Long-time Peterson enthusiast and volunteer museum curator John Erickson passed away on May 30, leaving an obvious hole in museum operations. Erickson had an avid interest in history and genealogy. He was instrumental in the creation and operation of the Peterson Station Museum.
“We lost John, as we know. We want to keep the museum going,” said Councilor Gail Boyum. She and several others volunteer in the Friends of Peterson organization, which has been active in the museum operations, improvements, and fundraising for the city.
“We would like to form a Board of Directors and keep it open,” she continued. The temporary plan is to keep the museum open at least three days a week, utilizing volunteers until they formalize a permanent solution. The museum is city-owned. The council approved the formation of a board of directors for it unanimously.
“I wasn’t born here. I think it’s important to have people that were born and raised here operate it,” added Boyum. “They do tours like John, and they grew up together. We worked with John filling in pieces.”
In other news, the council also approved the addition of vacation rentals of homes and properties, such as through Airbnb and VRBO, to those required to collect and distribute a portion of their fees to the city for a lodging tax. Before this, only traditional lodgings such as motels, bed & breakfasts, and campgrounds had to pay the lodging tax. The city uses the funds for tourism marketing and related-upgrade purposes.
The amount collected will be three percent of lodging fees. Boyum noted that a majority of municipalities are taking the same action.
Sewer rates are also changing, increasing by $5 over the current rate for all 119 connections. The increase will cover the $600 monthly cost of utilizing former Public Works Director Rick Lee’s water and sewer licensure. The city is required to have a licensed operator for wastewater. New Director Tim Hallum and City Clerk Chris Grindland are currently taking the training. Still, it will take time to secure licenses.
The council will reevaluate the rate increase once Hallum and Grindland have the license and the additional monthly payment is no longer needed. The last rate increase was roughly four years prior.
The last item of council approval was related to the June 24 Gammel Dag celebration. After some discussion, the council opted to hire police presence from the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Department from 10 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. With the festivities, the council felt assured the sheriff’s department would be in the area and they would not need to hire a deputy for additional evening hours. Friends of Peterson will share the cost with the city.
The council tabled two items from the meeting, including an evaluation of the water system and the city garage. Engineering for the former is $10,000-15,000.
“We don’t want to spend that and not be serious about what to do,” said Councilor Tracy Seelbinder. Newly passed legislation regarding water particularly relates to cities and towns under 15,000 residents.
Public Works seeks to add heat to the city garage and, eventually, any city-owned building. However, continuing cost increases have hindered plans. The city intends to seek quotes for adding heat to get a cost baseline.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting is at city hall on Wednesday, July 12, at 6 p.m. The public is encouraged to attend.