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What's next for Lanesboro's Ox Trail?

Fri, Aug 11th, 2006
Posted in Government

LANESBORO - "Ox Trail's been there since the conception of Lanesboro!" declared Kate O'Neary at the public hearing on the Ox Trail during the Lanesboro City Council meeting August 7. O'Neary urged the council to keep the old trail as is, even turning it into a one way road rather than doing any major construction on the road. "Don't blow it up! It's going to look blown up for thirty or forty years!" she exclaimed as she reminded the council of the historical value of the road.

Options for the Ox Trail presented to the audience included applying for the Roads of Regional Significance Grant with an initial engineering cost up front of $12,000 to $15,000 and a total of $75,000 to $100,000 engineering and administrative fees on the $500,000 project. Only a small portion of the applicants actually receive the grant; there is $15 million available each year with over $100 million applied for.

The second option was to work with Minnowa to widen the road to 22-24 feet and add a guardrail with an estimated cost of around $150,000. If the city went with this option, the township or individuals might be asked to donate to the expense.

The third option presented was to continue to minimally maintain the road or eventually close the road. The city would need to decide if they would help the township pay for a road over the top of the hill.

City Administrator Bobbie Torgerson read a letter from Duane Benson supporting a widening of the road and installation of guardrail. Benson encouraged the council to be fiscally responsible; he was opposed to spending the money on engineering required to apply for the grant. "We do pay into the city coffers," reminded Benson, pointing to the business the area residents do in town. He expressed his frustration with the situation, commenting that they got passed around from one jurisdiction to another.

Torgerson estimated a ten percent increase in taxes for one year would cover the maximum cost of the project as she answered a question from the audience. The road would need to have a 30 mph curve and be built to state specifications.

The question of the cost of stabilizing the current road could not be answered; Mayor Steve Rahn replied the city would need an engineer to look at it.

The city has kept no running tally of the money spent so far on the road's maintenance. Torgerson noted the city had added railway ties to reinforce the road a few years ago. Rahn suggested the road's design wasn't very safe and perhaps the city would be better off helping the township with a road over the top.

Mark Hanson told the gathering Duane Bakke had said at the last township meeting that the bridge would get built no matter what happened with Ox Trail. Hanson added he felt it ridiculous to consider spending $100,000 on engineering for the first option.

The possibility of saving by providing fill from the road area to the bridge construction was mentioned. If the bridge construction and the roadwork coincide, the city could conceivably save $40,000 to $50,000.

After closing the hearing, the council later discussed the options further. Leaning toward the second option, the council decided to check on DNR right-of-way, the road right-of way, and legal descriptions of adjoining landownership. According to Council member Tom Dybing's preliminary research, Lillian Linde owns the nearby property. Once all the answers are obtained, the city will decide if they will proceed with an engineer to determine the project's feasibility. After the city gets projected costs from an engineer, the city could possibly approach the township for financial help. Torgerson advised the council they shouldn't bond for funding the project because of the expense of bonding. A bidding process would be necessary since the cost would exceed $50,000.

Arts economic impact

Michael-jon Pease, Executive Director of Cornucopia, appeared before the council to share a state report on the economic impact of non-profit arts. Pease told the council that in Greater Minnesota the southeastern area was second only to the Arrowhead in economic impact with $17.8 million and 510 full-time equivalent jobs. The average non-resident tourist spends $44 above the ticket price on meals, lodging, and transportation. Pease pointed to the $31 million impact in the Arrowhead region as a goal for this area. The next phase of the state's study will look at the economic impact of individual artists. Pease noted that while the local artists may sell art all over the country, the profits are spent locally. Handing out Arts Advocate buttons, Pease urged the council to advocate to maintain and increase arts appropriations.

Other business

In other business the council:

• approved the Lanesboro Fire Department's request to sell pull tabs at the Parkway Pub;

• accepted the Ace Communications non-exclusive cable TV franchise agreement;

• authorized Torgerson to sign a lease agreement for a copy machine/fax/scanner;

• discussed the need to curtail public alcohol consumption during the next Buffalo Bill Days; a joint meeting with the committee will be held six months before the next celebration and better signage will be used;

• heard Roger Hegland's report on the 2006 MS Bike Tram. Hegland described the literal red carpet welcome extended to the riders and referred to Lanesboro as "the smallest community they rode through, but big on heart and hospitality." He told the council that while the bikers don't spend a lot of money while they are on the ride, many return again and again to visit Lanesboro later.

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