At its first meeting of 2013, Lanesboro City Council inaugurated a new council member and two incumbents were sworn in by City Administrator Bobbi Vickerman. Returning to the council for another term were Mayor Steve Rahn and Tom Dybing; newly-elected Tom Smith also joined the council.

As its first order of business for the new year, Rahn recognized outgoing council member Ceil Allen for her service both to the council and to the community. Rahn presented her with a thank-you gift of appreciation for her dedication and hard work.

Chamber gives overview of upcoming annual meeting

Julie Kiehne, director of the Lanesboro Area Chamber of Commerce, presented a short summary of that group's year-end report, a preview of what attendees will hear in more detail at its annual meeting on Jan. 16.

Kiehne said last year a consultant had been hired to get them started on a strategic planning process, examining why the Chamber exists and how Lanesboro is branded and marketed.

The Chamber used that process to develop a timeline of activities and has progressed to "having names attached" to those responsibilities. This enables the group to target how it is spending both time and money. Roles have been better defined because of this activity, including its role with trail neighbors and the larger region.

At its meeting, attendees will hear in more detail about the arts campus concept being developed between the Commonweal Theatre and the Lanesboro Arts Center. Also, the Chamber's website has been updated, and a new mobile site has been developed.

The Chamber has developed a values statement, and examples of this are being active in the frac sand mining issue and interacting with the DNR about the reconstruction of the trail. The visitors' guide for 2013 is ready for distribution; it is partially paid for by a Dairyland grant.

Kiehne invited council members and any other interested people to attend that annual meeting; she stressed the importance of the work of the city and city employees.

She said their work in developing "curb appeal" also demonstrates their pride in the town.

The Chamber meeting is on Wednesday, Jan. 16, at 7 p.m., at the Lanesboro Community Memorial Center. Attendees who are invited to "share your ideas, offer your services..." will hear more detail of the strategic plan, and have an opportunity for networking.

Ambulance service discussion continues

At its last meeting, the council heard input from Dave Haugen, the city's ambulance director. Haugen had given an overview of the plans to re-organize the crew's structure to better serve the area. At this meeting, Vickerman reported shortly after that last meeting, there was a "missed call," meaning that only one ambulance crew member responded to the call and therefore the Lanesboro ambulance could not go; Preston service had to be called.

As required, Haugen reported the incident to the state, and Vickerman said the Lanesboro Ambulance Service will shortly be receiving "corrective orders" including the fact that the service must now go to an on-call schedule status.

In anticipation of that, Vickerman said there were two monetary issues for the council to consider. First, the ambulance crew must be paid $1 per hour for on-call hours. Second, scheduling for 24/7 coverage is a difficult task, better served by using computer software specifically designed for that purpose. Individual crew members would input their availability, then the software, such as Software EMS Manager, would design the schedule and it would be accessible by crew members via computer or smart phone. The cost of that particular program, according to Vickerman, is $941 annually.

The council did not take action, instead pointing out that it would wait for the "corrective orders" from the state, and also would wait for more input from the ambulance department's January meeting.

Rahn again expressed frustration with the increasing requirements imposed by the state, making service delivery more and more difficult in outlying areas.

Yaggy-Colby project discussion

Dillon Dombroski of Yaggy-Colby gave the council an update on ongoing projects, pointing out the retainer being held for the emergency sewer project can be released since the job is completed.

He reported that the storm sewer under the Riverside on the Root restaurant, as discussed before, will be a repair not a replacement, and so the cost will not be assessed to property owners. Its current status is that the DNR, DOT and the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers all want a signed plan. To develop that, a survey team will need to come in to show elevations, etc. The council gave the go-ahead to develop that plan.

Several projects are being considered in the Capital Improvement Plan of the Public Utilities Commission, and council member Joe O'Connor assured Dombroski that he will be kept informed as those projects develop.

Committee reports

O'Connor reported for the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that it has been working on the budget and projects. He indicated it needs more cost data because of the many projects that are in the Capital Improvement Plan. Some of those include the manholes in the city, which need checking and some repair. Also, it needs data on the cost of sewer lining, which is an alternative to sewer replacement.

The city's wells got high rating levels, and the engineering company is providing the "final pieces of the engineering study" of the wells. He indicated that the "worst case scenario" would be the replacement of one well and the water treatment center. O'Connor cautioned that "the standards are only going to get more rigid" over time.

The cost of repairs to the dam had originally been estimated at $1.8 million, and the updated cost is $2,015,000. The original commitment for the cost was for $900,000 from the DNR, and $300,000 from the State Legacy fund. That latter agency requires that the dam be "repaired and restored historically."

The PUC met with State Representative Greg Davids who recommended that the city submit a resolution to request the remaining balance of the cost to repair the dam be paid through the State's bonding bill, if such a bill is passed. This resolution should be sent to both Davids and to State Senator Jeremy Miller.

The council moved to adopt a resolution for that funding, requesting that the state's bonding bill pay about $815,000 of that cost.

The PUC issues are "big projects that will affect water and sewer rates," because as O'Connor pointed out, the current rates do not provide for the build-up of any financial reserves to cover such needs. So, they are looking for loans, grants and programs that might help out. For those reasons, the joint Public Utilities and council meeting that would have typically preceded this council meeting has been delayed.

Getting set up for 2013

The council selected the Fillmore County Journal as its official newspaper and the Associated Banks as its official depository. It set the mileage reimbursement at $.50, same as previous years. Check signing was authorized for Mayor Steve Rahn and the city administrator, with the deputy clerk able to sign in the absence of the city administrator. Council member Tom Dybing was voted as acting mayor in the absence of the mayor.

Fire department officers were approved as Chief Rob Wagner, First Assistant Jerod Wagner, Second Assistant Ryan Peterson, Third Assistant Creighton Horihan, Training Officer Keith Eide, and Secretary/Treasurer Pat Schmidt. Dave Haugen will remain as ambulance director.

City committee assignments included Mayor Rahn continuing with the Park Board, O'Connor with Public Utilities and Dybing with Planning and Zoning. Keith Eide will move to Library and new member Smith will be EDA.

The meeting schedule will be 5:30 p.m. the first Monday of each month with the exception of September, allowing for the Labor Day holiday. Those dates are February 4, March 4, April 8 (Board of Equalization first), May 6, June 3, July 1, August 5, September 3, October 7, November 4, December 2 and January 6.

The holidays that the City office will be closed are January 21 Martin Luther King, Jr., February 18 Presidents' Day, March 28 Good Friday (half day), May 27 Memorial Day, July 4 Independence Day, September 2 Labor Day, November 11 Veterans' Day, November 28 Thanksgiving Day, November 29 Day after Thanksgiving (in place of Columbus Day), December 24 Christmas Eve (half day), December 25 Christmas, December 31 New Year's Eve (half day), and January 1, 2014 New Year's Day.

The council also approved the city administrator's employment contract with Vickerman.

Lawful Gambling Resolutions were approved for the Root River Saloon, Lanesboro Golf Course and the American Legion.

Housekeeping items

The council approved the paying of the bills, and a liquor license for the Lions' Bean Bag tournament on Feb. 2.

Vickerman reported from the library Board that it met and exceeded its goals for circulation for the last year.

Mayor Rahm reminded members of the Southeastern Minnesota League of Municipalities annual membership meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 29, at the Rochester International Event Center. The meeting is open to members and non-members; if anyone is interested in attending, let Vickerman know. Cost is $21 for members, and $26 for non-members.