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Lanesboro City Council Report: Center for the Arts back at the starting line


Fri, Jun 6th, 2003
Posted in Features

Mike McGrath, a former board member of the Lanesboro Center for the Arts, addressed the Lanesboro City Council at their June 2 meeting.

Reminding the council, "You are in the driver’s seat in the state’s eyes," McGrath advised the council to be proactive in dealing with local arts groups regarding the development of an art center. At their May 19 meeting, the council voted to rescind an earlier decision to return a $1 million state bond allocated to the city as matching funds for a proposed art center.

In response to that action, McGrath put forward a plan that spells out the necessary steps the city should take in dealing with the arts groups as well as the state. He recommended that the city develop a memorandum of understanding with the art groups that would detail the terms by which the city would accept the bond and participate in efforts to build an art center.

The memorandum would cover a range of issues, from who would control any operating endowment; the reimbursement of city expenses for legal and other fees; the meeting of state reporting requirements; and other action steps that would need to be accomplished between now and the end of 2004.

McGrath disputed claims that the previous Lanesboro Center for the Arts process failed because of personality conflicts, pointing out the difficulty of dealing with the complexity of public versus private interests.

Mayor Steve Rahn and the council chose to send the information on to the EDA with the hope that a memorandum of understanding could be developed in the next 30 to 45 days. The question now remains whether this will jump start the process and allow the LCA to get on the road again?

City Administrator Position

With the resignation of the city administrator, the hiring committee questioned whether a city administrator/clerk was truly needed or if a clerk could handle the job. Councilman Jerome Halvorson proffered that money might be saved if the city chose to go with a clerk/treasurer since the administrator title commands a higher salary. However, City Attorney Tom Manion informed the council that pay equity is based more on job description than title.

While Halvorson felt the council could handle personnel issues by itself, Councilman Joe O’Connor disagreed, "We’re challenged to get through the agenda. I’d prefer not to have personnel issues before the council. We need a full-time professional to handle this."

O’Connor mentioned that former Mayor John Brose urged the council to stick with an administrator in light of the many projects the city was facing. Jerry Evenson of the Utilities Commission concurred.

Mayor Steve Rahn added that he felt the city needed someone to write grants as well. Councilwoman Peggy Hanson mentioned an ordinance would need to be repealed to switch to a clerk/treasurer. In the end, the council decided to stay with the advertised administrator position.

Church Hill School Property

Warren Kramer of Northcountry Development wrote a letter to the council asking that the platted alley near the old elementary school be vacated by the city, suggesting the possibility of a land swap for the currently used alley. The platted alley runs underneath a portion of the old school building, making it impossible for the owners to obtain clear title on the property. After discussion, Peggy Hanson made a motion to vacate the platted alley on property currently owned by Church Hill Properties. Joe O’Connor seconded the motion, stating, "My intention in seconding is to create a win-win situation to start the process."

Church Hill owner Dan Anderson reminded the council that they were not voting to vacate the alley, but were agreeing to discuss the possibility at a public hearing.

A concerned business owner in the audience encouraged the council to let the public have a chance to have a say in the mater by having a more open door policy and allowing discussion.

The motion passed unanimously and a public hearing on the vacation of the alley was set for July 7 at 6:00 P.M.

Other business

In other business the council:

• voted to continue membership in Southeastern Minnesota Development Corporation with a fee of $500 (half to be paid by the Utilities Commission);

• named Peggy Hanson as council liaison for the Walking Bridge project;

• opted to have the county sheriff conduct background checks on potential police officers to retain greater independence (rather than have Chief Stotts perform the checks);

• revised the budget in line with the $30,000 reduction in Local Government Aid funding from the state;

• rejoined Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation with a yearly fee of $500 (half to be paid by the Utilities Commission)

• named Jerome Halvorson and city attorney Tom Manion to the police complaint board.

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