The Houston City Council wasted little time as they looked at a draft resolution to exit from the OHV Trail project at their first regular meeting on January 9. Councilman Cody Mathers, council representative on the OHV Exit Committee, presented all the original documents regarding the OHV trail as well as the resolution.
Since there was no clear direction from the council to continue with an exit plan, the committee had not moved forward with any action earlier. The decision tree which had been received in October from MN DNR offered no acceptable choices. The committee wanted to pursue other options; they want to not have to pay back funding and/or give up the land purchased by the city for the project; they felt that the DNR had made “procedural missteps” during the process.The committee felt last fall’s council election showed the public opinion regarding the trail. As a result, they met recently and drafted a resolution to move forward with an exit plan.
The resolution is only a draft and is open to amendments. In bulleted points, the resolution states that a suitable resolution would include the city retaining ownership of the land acquired for the project and the deeds would not have restrictions requiring the land to be used for a motorized vehicle trail. It would create a non-motorized low environmental impact trail, and absolve the city from repaying state and federal motorized vehicle grants. In addition, the city would continue to be eligible for future DNR grants on the same footing as other cities. The resolution would invalidate the “improperly conducted” 2013 federal Environmental Assessment and, as a result, invalidate the permission to use the South Park land purchased with Land and Water Conservation Funds for a motorized vehicle trail.
Mathers explained that he felt the resolution was important to give legislators a “firm, unified voice of the council” as the city requests legislators to help with the exit.
After discussion, the council decided it would be prudent to have the city attorney review the draft resolution and help with wording to ensure the city was proceeding legally. The issue will be revisited at the February council meeting after the attorney has a chance to review the resolution; he will be provided with all the previous OHV documentation to help him with his evaluation.
Bicycling Around Minnesota
Houston has been chosen as a possible layover spot for the Bicycling Around Minnesota event for the night of August 19. With as many as 300 riders, assorted amenities need to be provided. Mobile showers will be provided by BAM with hookup at the nature center as well as porta potties at the park. Originally, the plan was to use the Trailhead Park, but, since the storm shelter might be at the school, the council gave permission for tent camping at the nearer city park. BAM is also considering hosting a music event at fest grounds.
BAM intends to cater one meal, but attendees would be purchasing other food and drink in Houston. City Administrator Michelle Quinn informed the council that the city has appropriate insurance coverage for the event. BAM will also be visiting the Owl Center before traveling on to attend the Houston County Fair in Caledonia.
Councilman Steve Westby pointed out that the event would potentially bring in a lot of business for Houston as the council approved the switch to the city park for the tent camping.
In other business, the council:
• Swore in Scott Wallace as mayor and Zeb Baumann and Steve Westby as councilmen;
• Chose Fillmore County Journal as the official newspaper and Rushford State Bank as the official depository;
• Approved a gambling permit for Sheldon Valley Sportsman’s Association;
• Accepted the resignation of police officer Calvin Nagle who accepted a position with the Houston County Sheriff’s Department; the city has two applicants for the position at this time;
• Approved the trade-in of the city’s F350 for an F150 pickup and $3,800 and approved the purchase of a snow pusher that could be used on the tractor or bobcat;
• Granted the request from Fire Chief Steve Skifton to sell an old ambulance previously used to haul gear and possibly an old 2008 brush truck; a new brush truck was purchased using ARPA funds;
• Heard that the final closing on the sale of the old community center will take place this week.
The next Houston City Council meeting will be at 6 p.m. February 13 at city hall in the council chambers. The public is welcome to attend; a public comment period is provided at the end of the meeting.
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