The Lanesboro City Council agreed to designate a parking spot in front of the bank as a handicapped space during its regular meeting on Monday evening, Nov. 5. It also discussed the lodging tax and the need to monitor the proceeds to comply with the requirements within the current ordinance.

First, City Clerk Bobbie Vickerman told the council she had been approached by the bank about the possibility of creating a handicapped parking space in front of the bank, on Highway 250. She explained the bank has quite a few customers who have a difficult time with parking and getting into the bank. Since the bank has put in ramps to make it easier, it was asking the city to designate a spot in order to make it even more accessible for their customers.

The council questioned whether or not the city would have to contact the Minnesota Department of Transportation and get permission to designate the spot since it is located on the state highway.

Council member Tom Dybing suggested locating the parking spot around the corner, on Coffee Street, instead of Highway 250 as requested.

Council member Ceil Allen agreed, saying, "It does seem more feasible."

Tom Smith, a former law enforcement officer who will be joining the council in 2013, questioned the safety of moving the parking spot around the corner. "I think it becomes a safety factor," he said. Council members discussed the fact there are several truck drivers that turn onto Coffee Street at a high speed as well as cut the corner close and may not see people getting in or out of their car. "They will see them if they are parked in front of the bank," Smith added.

City Attorney Tom Manion reported, after investigating the process the city would have to take in order to designate the space as a handicapped spot, that the city could simply mark the parking space as desired. It would be up to the city to continue to enforce and monitor it.

The council approved the request to designate the parking spot in front of the bank as a handicapped parking space, but noted it was not just for bank customers, but for anyone having a handicapped parking permit.

In regard to the lodging tax ordinance, Vickerman and Manion were seeking direction from the council about formulating a plan to check compliance with the area lodging facilities. The ordinance requires Lanesboro bed and breakfasts and inns to collect an additional tax from their visitors to help support the local chamber in its promotion of the community.

The motivation behind the request is associated with the requirements outlined within the ordinance and not with any specific incident with the current lodging facilities.

"To be good stewards, we should be checking compliance," said Vickerman. "Currently, the establishments fill out forms and provide sales tax receipts to figure the tax paid to the city. Part of our duties, outlined in the ordinance, is to check compliance."

It was noted that some figure their tax quarterly, while others do it annually. There is no consistency in the system.

The first step Vickerman would like to pursue is to talk to the city's auditors, Smith Schafer, to discuss the matter with the city's accountant and get his recommendations on how to proceed. The council approved that request.

Allen noted, "There are a significant amount of lodging places involved and a significant amount of money. We want to have some way to monitor it."

Museum

In another matter, Sandy Webb attended the meeting to thank the council for its support of the Lanesboro museum. She reported there had been 876 people visiting during the month of July and one Saturday in October recorded 90 visitors.

"I think it's important you know how used the museum is," she added. "It really is an integral part of our community."

Webb noted that local people use the museum when doing research and the staff and volunteers answer many questions throughout their days.

"Most importantly, visitors are impressed by the objects on display and the strong sense of community," she added.

Allen encouraged Webb, "If you can think of other ways we can support the museum, feel free to come to us."

Turkey bowling

Vince Jeannette from the Parkway Pub was present to request the use of two parking spaces in front the Pub to use for Turkey Bowling outside the bar on Wednesday, Nov. 21, from 3:30 p.m. into the evening.

He explained Rhinos Pizza will be offering Chicken Bowling for the younger generation from 3:30 to 5:30 and the Parkway Pub will be offering Turkey Bowling which will begin at 5:30 and run through 10:30 that evening.

Proceeds from the event go towards supporting the local school and student activities.

Jeannette reported that over $16,000 has been given to the senior class, C-squad football team and elementary programs.

The council approved his request.

Library updates

Tara Johnson from the Lanesboro Library reported on the summer reading program noting there were 21 programs, seven story times and five walk-about events offered throughout the summer. A total of 623 kids attended, with an average of 29 at each event. Seventy-two students signed up and 50 of them returned their summer reading logs.

"We had great performers and they were all very complimentary of our Lanesboro kids," she added.

Before returning to the library to help patrons waiting to check out books, Johnson thanked the council for adding signage on the building to allow people to find the library more easily.

In another library matter, Krista Flaig, the art teacher at Lanesboro Public Schools, discussed the possibility of painting a mural on the blank wall by the library. "I have not finalized the colors or the design, but I am envisioning splashes of color draw attention to the library," she added. The project would involve her students and they would likely begin the project after the holiday break.

Finally, David Hennessey presented the library's quarterly report to the council. "We are very pleased with the direction the library is going," he said. "We've met our goal (for circulation) in our first nine months of the year."

He reported circulation totals were 21,611 in those first three quarters of the year, which was better than the entire yearly circulation in 2010 and in 2011.

Hennessey also said money has been saved in the library budget due to the generosity of volunteers who work in the library as well. He added, "Tara and her staff and doing a great job keeping expenditures down."

He thanked the council for the work it has done on library salaries and noted the library board would be addressing those at its meeting in the near future.

Allen thanked Hennessey and the others for the work they have done to promote and improve the library. "It shows," she said. "It is great to see the kids using the library."

O'Connor agreed, "It is a tremendous asset for our community. It's getting better all the time."

EDA report

Allen reported on the EDAs progress on the development of the 2020 Strategic Plan for business sustainability. She said the EDA continues to seek out the important players and they hope to work cooperatively with the Lanesboro Chamber of Commerce in the development of its strategic plan as well.

Chamber update

Representing the Chamber of Commerce, Julie Charlebois told the council that Eagle Bluff would be holding a "Neighbors Night" for members of the chamber on Saturday, Nov. 10, and Joe Deden would be sharing plans for upcoming programs at the environmental learning center.

She also noted the chamber would be developing a letter to send to the Fillmore County commissioners regarding the frac sand mining issue. "It's really a thank you for the hard work they have been doing to make sure the issue is addressed correctly," Charlebois added.

Allen suggested the council to join the chamber in sending a letter as well. Later in the meeting, the city directed Vickerman to draft a letter to the commissioners, from the council, thanking them as well, for their dedication and consideration of the frac sand issue.

Small issues

In other matters, the council handled the following issues.

• Liquor and tobacco licenses were approved for several Lanesboro businesses. Vickerman added the wine licenses for Intermission and Smokey River BBQ may change as they serve strong beer as well as wine. She included the additional $50 fee on their licenses and would notify the council if any changes were made.

• Vickerman noted that a "walk through" would be held on Wednesday, Nov. 14, for the Emergency Action Plan. This is one of the requirements associated with the $18,000 grant the city received for fixing the dam. The exercise will include hydrologists, DNR staff, city staff, Sheriff's office, fire department, ambulance service and the mayor. "These current news stories (about Hurricane Sandy and the recovery efforts on the East Coast) remind us how important these kind of things are," O'Connor said.

• Vickerman noted a benefit would be held on Saturday, Nov. 17, for Joe Rodgers. The council approved a liquor license for the event and the use of the community center gym. (See related story, with more details on the benefit, elsewhere in this issue.)

• The council approved assessing the costs for the city staff to mow one residential property on to property taxes.