Council addresses resident concerns about impact of construction project

DAVID PHILLIPS /SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE The entrance to a new memory care facility is at the end of Jones Street. Construction, visible in the background, is underway with trucks using Jones Street to enter and exit the site.
David Phillips

The Spring Valley City Council assured residents of Jones Street that the long-term ramifications of a memory care unit being built adjacent to the neighborhood would be minimal, but offered no solutions to the short-term construction issues brought up by resident Bruce Kraut during a regular meeting Monday, Feb. 10.

Spring Valley Living is erecting a 24-unit memory care facility around a courtyard and an adult day care facility to care for up to five people a day on the northeast end of its campus. Groundbreaking was held in November with construction starting this winter.

During the public input portion of the meeting, Kraut said he was representing the neighborhood, including Bobbie and Lori Jones, Tom and Sue Fowler, Judy Wille, and he and his wife. They are concerned about the construction, mainly the truck traffic on the road, which is leaving debris and tearing up the surface.

“I feel as a citizen of Spring Valley that whoever is damaging the road should be responsible for it, not the city,” he said.

The road is rated for five tons, he noted, but hundreds of large trucks are using it every day. He added that it has just been cleaned once. “It’s getting bad,” he said.

However, his main concern was with the long-term impact on the neighborhood. He said the $10 million project is basically the equivalent to adding 50 $200,000 homes with a main entrance on Jones Street.

“None of us knew that. We never got notified. It’s a residential neighborhood. Now it’s not anymore...That’s their main drag now,” Kraut said. “We just feel like we’re being violated as a neighborhood and that it’s kind of like we’re getting overlooked.”

City administrator Deb Zimmer told the council that city zoning allows the memory unit in a residential area.

Kraut asked why the drive couldn’t have been installed from the main side rather than through a residential neighborhood. He said he fears the values of their homes will decrease, especially if the drive is used for deliveries.

Mayor Tony Archer replied that extending the access from the main parking area would have created a much longer drive that would have gone adjacent to a trail and city park.

“There should be an impact study to how this is going to affect the neighborhood,” Kraut said. “I’m all for this. Don’t get me wrong. I think this is a great, great thing for the town and I have no problem with that. But I think that how they went about it as far as utilizing Jones Street as their main thoroughfare, we never knew.”

However, Zimmer said she has talked to the Spring Valley Living administrator who told her delivery trucks would not be using that drive.

“It is for the memory care unit visitors and their adult care to drop off,” Zimmer said. “It is not even for staff parking.”

Archer pointed out that the parking lot is very small because expectations are for it to be used just for visitors. Staff will park on the other side of the building in the main lot, he said.

“Traffic there is going to be very minimal,” Archer said.

“I’ll relay what you said to the neighbors and as far as the deliveries, that really helps,” Kraut said.

“We’ll take it into consideration, take a look at it and we’ll work with you,” Archer said. “I’m glad you came here to voice your opinion.”

Kraut thanked the council for addressing his concerns.

Ambulance service additions

The council approved two potential ambulance service people, who were interviewed the previous week and are set to take training in Chatfield to become certified. They are Kevin Geer, a science instructor at Kingsland High School, and Melanie Tomzak, who was an EMT when her children were small, but left due to family reasons.

“We’re very excited,” said ambulance co-director Sue Puffer.

Classes start this week and go through the first week in June. The candidates sign a tuition reimbursement agreement, so the council needed to approve the hiring since the city would be paying for training if the candidates meet the requirements.

Other business

• Tobacco license renewals were approved, contingent on payment and renewal applications from the businesses by Feb. 15. The businesses are Kwik Trip, Dollar General, Sunshine Foods and Casey’s. Councilor Luan Ruesink asked if there had been any problems and Zimmer said no.

• In department reports, library director Jenny Simon noted that several SELCO representatives have been visiting the local facility to talk about the collection, funding and other issues. One potential issue she highlighted is that all patron computers are running on Windows 7, which will soon not be supported by Microsoft. SELCO’s IT person told Simon the computers should be able to be upgraded without having to make a major purchase, which is more manageable than buying a new license for each computer.

• The library will be a questionnaire assistance center for the 2020 census, Simon told the council. Someone from SELCO will train the local staff on how to answer questions. Also, one computer at the library will be set aside just for the census.

• Parks and Recreation director John Fenske told the council everything in his area is going well. There have been three youth basketball tournaments with two to go. The community center is busy as ever and he is working on swimming lessons already because the school needs to know for school-age child care (SACC) summer field trip planning.

• Wastewater treatment plant superintendent Aaron Hamersma wasn’t present, but maintenance supervisor Chad Hindt reported for him, telling the council that a crew was recently in town to inspect and repair some of the sewer lines. There were also a couple calls on sewer line problems, but they were on private lines, not the city lines. Also a circulating fan that went bad at the plant was replaced.

• Hindt said his own crew has been removing snow and cleaning the shop. The crew members have also been trimming trees.

• Puffer reported that the ambulance service has been busy with 42 calls in January and 15 in February as of the time of the meeting. The second truck has been needed multiple times, she added. The service has also started new computerized reporting, which is going well so far.

• Fire Chief Troy Lange said it has been pretty quiet. He noted that firefighters turned out for the recent funeral of Kevin Beck, who was the first active firefighter to die since 1997 when Jeff Kolling died.

• In commissioner reports, Ruesink reported that the Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Association is seeking locations in Spring Valley to install charging stations for electric vehicles.

• In the administrator’s report, Zimmer said she is still working with the auditors and hopes to have the final report available for the council at the next meeting in March.

• In council reports, John Dols thanked the local fire department and sheriff’s office for “paying such an excellent tribute to Kevin (Beck). I don’t think a lot of people realize the impact he had, not only on the city, but on the county and the state” with his involvement in emergency management and other areas.

• Councilor Chris Danielson said she concurs with Dols about how well the city was represented at the funeral. She also reminded residents to clean up after their dogs, especially on the sidewalks.

• Ruesink said “hats off” to Hindt and his crew for the good job they did clearing the most recent snow when 10 inches fell on the city.

• Archer added that he has had many compliments on how well the roads were cleaned up from the snow. He also complimented the firefighters and law enforcement for their presence at the Beck funeral. “It was a sad time in our lives, but what a tribute. It was an amazing day,” he said. “He’s going to be really missed.”