Sidewalks and streets main topics at Lanesboro City Council meeting

Charlie Warner

The Lanesboro City Council spent quite a bit of time discussing a comprehensive sidewalk repair project and street repair projects during the Monday, Aug. 5, meeting. Present were Mayor Jason Resseman and councilors Autumn Johnson, Chase Bakke and Bridget Harvey. Councilor Tom Smith was absent.

The council held a sidewalk improvement hearing to solicit comments from property owners affected by the upcoming project. No one came forward to voice an opinion on the project or the proposed assessments. City staff had toured the city and came up with a list of the most glaring safety issues with the sidewalks. Nine separate sections of sidewalk within the city will be replaced. City Administrator Michele Peterson explained that businesses will be assessed 100% of the cost, while residential property owners will be assessed 50%.

Property owners, addresses, number of square feet replaced and the assessments include: Gordon and Valerie Tindal, 110 Coffee Street East, 250 square feet, $1,500, 100% assessed; Thomas and Sandra Manion, 204 Parkway Ave North, 70 square feet, $420, 100% assessed; Peter Bilkey, 100 Parkway Ave South, 20 square feet, $120, 100% assessed; Neil and Lorna Berg, 402 Hillcrest Street East, 520 square feet, $3,120, 50% assessed; B&L LLC, 404 Hillcrest Street East, 855 square feet, $5,130, 100% assessed; Dustin and Emily McCabe, 400 Hillcrest Street East, 340 square feet, $2,040, 50% assessed; Gary and Mavic Musselman, 602 Calhoun Ave South, 425 square feet, $2,550, 50% assessed; Walter and Susan Bradley, 604 Calhoun Ave. South, 500 square feet, $3,000, 50% assessed; Trina Solano, 606 Calhoun Ave South, 115 square feet, $690, 50% assessed.

A tenth project at the Sandra Solberg residence for 196 square feet at a cost of $1,176 (50% assessed) was removed from the list at her request. That portion of sidewalk is located at the end of a street and didn’t need to be included.

The council then focused its attention on street repairs. Public Works Director Dave Haugen explained that last winter’s drastic weather had been tough on city streets. There are a number of sections of roadways that will require sealcoating and others that will need to have cracks routed out and resealed. Because of the very wet spring and early summer, most contractors are behind schedule and the city was only able to secure one bid for the required work from Asphalt Armor and Sealcoating. The bid is for $23,674.30. The city had budgeted $30,000 for street repairs for 2019, so there are enough funds in the budget for the proposed work.

New police chief

Longtime Preston Police Chief Matt Schultz, who is retiring, introduced the newly-appointed police chief Blaise Sass to the council. The Preston police department provides law enforcement services to Lanesboro and Fountain. Sass has been a sergeant with the department, working under Schultz for the past 17 years. Schultz said he was very confident that Sass would be the right fit for the job. The councilmembers all thanked Schultz for his many years of service to the community and wished him well.

Fire department issues

The council approved a request from the Lanesboro Fire Department to increase the annual retirement payment from $1,200 a year to $1,450 per year. The increase will not impact the city financially and there is enough money in the fire department’s retirement fund to cover this.

The council also approved a resolution designating the fire chief and the city administrator to recommend equipment purchases for the fire department. The council will still review purchases, but Peterson explained this resolution will help alleviate some of the confusion.

Downtown visibility issues

Bakke wanted to discuss a visibility issue at the intersection of Parkway and Coffee streets. He noted that because the parking stalls were so close to the intersection, he felt it is a safety issue when trying to drive into the intersection.

“I realize we have a shortage of parking stalls in the downtown area, but if we could reduce one parking spot on each street, it would make a great improvement,” Bakke said. He added that the parking stall in front of the Peddle Pushers runs right up to the crosswalk and when a larger vehicle is parked there it is almost impossible to turn onto Parkway.

The council agreed to table the issue until the next meeting and Resseman asked the councilmembers to all take a look at the situation.

Yield sign on Sheridan

The council discussed traffic issues at the intersection of Sheridan and Auburn streets. Peterson said residents in the area don’t want parking limited to just one side of the street. City staff had reviewed the situation and recommended that a yield sign be placed on Sheridan at the bottom of the hill and that parking be restricted about 15 to 20 feet from the intersection in all directions. The council approved a motion for the yield sign and for yellow parking restriction lines to be painted on the curbs in all directions.

And then there were four

The City Council will be down to four members for the next nine months. Councilor Johnson informed the council that she will be deployed with the Civilian Department of Defense for the next nine months and would not be able to attend council meetings during her deployment. The council had several options to remedy the situation. It could advertise for a temporary councilor, appoint someone for the nine months or just continue on with four members. Resseman felt the council could manage with four members during the nine months and made a motion to keep Johnson’s seat vacant. His motion was seconded by Bakke and passed with Johnson abstaining.

Part-time EDA director

The council discussed the pros and cons of hiring a part-time economic development director through CEDA. The Lanesboro Area Chamber of Commerce asked the city to consider hiring someone to help with economic development. After reviewing several options, the council approved a motion to hire a staff person through CEDA for one day, every other week, at a cost of $12,000 per year.

“We need to try this to see if it is workable,” Resseman said. “If we think it is a positive thing, we can increase the hours to one day a week and see if we can get the chamber or some other entity to help pay for it. We need to invest more into the community.”

Community input session

The council had tried holding a community input session 15 minutes before the start of each council meeting. While Resseman felt it was a good idea, several councilmembers didn’t feel it was working.

“Because of the open meeting law, we can’t have more than two councilmembers here for the session,” Harvey opined. “So not all the councilmembers hear what is being said. I feel it would be better to have people come before the full council during our meetings to discuss issues.”

Johnson agreed with Harvey’s line of thinking and seconded a motion made by Harvey to discontinue the sessions. Bakke also voted for the motion, with Resseman voting against it.

Property issues

The council went into closed session to discuss on-going negotiations on several pieces of property. When they came out of closed session a motion was made not to take any action with a piece of property at 210 Rochelle Ave. North. The council did approve a motion to swap two parcels near the Highway 250 bridge. The council also approved a motion to have the city administrator make an offer of $70,000 to purchase a parcel at 403 Ashburn Street East. The motion included the negotiated price could be up to 10 percent more, but with council approval.