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Lanesboro City Council

Fri, Apr 6th, 2001
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City attorney to look at art center sites; council meets with cable companyBy John TorgrimsonMonday, April 9, 2001

If Lanesboro City Council member Kevin Drake has anything to say about it, the Regional Art Commission will need to do some explaining as to why the old grade school is not being considered as a possible site for the new Regional Art Center.

"Some business people and citizens have talked to me about the different sites, and I think the grade school should be considered," Drake said.

Drakes comments came during the April 3rd city council meeting where the council was discussing the Regional Art Commissions recommendation that the city attorney begin looking into the legal background of two downtown properties as possible sites for the new art center: the old Cheese Factory and the Lanesboro Grain Company facility.

Council member Peggy Hanson, who is a city representative to the Regional Art Commission, asked Drake if he was concerned about congestion and parking. "Yes," he said. She then asked if he had concerns about the scope and scale of the project. "Yes, I am not fully convinced that there is room downtown," Drake said.

Council member Hal Cropp, who is also a representative to the commission representing Commonweal Theatre, said that the commission has applied its criteria to all possible sites and that the grade school has been considered. "There are significant concerns about the school as a site," Cropp responded.

"The first thing people see when they come to town is the old grade school," Drake said. "Until I get more information, thats where I am at."

Hanson invited Drake to a Regional Art Commission meeting the following night so that he could find out more information on site selection.

A council resolution to instruct the city attorney to investigate the legal descriptions and liabilities of the two sites passed by a three to one margin, with Drake in opposition.

(The Journal has learned that at their Tuesday, April 4 meeting, the Regional Art Commission selected the Cheese Factory property, White Front Cafe property, and adjoining vacant lot, as the site for the proposed Regional Art Center. The site would have to be approved by the Lanesboro City Council.)

Mediacom Cable

Representatives from Mediacom, who provide cable TV services to 375 subscribers in Lanesboro, were before the council to answer questions about recent rate increases, channel selection and public access television. One resident asked about duplication of channels, while others questioned why it is possible to get Wisconsin Public Television, but not Minnesota Public Television.

"In some cases, the Federal Communication Commission rules say that we are obligated to carry significantly viewed channels in a county," said Jim Robinson, Regional General Manager for Mediacom. "This might be why you are getting an NBC channel out of LaCrosse and an NBC channel out of Rochester."

Robinson said that the problem with receiving Minnesota Public Television (MPT) has to do with their transmission difficulties, as there is no tower in this area. "They (MPT) have to be able to provide a signal that can be picked up and re-transmitted," Robinson said.

Council member John Dollar read a petition from 112 residents calling on Mediacom to add KMSP Channel 9 to its list of basic channels. The petition sited the fact that at present cable viewers cannot pickup high school tournament sports action. Robinson responded that Mediacom is unable to pick up a KMSP signal. "We need 90 miles line-of-sight to pick up that signal," Robinson said. "We may need to get it a different way."

In response to a question about high speed Internet access from Council Member Peggy Hanson, Kari Dziedzic, Mediacoms Government Relations Manager, said that the recent upgrade of fiberoptic cable will allow Mediacom to look at providing high speed Internet access in the future. "We have a new service provider and look to be bringing on new communities sometime after the first of the year," Dziedzic said. Dziedzic also said that Mediacom would work with the city to help them establish their own public access channel.

Robinson said that Mediacom is sensitive to rate increases and staying competitive in the marketplace. He said that programming is expensive, noting the fact that Disney owns ABC, which owns ESPN. "It costs us $1.25 per viewer to deliver ESPN which is watched by 17% of the viewing public," he said. "Regionally, we spend over $1 million per month for programming." He said that in smaller communities, the cost per subscriber is higher than in larger cities because the costs are spread across a smaller base.

The contract with Mediacom and the city of Lanesboro runs through 2012.

In other business:

The Public Utilities Commission has put out bids for two engines for the hydro-electric plant. According to Council member Kevin Drake, the commission is looking at ways to generate revenue and how the hydro-electric plant could pay for itself. Drake said that the commission is looking at different options to excavate the silt.

The city-sponsored Community Organization Meeting on March 24th was well attended. Groups involved are going to put together a community calendar. According to Council Member Peggy Hanson, discussion was held about the needs and challenges facing the city. One particular concern that was raised had to do with drug use among young people. Another meeting is planned for after Buffalo Bill Days.

The council took action on a number of Planning & Zoning recommendations:

Approved vacating a portion of Rochelle Avenue South for VIS Plumbing to build a new shop.

Approved vacating half of Auburn Street to allow Kevin Drake to move his house closer to the corner. (Drake excused himself from voting on this request).

Approved a simple lot split for Mark Brewsters hotel.

Approved vacating 25 feet of city property in the flats area of the city. The property will be taken over and maintained by landowners. The city will keep a perpetual utility easement on the property.

Council member Hal Cropp reported that the Economic Development Authority has held some preliminary discussions with Semcac and the Southeast Minnesota Development Corporation regarding affordable housing, and the possible use of the old grade school for this purpose.

George Sutton, of Sutton & Associates, who is carrying out pre-development work on the Regional Art Center, was introduced to the council.

A wine and 3.2 beer license was approved for Das Wurst Haus.

At the end of the meeting, the council met in private to discuss pending litigation.

By John Torgrimson

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