According to Semcac's transportation director, Erlene Welshons, it's the people of Spring Valley who would make the wheels on the bus go 'round and 'round if a Semcac bus line were to be established here to provide public transit.

Welshons and fellow Semcac transportation representative Wayne Stenberg attended the Monday, Feb. 25, Spring Valley City Council meeting to present the possibility of beginning bus service within Spring Valley to assist those who cannot walk or drive to local businesses or travel outside of town without public transportation.

"We've received additional extra funding to provide public transit in Spring Valley," Welshons stated. "Our biggest concern is to get a bus for the elderly."

A grant had been written for that purpose, and Stenberg and Welshons noted that "this is the first step in the process," adding that the needs of residents must first be assessed through a survey included in utility bills, then action can be taken to determine whether to provide bus service in town three to four hours a day, three days a week or to add a "park and ride" component to the service to allow non-drivers to travel to Rochester if need be, both on a fee basis.

They pointed out that the Minnesota Department of Transportation would cover 85 percent of costs and that "anything else would be a local match."

Mayor Jim Struzyk stated that often when he's working at Sunshine Foods, he sees senior citizens who drive more often in the summer than the winter because they do not want to drive to the grocery store through snow and ice, and that the service would be beneficial.

Stenberg and Welshons pointed out that sustained ridership would determine whether the Semcac bus could remain a part of Spring Valley's transportation network.

Following the meeting, City Administrator Deb Zimmer said that not only is it important for the survey to show a need, but community participation is key. She set up a session for Vision 21 and other community members to hear the details from Welshons Friday at 7 a.m. at the library.

In another matter, council members voted to grant permission to a property manager who tore down a garage on the property adjoining the Spring Valley Historical Society's property five years to rebuild a new garage, as the manager proceeded with teardown because the existing structure was an eyesore.

Zimmer related that the historical society has had no parking issues, even with the garage being close to the alley and that any replacement of the garage would be an improvement.

In other property business, Mark McBroom of Chatfield inquired through a letter as to whether the city would like to purchase a parcel of land along the Spring Valley Creek on the west side of town for $3,000.

Zimmer said, "The concern is that if we buy out the property, we're only paying tax valuation at $1,300." The parcel in question is surrounded by land owned by neighbors who might be interested in purchasing it, therefore if the city were to take responsibility for it, it would have to negotiate how summer mowing would get done. Zimmer stated,

"It's not any benefit to us. It would be additional mowing, and there's nothing to gain in park land."

The council chose to make an offer for $1,300.

Councilors also approved the 2013 ambulance agreement with the Spring Valley Ambulance, with the county contributing $4,500. Ambulance director Jim Cooper was not in attendance at the meeting, but the council agreed that the contract was "the standard yearly contract."

Four additional first responders will be added to the ambulance department, as Cooper had expressed concern to Zimmer and council members that the new emergency medical technician (EMT) training standards are difficult and time consuming, discouraging potential volunteers from taking the training (see related story). The allowance of four new first responders would introduce volunteers to the aspects of responding to medical emergencies, thereby possibly interesting them in taking EMT courses.

"They would have to be local and available to fill morning and afternoon hours, but if they get training as first responders, they might want to pursue EMT training," said Zimmer.

In another matter, an ordinance under consideration by the council that would allow city residents to raise chickens will be posted on the city website for the public to review, and copies will be available at city hall, according to Zimmer, who asked, "Are there any changes you'd like to make? I suggest we set a public hearing at the March 25 meeting. This ordinance was modeled after other cities' ordinances - Rushford and Chatfield have similar ordinances."

Struzyk stated that "it doesn't say anything about pheasants. Some people have kept pheasants and released them in the spring."

Zimmer concurred that the ordinance does not address raising pheasants, ducks or pigeons, but cited that it "would not allow chickens to be kept at townhomes or in the mobile home park, anywhere zoned R-3 and R-4." A public hearing was set for March 25.

City department heads gave their reports, beginning with library director Dianne Sikkink sharing that the adult winter reading program is going well and that the library's state report is in progress.

Chad Hindt stated that snow removal has kept the street department busy and that the city shop is being cleaned when workers have time.

John Fenske updated the council on park and rec business, saying that "everything is normal and we're getting ready for summer rec programs, organizing swimming lessons, and making some changes to programs."