At the Monday, July 24 meeting, the Rushford City Council reviewed a preliminary analysis for possible acquisition of two residential properties on Lamplighter’s Lane. The steeply sloped road was initially designed in the late ‘70s to lead to a four-home subdivision overlooking the city on the bluff east of Rushford. Two homes were built at the site in 1976 and 1977. The road has required extra maintenance, such as plowing, due to its steepness and is now in poor condition. Should the city find itself not in a position to acquire the properties, the road will need to be scheduled for substantial maintenance. The cost of an assessment to the property owners would be substantial and to lump the project in with other road work may tip the scales unfairly to taxpayers in the city portion of the project costs.
Only one of the two homes in the subdivision is currently for sale, becoming available a week prior. City Clerk Kathy Zacher stated that a sale is pending on the home. The other home is not currently for sale, but it was noted the property owner had indicated that a sale might be welcome. City Administrator Tony Chladek indicated that to purchase the properties, the cost versus recoup to the taxpayers may hover around 1:1 and typically, cities like a more sound return.
“We need to analyize whether or not we want to acquire the properties, looking at the city taxpayer cost versus actual property value. The point is, we’re going to need to look at doing something up there. There’s got to be some threshold,” said Chladek. “We didn’t want to tackle it because we were hoping it would go away. It didn’t go away. We need to tackle it.”
Project estimation, for road reconstruction is estimated at $312,103.60. Estimated market value on the properties is $137,600 and $141,100. The additional lots, which are unbuilt, are estimated at $400 and $3,000.
Utilities, including water, sewer, and electrical run to the site and the condition of the services is unknown. For water alone there are interesting situations. Zacher indicated that the property owners up top have to be notified before the city flushes hydrants below, because the pull is so strong it can drain intensely and have adverse effects on the properties and their home equipment.
“This is not a light matter. This is a costly matter,” added Chladek.
If the city were to purchase the properties, it is unclear what would happen to them. Options include removal of the homes, or rental by the city to private parties, until the utilities give out. Also unclear is where the funds would come from. Loss of tax revenue for the sites would be $2,000 per year. Loss of utility revenue would be $9,000 annually.
“We have to have an exit strategy,” cautioned Councilor Mark Honsey.
The city will gather more information about options for the situation, including financial analysis and potential funding. Mike Bubany, of David Drown Associates, financial consultant for the city, and Brian Malm, of Bolten & Menk, the city’s engineering firm, will be contacted.
At the meeting, the council also received an update from Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation Development Coordinator Alissa Blaha. The summary included work done in 2017, as well as funding for 2018. Rushford was one of four communities to be included in a $10,000 community collaboration grant. These grants were aimed at enhancing the communities’ growth and longevity. Blaha emphasized partner contributions, how they are allocated, and the impact to the region.
Library Board Chairwoman Heather Larson was also on hand to present the annual report for the board. On the whole, numbers continue to increase in usage and a wide array of programs continues to bring in patrons. “Susan Hart does a great job of getting grants and bringing people to the library and its programs,” said Larson.
E-materials seems to be the most growing trend for the library, despite cautions years ago of libraries becoming extinct with the new wave of internet availability. “It did not happen. We’re busier than ever,” indicated Larson. “I came to the library when I was a little girl and I never would have thought it possible the library would offer the things it does.”
Other new grant-funded availabilities at the library, such as access to ancestry.com, bring in additional interest. The board is active in marketing the library’s offerings and has recently partnered with outside events and programs. A booth during Peterson’s Gammel Dag festivities brought substantial traffic and the new Root River Trail Towns Bike Share Program is also seeing growing interest. “It’s a nice exposure for us. It promotes health and wellness and exposure to the area,” added Larson. “It’s nice to be a part of that project.”
The council asked that the 2018 report indicate historical comparisons on figures so areas of growth might be better identified.
In other news, the council recognized two sizeable donations to the city. First, in the amount of $6,010, was a donation of remaining 2002 Boy Scout Eagle Project funds. The funds will be used for improvements at the aquatic center, including replacement of the pool vacuum, umbrellas, and other equipment and amenities as needed.
The second donation, in the amount of $1,000, was given by Doug Himlie to be used for enhancements, repairs, and replacements of amenities at Magelsen Bluff Park. The city is working on tearing down one old shelter and is hoping to replace it. Another option for the funds would be the construction of permanent, on-site charcoal grills.
Appointment of election judges for the city general election November 7, 2017, was approved by the council. Seats up for grabs include a two-year mayoral term, currently held by Mayor Chris Hallum. Additionally, the four-year term council seats currently held by Councilors Mark Honsey and Vern Bunke will be on the ballot. It is unclear at this time if Hallum and Bunke will run for reelection. Honsey stated at a council meeting earlier this year that he will not be seeking reelection.
Interested candidates can contact city hall for more information. Paperwork for candidacy will be available at city hall between August 1 and 15.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Monday, August 14, at 6:30 p.m., at city hall. The public is encouraged to attend.