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Lanesboro City Council Report


Fri, Jun 8th, 2001
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City and county far apart on Coffee Street costsBy John TorgrimsonMonday, June 11, 2001

At its May 22 council meeting, the Lanesboro City Council expressed surprise at the city’s estimated share of costs for the county’s Coffee Street Road project. What the city thought would be a $40,000 to $50,000 price tag more than doubled with an estimated expense of nearly $125,000.

The entire county road project will cost nearly $1 million. The city’s share includes:

• Street work $11,138.20
• Storm Sewer $58,345.80
• Street Lights $14,682.50
• Utilities $21,080.00
• Engineering $18,500.00
Total $123,746.50

There are other assorted costs to the city including land purchases, permits and legal fees.

Over the past few weeks, City Attorney Tom Manion and City Administrator Barbara Hoyhtya have been trying to find out why there is such a discrepancy between the city’s expectation and reality. Hoyhtya looked through old city council and public utilities commission minutes to find out what the city had agreed to in the past. The two also met with Fillmore County Commissioners Randal Dahl and Duane Bakke as well as Assistant County Engineer Tom Miles regarding the project.

Both Dahl and Bakke attended the Monday, June 4 city council meeting to answer any questions the council might have.

Manion told the council that he had some concerns about the city’s proposed share as the council records indicated that the city had agreed to only cover the costs of storm sewers, as well as 20% of the engineering costs.

“At that time, (1997) it was a $400,000 project with the city’s cost share on storm sewers estimated at $50,000,” Manion said.

Commissioner Dahl suggested that one alternative would be for the city to assess property owners who would benefit from the project. But Manion countered by saying that the home owners haven’t really had any problems. Manion said that it was his understanding that they were doing the storm sewers because “while you are tearing up the road you might as well replace the storm sewers”.

“It is not something the city requested to have done,” Manion pointed out.

Commissioner Bakke took a different view. It was his opinion that “if it wasn’t for the storm sewers, the road wouldn’t be done” at all.

Mayor John Brose then commented that the reason the road project was considered in the first place was because of traffic problems at the Lanesboro Sales Barn.

“There was traffic congestion, semis were getting hung up,” Brose said. “The feeling at the time was, as long as we are doing the street, let’s do the storm sewer. If the sewer line and utilities had to be moved, then that would be the city’s responsibilities.”

Manion, summarizing his thoughts on the matter to the council, said, “We may be obligated for something that we never agreed to.” He then questioned whether some of the unnecessary work, such as utilities, could be dropped from the project.

Hoyhtya presented a historical accounting of the council minutes that showed that the city first began discussions with the county over the project in 1996, when Eugene Ulring was county engineer. Hoyhtya stated that a public hearing was held in May 1997 at which time it was discussed that storm sewers did not benefit individual homeowners. According to Hoyhtya, not long after the public hearing, the city agreed to go ahead with the project, with the city responsible for $55,509 for storm sewer and 20% of surveying costs.

Commissioner Dahl stated that the project is only $3,000 ($58,000 compared to $55,000) different than originally projected, and that at $1 million, the cost benefit ratio was 12%.

“This is an acceptable and common type benefit raito,” Dahl said. “Is there some way to work with the public utilities on this?”

After nearly an hour of discussion, Council member Peggy Hanson said that “we’re not going to settle this tonight” and expressed a need to continue dialogue between the city and county.

“I don’t know if we have a contract or not,” Hanson said. “We do have a whole lot of history and people acting in good faith.” Hanson asked that before the next city council meeting, they consider where the money is going to come from.

Bakke was optimistic that the county could get more information in the near future.

“Someone will be on board tomorrow who can hopefully document some of this,” Bakke said, referring to the county’s intent to hire Eugene Ulring on Tuesday as a consultant to the Highway Department.

Bakke also raised some questions about WHKS & Co., the engineering firm that was brought in at the city’s request. “It’s my understanding that Ulring threw out the first budget they put together,” Bakke said.

In the end, the city council reached a consensus on what it is the city apparently agreed to back in 1997. Namely that they are responsible for an estimated $55,000 in costs for storm sewers and 20% of the costs for surveying.

Commissioner Dahl put things into a philosophical perspective when he said that he had once read something to the effect that “personnel and politicians change, and that is why institutions need to communicate.”

Meanwhile, the contractor was scheduled to begin construction on the project any day.

While discussions between the Lanesboro City Council and county officials regarding the Coffee Street road project took center stage at the June 4 council meeting, the three hour meeting was full of other issues that warranted the council’s attention.

The council took advantage of Fillmore County Commissioners Duane Bakke and Randal Dahl presence to discuss the feasibility of providing a safe pedestrian walkway from the Bass Pond parking lot across Fillmore County Road #8 to the ballpark area. People would then enter the city on the old Coffee Street Bridge.

A number of suggestions were made including providing a tunnel under the road or attaching a walking bridge under the present bridge. Council member Hal Cropp said that the city was interested in developing a plan to move pedestrians into town safely. He felt that this would prevent a bottleneck at the junction of Highway #8 and Parkway, which is near where the bike trail enters town.

Bakke suggested looking at the problem from an engineering standpoint and in terms of what MnDOT would allow for safety.

When Council member Kevin Drake asked Bakke if there would be any cost to the city for doing this, Bakke replied, “I don’t think so.” But later, after reflecting on the problems being discussed about the Coffee Street project, Bakke told the council, “There may be some costs to the city, we’re just not sure what they would be.”

It was agreed that the council would write a formal letter to the county expressing an interest in the pedestrian walkway.

•Brat & Beer

The council agreed to accept a proposal from the Buffalo Bill Days Committee to operate the Brat & Beer concession during Buffalo Bill Days 2001. The committee will invite all non-profit organizations in the city to provide volunteer shifts to work the event. The revenues paid back to the non-profits would then be based upon the number of shifts each group worked. The council approved the proposal for the year 2001.

• Art Commission

At the request of the Art Commission, the council approved asking the Minnesota Department of Trade & Economic Development for a six months extension on the city’s contract in order to complete their work on the proposed Lanesboro Art Center.

According to Hal Cropp, this is a routine request and that they actually hope to have the report finished in the next 30 to 45 days. The council also approved spending $5,000 to hire Swan Consultants to conduct a ma

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