The Lanesboro City Council once again discussed concerns regarding the Little Norway bridge during its meeting on Tuesday, July 11. After a structural evaluation from the city engineers earlier this spring, the city had closed the bridge for safety concerns. Residents who live southwest of County Road 8, in the area known as “Little Norway,” want to see the bridge repaired or replaced.
Jim Sheeley spoke during the public comment period, thanking the council for their consideration of a letter he submitted in June, outlining the importance of the walking bridge. “It is important to the community,” he added at the meeting. “It would be a tragedy if it was torn down without replacement.”
“The importance of having that bridge is not lost on me,” Mayor Jason Resseman had said at the May council meeting, adding accessibility of Little Norway to the rest of Lanesboro is being taken into consideration.
City Administrator Michelle Peterson asked the council for direction on future action. “What amount of money are we willing to commit to this right now? And, where do I take that money from? We need to understand what the goal is,” she said.
Councilor Mindy Albrecht-Benson said she felt the bridge concerns needed to be addressed sooner than later, in fact, suggesting the council look at a short-term solution while also considering a longer-term plan for renovation or replacement. “We have to fix it for these people,” she said.
When it was asked if improvements needed to be ADA-compliant, several board members noted they would not support funding of any improvements that were not compliant.
City Engineer Brian Malm said there are exceptions to ADA standards when it would be impossible – due to physical constraints – to meet certain requirements. However, he said, he did not feel that applied to the Little Norway bridge.
The council members discussed the need for financing as well as how to make this unexpected expense fit into the city budget.
Peterson suggested utilizing $15,000 of the remaining ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds received after COVID and let the city employees try to work with local contractors to develop a plan to alleviate the safety concerns.
The council approved expenditures up to $15,000 if the city staff could find a way to fix the bridge and remedy the safety concerns.
Malm also presented two pay requests for approval to the city council. The first was to Wapasha Construction for work done on the wastewater treatment facility. He noted 98% of the work on the plant is completed.
The second was for the ongoing street and utility project. Malm noted, with 73% of the work completed, substantial completion should be done by mid-August. He also noted the residents and businesses have all been patient and good to work with, and specifically mentioned the cooperation from the staff and owners of the Cottage House Inn.
Malm also complimented the residents and business for their engagement in the Highway 250 project that is slated for 2026. He said the public meeting in June was well-attended and many had completed the survey.
“Kudos to all the interested parties for getting involved in the process,” he concluded.
In the park report, Walbridge reported that the Air Stream Rally had been held in Lanesboro with good response and Biking Across Minnesota (BAM) will be staying in Lanesboro in August. New bases have been obtained for the ballfield through a grant from the Lanesboro Community Foundation and the park board is working with Ryan Palmer who received an arts grant to create a sculpture, which could be located in the park.
Melissa Vander Plas, the new director for the Lanesboro Area Chamber of Commerce, reported on recent activities, including the upcoming 2024 membership drive and visitor guide production, which will begin this month. Lanesboro recently was nationally recognized by TravelMag.com as being one of 20 “Most Charming Small Cities in the Midwest” and as the small town Minnesota Hippies love to visit. She also noted Lanesboro will be the featured community at the Fillmore County Fair on Friday, July 21.
Deb Ristau from the Preston Ambulance Service, which now covers the Lanesboro community, attended the council meeting to discuss possible replacement of the Lanesboro ambulance. She explained it has had issues out on calls and is currently out of service getting repairs. If an ambulance was ordered now, it would be two to two-and-a-half years before it would be delivered and would cost $330,000. She asked that Lanesboro contribute $170,000 towards the cost of that purchase. The council approved the request, with the condition that it is a one-time occurrence and does not set a precedent for future purchases. The city had set aside funds in that amount prior to contracting with Preston for ambulance coverage.
Resident Don Bell attended the meeting to request permission to repair an existing retaining wall that is located within the city right-of-way. The council approved the request with the condition that the city would have no responsibility or liability associated with the wall. Bell also requested that a black walnut tree, located in the right-of-way, also be removed as it could potentially affect the longevity of the wall. The city will investigate costs for removal and make a decision in the future.
The next Lanesboro City Council meeting will be held on Monday, August 7, at 6 p.m. in the city hall council chambers.