Peterson council discusses possible school sale, animal control

By : 
Judah Torgerud

The fate of the R-P middle school has been on the minds of many lately, and that topic was a matter of discussion at the July 10 meeting of the City of Peterson City council.

Discussion of school building being bought

John Gappa attended the July 10 Peterson City Council meeting, and spoke to the council during the citizen comments section regarding the former Rushford-Peterson Middle School building. Gappa said that he has worked for a firm and has torn apart schools for 20 years but would be considering this project as an individual, and his firm would not be involved.

When Councilor Loren Rue inquired about Gappa’s plans for the facility, Gappa responded that he wants “to get inside and look at the conditions to see what his options are.” And though he believes the condition to be “pretty sound,” he still has concerns about the infrastructure.

He would like for it to be qualified as a single-family dwelling as it is in a residential area, at least while he is tearing apart the inside.

Gappa lives just outside of town and said he moved here because he loves this community and doesn’t intend to go anywhere. He wants to do something with the former middle school building, but even after brainstorming some ideas with the council, (multi-family housing, rentable area, fitness center, etc.), there were no ideas that stood out among the rest. Gappa said that while Lanesboro has a lot of stuff going on, it’s all tourism, and the building probably cannot be retail, as Peterson “doesn’t have the economy.”

Mayor Hallum said, “We’re here to work with you, we don’t want to run you out of town. We want to work with you.”

City adjustments

The city is planning on adjusting its employee hours to better the park’s cleanliness level, including cleanings done after lunch instead of earlier in the day. Along with this, the parks will likely be cleaned more on weekends when more campers are there. Additionally, signs will likely be put onto the dumpster, so campers can be certain that they are supposed to dispose of trash there.

Animal rules

The city council is currently brainstorming ways to deal with nuisance animals. A “three-strikes-your-out policy” was discussed, wherein the owner of the animal that consistently barks and/or escapes the confines of the owner’s property  would be ticketed.

Despite this discussion the council took no action and will reach out to Animal Control person Robert Brand by the August meeting to come up with a plan.


Peterson American Legion Post 526 gave the council a letter thanking them for keeping up the appearance of the city, and included a donation of $1,000 to purchase any bushes and trees that the city might need.

The council again spoke about removing unused infrastructure in the city park so the land can be sold. Nothing was decided, but they also spoke of working more on the part of the park that remains afterward. Funds were also shifted around to pay for repairs and to accommodate regulation by the USDA.

Ordinance enforcement

At last month’s meeting, resident Jaremy Volkman spoke to the council about the City of Peterson Public Vehicle Nuisance ordinance and the citations he’d received in violation of that ordinance. Referring to that conversation, Clerk Chris Grindland said, “Jaremy came up and made a pretty good point, saying ‘It’s not the city clerk’s job to write citations.’” Grindland added, “I don’t want to go out and be the enforcer, be the police, on these issues.”

 The new Minnesota Basic Code will soon be adopted by the City of Peterson, and at that point the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Department will likely enforce any citations, and appeals can go to a judge if residents choose to fight the citation. Mayor Hallum thought, “If it is a citation from the county sheriff, they [residents] have the opportunity for a judge. If it’s just the city, there is no neutral party to look at it.”

The council decided to table the issue of forgiving the citations that are currently placed, and will speak with their attorney to decide what the best option will be moving forward.


The next Peterson City Council meeting will be at 6 p.m. on August 14. All members of the public are welcome to attend.