City Council talks ash tree removal

The Spring Grove City Council determined about 18 ash trees on Main Street and about five or six ash trees in Viking Memorial Park had to come down due to ash emerald borer. 

At their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 20, Public Works Director Paul Morken said the cost depends on the size of the tree, and for bigger ones, it could cost up to $700 for removal. 

He added there were about 30 more around town that needed to come down. These trees are not the new ones planted along Main Street while the highway project took place. 

The state of Minnesota usually sends crews to take down trees that are in the right of way on the highway, but Morken said he has not seen or talked to them lately, and every time he did call the state about the matter, he was redirected to three different people. That task will likely fall to the city.

The council agreed to let city staff hire Landsoms or New Age Tree Service to take the trees down in the park as money and resources were available.

The council also agreed to budget for the replacement of the diseased trees and potentially hire a forester to advise the council on what trees to plant and where.

Construction updates

As residents can see by now, 1st Ave. NW and 2nd Ave. NW have been paved with the first overlay, allowing some traffic to finally pass through. 

The second overlay will not be poured until next spring, in order to allow the first layer to settle, which will eliminate waves and bumps forming in the road. 

The new entrance to city hall is nearly complete. It awaits a new hand railing and a handicap accessible door, which should arrive in September, City Clerk/Treasurer Erin Konkel said. 

Curb construction is in progress on 3rd Ave. SW by Trollskogen Park. 

In water tower news, Morken said soil borings had been completed, plans and specs developed and the project could be open for public bids starting this fall. The best-case scenario is having construction start next summer.

Finally, Morken said the light pole on the corner of South Division Ave. and Main Street was getting replaced, again. 

This is the second time the pole has been struck, costing $8,000 to replace (from the striker’s insurance policy). 

Morken said if the pole gets hit again, they will consider moving its location.

Musikk Fest grounds

Syttende Mai Committee President Patrick Longmire asked the council for permission to improve the Musikk Fest grounds with a two percent grade. 

“When we bring bands in, the buses’ area is very hilly,” he said. “The staging area is also a tough spot of land, and we could accomplish a few things by smoothing the grade of the entire area and drop some gravel for a driveway and a 60 to 80 foot parking area.”

He talked to Gjere Construction of Mabel, who said a two percent grade would be ideal, starting from the street side of the grounds. This would allow a more level area to place the stage and level ground for the production area. It would not affect the sledding hill.

The council agreed to the decision, pending the approval of city engineers WHKS to check the drainage of the field and make sure water would not back up into the grounds. The snowmobile trail may be moved around this winter due to seeding on the grounds in preparation for next spring. 

Budget workshop

At the end of the regular agenda, the council talked about preliminary budget needs for departments before the final budget comes to the council in September. 

The biggest ask was from Police Chief Paul Folz, who asked the council to consider funding for three full-time police officers (himself and two other officers), which would cost nearly $158,425.

He stressed the city needed to offer a full-time position with benefits in order to keep police officers in Spring Grove, instead of using the position as a building block for their next career move. 

“They aren’t interested unless it’s a full package,” he said. 

After the resignation of Officer Brett Levin, Folz said he received two applications with no experience after three weeks of advertising. He added that he was also the lowest paid police chief in Houston County.

By giving Folz a third officer, it would give him more coverage over the city and allow more crimes to be investigated. 

The council did grant Folz permission to purchase a new squad car, as one of the cars was overdue by two years to be replaced. 

They also budgeted for a new computer system to instantly update ATV/golf cart registrations, animal licenses, building permits and other items in the squad cars, instead of doing it manually.

Those final numbers will be presented at the September council meeting for approval. Overall, Konkel said she didn’t foresee any big changes on the front page of the budget, but the council had yet to hear from Morken about public works needs. 

Other news

The Planning and Zoning Commission brought three revised forms to the council for approval — new forms for a conditional use permit (CUP), variance request and zoning permit. 

Council member Scott Solberg said the previous form didn’t give the commission the information they needed from residents. This is part of the commission’s process to tidy up the planning and zoning ordinances. All three forms were approved.

The city will hear the results of the fat-tire/multi-use trail study on Wednesday, Aug. 28, at 3:30 p.m. in Room 100 at Spring Grove Communications (lower level). The public is welcome to attend. 

The council also approved a new sexual assault investigation policy for the Spring Grove Police Department. 

Next meeting

The next meeting of the Spring Grove City Council will be held Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 6 p.m. at 168 W. Main St.