The Concerned Citizens of Spring Grove sent a message to the city council during their March 20 meeting: "We want big changes."

Group spokesman Duane Olerud told the council that this group came into being due to concerns over higher taxes.

"Our objective is to reduce another $130,000 to $150,000 (from the city's budget) and hopefully just do an overlay on Main Street (when MnDOT repairs Highway 44) and repair sidewalks as needed," he said.

Olerud brought an update on three petitions the group is currently circulating. The first, to eliminate the position of city administrator, has more signatures because it has been collecting names for a longer period of time, he said, adding that the document now has 240 names.

The second petition is for Spring Grove to continue with just one police officer. Olerud said that document has 175 signatures.

The third is to "shut down the Main Street Project until a later date." Currently, there are 170 names on that petition, according to Olerud.

"I would say this is representing a valid concern and should not be taken lightly by the council," Olerud said.

"If the council would adhere to the wishes of the citizens' group, we could save enough to pay off the pool in five years; then we could move on to another project without raising taxes... If you don't have the money, you wait. Think about the taxpayers of the community, and don't assume that they can afford it."

Later in the meeting, Police Chief Paul Folz reported that he had met with council liaisons Steve Kemp and Lorilyn Dehning, and he (with the help of Spring Grove Communications) was conducting a telephone survey on police staffing.

The results are not yet in, he said, but the survey asks residents whether or not they favor three full-time officer positions.

Folz said that the department could provide seven-day-per-week, 20-hour-per-day coverage with three officers.

Summer Recreation approved

The council approved a proposal brought by Dehning for city-sponsored Summer Recreation activities.

"A lot of people are willing to donate their time," she said, offering to step into the job of Summer Rec. coordinator for free.

The proposal is for a $7,800 budget, including $2,500 already pledged to a local consortium of non-profits, which are publishing a catalog of non-sports activities. The city of Spring Grove will again take the lead in sports.

The proposal lists T-ball, Peewee and Little League baseball, girls' softball, soccer, volleyball, basketball, kickball, golf, tennis and the possibility of additional offerings such as archery, a mini dance camp and trips to the Children's Museum in La Crosse and the Lanesboro Fish Hatchery.

Dehning said some program offerings would depend upon enrollment. Dehning, Kemp and City Administrator Theresa Coleman were directed to move forward with the proposal.

Hanging baskets to continue

The council voted to buy 30 hanging flower baskets for Main Street and directed city staff to do the watering.

The 14" fiber-mache baskets were offered by Gerten Greenhouses of Inver Grove Heights in a bid presented by Coleman. The cost is $35.50 per basket, plus an $80 delivery fee for the lot.

The vote was not unanimous. Kemp voted "nay," and councilmember Rachel Storlie did not attend the meeting.

Kemp didn't state a reason as to why he was opposed to the project.

The bid includes 6-10 plants per basket with controlled-release fertilizer, and lists Petunia and Calibrachoa varieties.

In the council packet, Coleman had indicated that the watering costs by city staff would average a billable rate of $27 per hour with truck, water and staff time with the possibility of time and half for Saturdays.

With an average estimate of five minutes per basket it could cost $67.50/day, times six days per week, equals $405 per week.

Other news from the council

Kemp brought a plan to establish a bike path along Maple Drive and First Street NW to provide a safe route to the SWIM Center.

The council did not pass the proposal, but decided to contact homeowners along the route via mail for input on the idea.

Kemp asked City Attorney Joe Hammell if he could attend as many city council meetings as possible through the end of the year?

Hammell agreed, stating that he was willing to make additional appearances without any additional charge for his services for the remainder of the year.

Hammell is currently retained to take care of city business at a rate of $790 per month, with appearances at two meetings per month.

The council nearly voted to offer shade tree rebates to homeowners, but tabled the suggestion until a resolution can be drafted.

Coleman said there is currently a MnDNR rebate program available, and another sponsored by the city's electric fund, called a "conservation improvement rebate."

An elevated water tank inspection report was on the agenda, but was tabled until a later meeting.

Next meeting announced

The council will hold its next regular council meeting on Tuesday, April 3 at 6:30 p.m. at 168 W. Main Street in the lower level of the Spring Grove Communications Building.