Lanesboro City Council considers options for dam funding options
Wednesday, July 09, 2014 4:51 AM
Since the state funding for the Lanesboro Dam fell through, Mike Bubany updated the Lanesboro City Council on a few options it could pursue for the funding at the regular meeting on Monday, July 7. Unfortunately, none of the options looked promising to the council or beneficial for the city.
A few options presented were a tax abatement bond or a voter referendum. Another was to issue a utility general obligation bond related to the utility. If the city were to consider the general obligation bond, the city would have to borrow $1.75 million with a 20-year payback period and four percent interest. This amount would leave the city with a yearly bill of $129,000.
Going with this solution, a levy would increase each resident's utility bill. Assuming a home is worth $100,000, that homeowner's monthly utility bill would be increased by $20 per month.
Since each of these options would have a significant impact to either the tax levy or utility rates, City Administrator David Todd related that the city had applied for an extension for the grant it received for the dam improvements and repairs to be extended to 2015, rather than having it be withdrawn from lack of production on the dam.
Todd explained at last month's meeting that there were several bonds on the table for the project now that would be rescinded if the project would not begin soon. One of these is a $90,000 grant from the Minnesota Historical Society that expired in mid-June. The rest of the grants could be pulled at the end of the summer.
Todd shared the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has an interest in the dam to the tune of $950,000 and that Lanesboro would have to pick up 54 percent of the bill for the project.
There will be further investigation on the funding options and the council approved proceeding to find a way the city could fund the dam project on its own.
River gauge grant
An opportunity for a new river gauge was also brought before the council at the regular meeting by Ken Soiney of the River Rat Outfitters in Lanesboro and Mike Welvaert from the National Weather Service. Together with the DNR and the University of Iowa engineering program, Lanesboro has an opportunity to obtain a new river gauge.
The average cost for a rain gauge is around $28,000. However, through the engineering program at the University of Iowa, Lanesboro would be able to receive a gauge for around $7,500.
The main question for the council to determine is if Minnesota's DNR would be willing to go with equipment and installation costs from an out-of-state entity.
If the DNR would approve of the use of the University of Iowa's services, the city would be given a grant covering 75 percent of the $7,500 cost, leaving the 25 percent for the city to cover.
It was noted that the city needs a new river gauge. Soiney and Welvaert spoke of the city benefiting through the new river gauge as it is advanced enough for it to be read via radio waves to cell phones.
This would give a real-time reading on the river. Todd stated this would benefit the city as well as the canoe and tubing industry.
Lanesboro Arts Campus
Courtney Bergey from the Lanesboro Arts Center appeared before the council to update the members on incorporating signs around the city as a part of the Lanesboro Arts Campus. One goal is to clearly designate pathways around town for tourists to understand where they are to go to best see the art offerings in town.
A few weeks ago the Lanesboro Arts Center hosted a Haiku poetry contest, seeing 65 people submit poems. Poems chosen will be attached to light posts around town to become signs for tourists visiting Lanesboro. Signs will also direct tourists downtown, at the bike trail as well as near the historical walking bridge.
The Lanesboro Arts Center is working with the local art committee in the poetry signage and it is also working with the historical society in order to tell the history of the walking bridge.
Another part of the plan is to place a kiosk in the bass pond parking lot with the information for Lanesboro. This would take up two extra parking spaces, but it is often vacant because people do not know they are able to park there.
Work has been based on the strategic plan, 20/20, done several years ago. A key part of the signage system is to clearly direct the tourists. Bergey related an incident where a family walked over County 8 in order to get downtown because the path was not clearly seen. The Lanesboro Arts Center has raised the money to create a way-finding system, so it would not cost the city anything. They started working on the project a while ago, but have really been working on something tangible for the past year.
Putting up the signs required quick action since the grants given for it have to be used prior to a certain time period for the sponsors to see progress on the project. The council approved proceeding with the signage in order to allow the project to be completed by Sept. 1.
Church Hill vacation
Dan Anderson informed the council of the intention to abandon the vacation since 75 percent of the parking area is currently owned by the city. He stated this has to be in the city's best interest. However, he did suggest that the Church Hill parking area might be blacktopped. The blacktopping will be discussed at a special meeting later this month.
Dave Hennessy briefed the city council on the library's recent activities. The sixth annual Rhubarb Run was held at the beginning of the month with 134 runners. This was a great turnout considering there were three other races taking place in the region on that same day. The library raised $1,500.
The library also received a grant from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council for $6,900 to pay for a mural in the library entrance hallway. Leisa Luis Grill from Rochester will be working on the mural. The first phase is to get some ideas of what ought to go into the mural. Surveys for the community are available at the library website or on the Facebook page. Once the mural is designed in the fall, Grill will supervise the painting.
Hennessy also informed the council of a vacancy on the library board. They are currently looking for a replacement board member.
Tara Johnson also spoke to the council on the reading program. As many as 90 kids have attended the story hours and 35 kids have committed to reading and meeting their goals in the summer. The kids were given the opportunity to draw cartoons and the best activity so far was the LEGO building contest.
After the DNR approached the council about a new lease for the office in the Chamber of Commerce building, the organization offered $5 rent per square foot. The city council countered with $15 per square foot. This month, the DNR disputed the council's counterproposal pointing out the lease they have with Rushford being about $5 per square foot. The DNR is also asking the city to replace the carpeting in the office at the city's expense. Todd told the council the city is now holding steady at that price for the lease.
Todd approached Thomas Manion for his opinion. In his mind, the city is justified in countering again with $6.30 per square foot for the 952-square foot office.
Lee Peterson asked the city council if it would be willing to listen to an ambulance committee request to look for a new facility to house the ambulance. Right now, most of the crew lives in the south part of town, sometimes greatly affecting its response time to calls. The council assured Peterson it would be willing to listen.
The city well is currently being drilled in a new location. It is going well and should be at 900 feet deep at the end of the week. Public Utilities also has an opportunity to take advantage of USDA money for a new wastewater treatment facility.
The Historic Preservation Committee granted one additional month for the Merchant's Bank sign to be modified into a more historically appropriate sign.
The Art in the Park committee approached the Park Board to utilize the gazebo and display wire in the park for certain exhibits during the event.
Todd updated the council on the new playground, reporting Flagship Recreation's Charlie Colvin said the company would be in Lanesboro on Wednesday to begin putting in the new playground.
The city council approved the designation of Lanesboro as a regional park space. Up until 2015 the city will get grants from the Department of Natural Resources, but beginning in 2016, areas must be designated regionally significant in order to be considered. The first step is applying for this designation and explaining why it applies to Lanesboro.
The council approved election judges for the 2014 election.
Todd related to the council the Dunn Blacktop Company will begin moving in equipment on July 21. He spoke to the project coordinator emphasizing the urgency of certain spots around the city needing the blacktop.
Todd informed the city council of Andy Drake submitting his resignation from his park duties. He will remain as the street superintendent. However, the park and street duties have been combined into one position for several years. Thus the council will need to discuss how his resignation will affect his wage. It will go down a little, but the council will not be searching for a replacement immediately. His resignation is effective July 17. The council approved his resignation and the issue of his wage will be discussed at the special meeting.
The council also talked about street repairs necessary on 605 Rochelle Street. Several residents have spoken of water filling up in their basements due to a sizable patch of the road needing to be repaired. The asphalt will be coming in two weeks.
Todd related Mike Davy of Davy Engineering is ready to proceed to the second phase of the water treatment plan and put out bids. He requested the Public Utilities Commission and the city council meet around Aug. 28 when the bids come in.