Trees, planters and sidewalks drew a roomful of citizens to the March 5 meeting of the Spring Grove City Council.

When Main Street/Highway 44 is rebuilt this summer, 15 planting beds and spots for 40 trees are currently planned for the corridor.

According to Mayor Bruce Poole, that's down from 70 trees and 29 beds in the original plan, which he and incoming council members pared down earlier this year. That action was part of the latest or "marked-up" plans.

The marked-up plans are not yet available from the project engineer, the mayor said. Poole stated that the planting beds measure 6 ft. by 11 ft. Each provides a space for a tree in the middle.

On Feb. 20, Councilmember Nancy Nelson suggested cutting out all of the trees, planters and flowerbeds, since city staff may not have time to care for them properly. That action was not taken or even motioned.

On March 5, she didn't call for that to happen, but said that the city still needs to find a way to care for the plantings.

Nelson suggested asking business owners who want one of the features in front of their property to sign an agreement to maintain them.

"How are we going to keep this stuff going?" she asked. "They didn't have a plan last time (the city did a beautification project)."

Several citizens took issue with more cuts to the landscaping portions of the plan. A heated disagreement ensued. Poole finally stated that he doesn't foresee taking more plantings out.

Former mayor Saundra Solum offered to coordinate volunteer help to care for plant materials.

Business owner Jim Hunzeker offered to provide temporary seeding for the spaces this fall.

Sidewalks to be changed?

The council also talked about potential changes to the plan where new sidewalks are concerned.

"It seems to me that we need to find out exactly where basements extend out under the sidewalks. Some of them go out all the way to the curb, and some don't," Poole said. "We don't want to dig through there into somebody's basement."

"It would be hard to find a city in Minnesota where this didn't occur," Councilman Robert Vogel noted.

"The engineers have been on board with this since day one," Technical Team member JC Nerstad said. Solum agreed, adding that planners are aware of the sidewalk situation.

City Attorney Joe Hammell said the city needs to make sure that the contractor assumes liability when working near Main Street buildings.

Councilmember Lorilyn Dehning argued that some of the sidewalks that current council members are talking about leaving in place are uneven and need to be fixed.

Dehning made a motion to accept the marked-up plans without further alteration. That would replace the sidewalks within the construction zone where the plans now indicate. Seconded by Vogel, it was voted down 3-2, Poole, Nelson and Councilmember Rachel Olerud voting against it.

Appointments approved

Poole appointed Tammy Stadtler to a new six-year term on the EDA. The original appointment made earlier this year only pertained to the unfinished term that Poole left when he joined that group as mayor. That short appointment apparently expired this month.

Vogel made a motion to accept the new appointment. Nelson said that the statute gives sole authority to the mayor to appoint EDA members, but Vogel disagreed.

"The statute doesn't say that," he countered. "The statute says that the appointments are by the mayor with the approval of the city council." Seconded by Dehning, the motion to approve Stadtler for a full term passed by unanimous vote.

Vogel and Dehning were both reinstalled as council representatives to the Spring Grove Planning Commission. That vote was unanimous as well.

City settles with police chief

The council held a brief closed session, followed by a vote.

"We had one issue come up after our last closed session in regard to Police Chief Paul Folz," Hammell reported when the meeting reopened.

"There was a demand made by Paul's attorney to pay $700 for his attorney fees in regards to matters that we've been discussing, and all other matters would be resolved totally.

"The council has decided to give me the authority to go ahead and comply with that offer to bring the matter to a close."

The offer to close the unidentified grievance by paying the attorney fee was accepted by an open session vote.

Disaster plan to be updated?

Nelson asked that the council update the city's disaster plan. That would include emergencies such as power failures, anhydrous ammonia leaks, etc.

In addition, certain city officials require FEMA certification, she added. No specific action was voted on, but no opposition was expressed by members.

Vogel said that generally, counties develop an overarching disaster plan and cities adopt it.

Houston County emergency coordinator Kurt Kuhlers' name was mentioned, but there was no motion directing a specific course of action.

Budget concerns considered

The council briefly discussed doing a line-by-line review of the city's budget, but did not set a date for a special session. Nelson and Poole suggested that the topic should be placed on the next meeting agenda.

Nelson urged members to consider providing funds for the Homecoming Celebration, adding that monies should have been set aside in an account for the event per the direction of the council years ago.

Current members had no information on where those funds are, if they exist. No action was taken on the matter.

Zoning issues coming up

Vogel reported that a zoning permit application for a new house will find its way before the council next month.

In addition, a telecommunications tower is being considered for a privately owned site within the city limits.

Plans are for a 100-foot tall steel tower, he added. "Our code requires a conditional use permit," Vogel said.

"I'm a little reluctant to say where I think it's going to go, but there are several sites under consideration. This will have to go to the Planning Commission first, and then to the council."

Hammell was asked by a citizen if the city can take legal action on the proposed frac sand haul route through downtown Spring Grove.

He replied that the city has no say as to traffic traveling down the state highway, but "if you end up with something leaving the trucks and entering (areas) outside the highway, then you may have some jurisdiction to do something. The city itself can take action to support whatever the county is doing."

Next council meeting set

The next council meeting will be Tuesday, March 19, at 6:30 p.m. as the council returns to its regular schedule of the first and third Tuesdays of the month.