City Council members voice frustration over lack of progress on downtown sidewalks

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS The barricades that the Minnesota Department of Transportation placed along the west side of Chatfield's downtown business neighborhood have angered business owners who feel that the state's promises to complete construction quickly on Main Street have not been kept.
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

The Chatfield City Council members discussed and expressed frustration about the pace of the Highway 52 improvement project during final comments at the Monday, June 24, meeting – namely, that the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) had set up barricades in front of businesses on the west side of Main Street, which runs concurrent with Highway 52, nearly a month and a half ago and not made progress on removing or replacing sidewalk as promised.

Councilor Paul Novotny spoke up first, registering that he feels that it is detrimental to Chatfield’s commerce to have the downtown front entries blocked off and no actual work completed while the construction crews are working on sidewalks on the north end of town. “I’m not keeping track, but I think this is the 39th day since they put the barricades up,” he said. “Should we write a letter to MnDOT or make someone aware of it? We were told that we probably would lose access, but not for this long.”

Councilor Mike Urban agreed, “This has to change. It was in the contract that people have to have access.”

Novotny added, “To me, this is totally unacceptable.”

Mayor Russ Smith attempted to address the subject, pointing out that the information he has available is that MnDOT hires subcontractors and gives them a schedule, and it is the subcontractors’ responsibility to follow that schedule.

Novotny countered, “I hope they do their best not to let this happen on the other side of the street. There’s nothing going on there, and if I had anything to do with it, I’d bring in a load of gravel for the sidewalks and open it up. I understand the weather’s bad, but there should be provisions for that.”

He remarked that complaints to the construction manager seem not to make any difference.

Smith checked the council’s wishes, asking if there was support around the entire council table to draft a letter to show the city’s displeasure with the construction barricades, which there seemed to be.

Novotny stated, “By the time they get the sidewalk open again, some of the businesses may not be here.”

A project update from MnDOT posted on the Chatfield city website reads, “Crews began pouring concrete for the sidewalks along Highway 52 in Chatfield Thursday (June 20). Once that work is completed, they will shift to the other side. The original schedule for the work was delayed, but crews hope to get back on track on the other side of Highway 52. Rainy weather has slowed some of the work on Highway 52 between Chatfield and Interstate 90 at Marion. The detour on Highway 52 remains in place. It is from Olmsted County Road 7 north to Interstate 90 to Highway 52.”

Councilors voted to offer a letter of support for changes to the Interstate 90 and Highway 52 interchange design before moving on to the next agenda item.


Economic Development Director Chris Giesen was listed on the agenda, but he passed on speaking to the council, as he was unaware that he’d been included and the matters that he had to present are not yet ready for council approval.

City Maintenance Supervisor Brian Burkholder outlined plans to overlay several streets in town, “mostly due to the Highway 52 project.” He related that after touring the streets in question, Twiford would be overlaid but not milled, that part of Seventh Street from Winona to Valley Street will be worked on, and that the inside corner of Twiford and Spring streets will have curb and gutter installed. Costs for overlaying streets were originally estimated at $106,000, according to Burkholder, but have since been shaved to $93,000. The council chose to grant permission for the curb and gutter to be placed.

Councilor John McBroom gave the public works report, citing that the fire department has requested replacement exercise equipment for its gym and the ambulance service has drawn up preliminary plans for sleeping quarters for its emergency medical technicians (EMT) on call.

City Clerk Joel Young relayed information regarding the June Chatfield Committee of the Whole meeting held to demonstrate two public engagement cloud-based software platforms the city has been considering, ClearGov and Polco, that help gather and share information about the city, its services and its needs.

Smith then gave his update as mayor, telling about a recent gathering to honor the late Chuck Prokop, a Minnesota Trout Association (MTA) member from the Twin Cities who devoted time to teaching Chatfield’s youth how to fish as part of an annual MTA trout fishing contest held at Mill Creek. The mayor remarked that he was honored to represent Chatfield as the Prokop family dedicated a bench along the Mill Creek trail just south of the fishing pier.

It was also noted that David Burbach, the owner of swimming pool engineering firm Burbach Aquatics, which assisted Chatfield in designing its new municipal swimming pool, passed away recently and the city sent flowers to his family.

Other business

Next, the councilors approved a pay estimate from Ricchio Construction for the new swimming pool in the amount of $21,128, after which they voted in favor of a change order request for tiles used in the pool’s shallow end.

The council also voted to hire Julie Elder as a part-time deputy clerk to serve 20 hours a week in the city hall offices.

A request for a Western Days Second Street closure by JAC’s, minus the alley was approved. Novotny’s was the only vote in opposition of the closure.

The consent agenda included approving the Bluff Country Hiking Club’s request for funding.