Department heads update City Council on several issues

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS Melissa and Rocky Burnett receive the 2019 Chatfield Heritage Preservation Award from EDA director Chris Giesen.
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

The Chatfield City Council members were thankful the Thurber Building, Chatfield’s city hall, is on high ground, as the skies were still gray last Tuesday, May 28, after a very eventful weather day on Monday when the clouds were just too heavy to hold themselves up, leaving lakes in the fields surrounding town and raising Mill Creek to the edge of its banks.

Chatfield’s economic development director, Chris Giesen, had more than the weather on his mind, however, as the 2019 Chatfield Heritage Preservation Award was presented to Rocky and Melissa Burnett. The couple was honored for their work restoring the former Fortier Jewelers store to serve as the new home of their business, Big Girl Stickers & Stems, which officially opened there last year.

Giesen commented the Burnetts were “able to see new life in an old building” and they “put a lot of work into it.”

Mayor Russ Smith and the councilors agreed the Burnetts had done a great job rejuvenating the building.

SMIF report

Next, Alissa Oeltjenbruns of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), appeared before the council with news of SMIF’s current projects and efforts. SMIF continues to be in contact with the Chosen Valley Community Foundation (CVCF) to promote community funds that have a great impact on small communities. SMIF is also working to address the shortage of childcare that affects parents’ ability to maintain employment.

Oeltjenbruns outlined SMIF has a mission of working to better early childhood and that offering training or support to home-based daycare providers is one of the tenets of its programming.

“There are over 8,000 slots short, and in Chatfield, there were about 60 kiddos who didn’t have a place to go,” she said. “Home-based childcare providers – we continue to help them, but if you know of someone who’d like some training or assistance, please let them know that we’re here to help.”

Councilor Mike Urban remarked, “The community education grants that have been given by SMIF have been very critical. Thank you for those.”

City Clerk Joel Young acknowledged Oeltjenbruns’s update as he added SMIF would also request an increase in Chatfield’s contributions that make its work possible.

EDA report

In economic development authority (EDA) news, Giesen spoke about the Twiford Street redevelopment project and progress to assemble proper titles for a parcel on which to construct a Dollar General store. He cited the Dollar General project has come to a possibly temporary near-standstill due to the developer requesting more assistance with the parcel than the city had been prepared to give, but updates would be available in the coming weeks.

He then went on to review a purchase offer for lot one of the second block of the Fingerson-Donahoe Subdivision, or Enterprise Drive. The Enterprise Drive lot was sold at asking price to Joshua Broadwater, LLC, with a vote of the councilors – with the exception of Broadwater himself, abstaining because of his personal interest in purchasing the lot.

Departmental reports

City Maintenance Supervisor Brian Burkholder told the councilors about the need to provide an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant restroom in one of the city’s parks, as the existing restrooms have no allowance for persons with disabilities. He suggested there be a concrete slab poured for a restroom to be put in place. Councilor John McBroom had reported in the park and rec news that a portable toilet had been part of the discussion. The cost stood at approximately $1,400, according to Burkholder.

He went on to address digging up the water line at Shady Oak Park and the need to replace it – the estimate given by Rowland Well Company was $2,900 – so that further repairs aren’t necessary. The council obliged.

McBroom spoke about ordering new picnic tables – the newer coated steel ones that are replacing the wooden ones the city crew maintained for years, playground equipment and a bench at Lonestone Park. He also mentioned the swimming pool project, which he said he had heard was coming along quite well.

“I believe the pavement will be in and they’re inching closer and closer to this project coming to fruition,” McBroom said.

Public services information included that Burnett, who serves as the city’s ambulance director, had found a way to save the service money – about which the committee was pleased, and the fire department is working on retirement funding with Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA).

McBroom reported the committee had gotten to see the all-terrain safety vehicle the fire department recently purchased that will be made available to rescue people in unusual circumstances.

Smith then added the city has spent money on various emergency things that may seem unnecessary at the time, but when an emergency does arise, they serve their purpose and fulfill the expenditures’ original justification.

“In the past, we’ve done things to prepare for disasters, like buying a generator for the Thurber Building, but if we did lose power and it’s 95-degree weather, people can come here to cool off,” he added.

Young gave his clerk’s report, expressing congratulations to the Burnetts for their investment in the community and thanking them for their hard work in restoring the Fortier building to usefulness, after which the councilors had their turn.

Councilor Mike Urban reminded residents to keep their lawns mowed to show pride in Chatfield, and McBroom pointed out the local parks are a great place to spend a sunny afternoon. “Everybody get out and enjoy the parks,” he added.

The consent agenda included approving a one-step pay increase to Chatfield Police Officer Kevin Landorf and submission of a grant request to the Minnesota Management and Budget to improve the Chatfield Center for the Arts.