, and commercial/industrial/B&B's total $10,039,800.

The total value assessed in 2012 was $55,991,200, which increased by .74 percent in 2013 to $56,404,400.

Mayor Steve Rahn opened the discussion for residents to voice their questions and/or appeals about the evaluation process.

One property owner, Rich Horihan, pointed out an error that had been made on his commercial property assessment in the past. Vikre responded that clerical errors on the county's part can be corrected, but must be appealed within one year of the error occurring. Horihan also asked if all grain bins are assessed at the same rate; he said he had been told that the answer was yes, but he had done some "checking around," and didn't find that to be true. Vikre explained that there are some additional parameters applied to bins based on age and construction. Horihan's third question had to do with taxpayers' understanding of the state general tax.

After a lengthy discussion, Vikre suggested that Horihan come into his office to continue the discussion and to clarify points made. Horihan agreed to do that.

Ibsen Fest and flags

A representative from the Commonweal Theater told the council about special plans for the upcoming Ibsen Fest, including that there will be delegates from Norway in attendance, and also delegates from the New Delhi, India, Ibsen Fest.

As part of the planning, 20 to 30 Norwegian flags are being loaned to the Commonweal by the city of Decorah. The request was first for permission to mount the flags on the city's light poles on Parkway Avenue and Coffee Street and the second request was for the city staff to put the flags up.

The city approved the placement of the flags, but would not provide the labor to do it.

Julie Charlebois, representing the Lanesboro Area Chamber of Commerce, said she would ask the chamber to request volunteers to help with the task, along with the theater personnel.

Committee reports

Council member and representative to the public utilities committee, Joe O'Connor was not at the meeting, so that committee gave no verbal update, however, the minutes of its meeting report were available.

Council member Tom Smith asked about one item, which was approval of $15,000 for tree trimming. He questioned whether or not the city could do it, because of the high price tag and no indication of how many trees were to be trimmed. No action was taken.

Council member Keith Eide did not make it to the Library Board, and there was no report from its meeting.

There was discussion about the fall state-level meeting being sponsored by the Historic Preservation Committee. Smith said it had received a grant to cover the costs, but the city was being asked to cover the cost of the reception's hors d'oeuvres. Interim city clerk Theresa Coleman responded that the conference is free to attendees, and they are being encouraged to come a day early; this reception is part of that early day and it will bring additional business to the area.

Smith said that perhaps the Lanesboro Area Chamber of Commerce (LACC) should pay instead of the city. Charlebois said she will take this request back to the LACC; she also indicated that the restaurant owners are participating, doing it all at cost and therefore donating the labor and transportation of the food.

Charlebois gave the update from the chamber, focusing on a bid it had received for the maintenance mulching at the depot and the museum, which are new landscaping sites. The bid has been awarded at a cost of $2,700, of which the DNR will contribute $500. The request is for the city to also provide $500, and the LACC will pay the remaining $1,700.

The council approved the $500 with the stipulation that during the next budget-planning cycle, there be discussion as to whom falls the responsibility and cost of the upkeep of the area.

Smith also brought up the fact that the City's website has not been updated since 2011. It had been asked if the city's meeting minutes can be sent to LACC and they could be put into the system there. The response was that "they could be done just as easily" at the city, to which Coleman responded that the city can only input the current ones, not the finals.

After the meeting, Coleman provided the following recap: the council approved the appointment of C. J. Peterson to the fire department as a firefighter.

The report from the ambulance department was that two members are about to complete the EMT courses and will then take the mandatory testing for certification.

Other business

In other business, the council handled the following issues.

• Applications for the open position of city clerk/administrator are currently being scored. When that is completed, the committee will meet and provide its recommendations. The council approved hiring Coleman as an hourly interim city clerk/administrator.

• The council approved proceeding with the park roadway phase 1 improvements, and also for engineering to proceed with the phase 2 soil boring tests.

• Streets supervisor Andy Drake provided an update on the state of some of the city's maintenance equipment, in particular the pickup which is eight years old and rusting. He pointed out that the city had been trying to trade vehicles at five years in order to cut down on costs, and so this one already has three extra years on it. He also said the plow and the dump truck need to be considered for replacement. The council approved that Drake get quotes to replace the pickup.

• The council considered amendments to Section 605 of Ordinance No. 4-8-13. This ordinance allows and restricts "certain activities on certain rights-of-ways" in the city. No action was taken; the ordinance goes "back to the drawing board."

• A contract was approved for the Commonweal Theater for the Preserve Minnesota Annual Conference in September. The contracts for the same event for the St. Mane Theatre and the Sons of Norway Hall were not ready for approval.

• The council approved room rental licenses for 18 locations pending receipt of payment and state licenses, a temporary liquor and gambling permit for the National Turkey Federation, and a temporary gambling and liquor license for Buffalo Bill Days.

• Informational items also included announcement of the SMIF Community Luncheon on April 18, the Tri-County Electric Annual Meeting on April 24, the SEMLM membership meeting on April 29, and the Capital Improvement Plan public information meeting on May 6 at 5:30 before the next council meeting. Anyone interested in attending can get more information from the city office. The Consumer Confidence Report will be included in the mailing of the next utility bill.

Citizens' comments

Charlebois, speaking as co-owner of the Riverside on the Root and the Root River Outfitters, asked the status of the repairs planned for the storm sewer, which originally runs under her property. The city is awaiting permits from the DOT, the DNR, and the Pollution Control Agency before it can proceed with the repairs.