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Lanesboro City Council hears report from library

Mon, Feb 13th, 2012
Posted in Lanesboro Features

President of the Library Board, Dave Hennessey and Library Director, Tara Johnson spoke to the Lanesboro City Council on February 6. They updated the council on the library remodeling and discussed the use of the library in 2011.

The library was closed for two weeks in January for extensive remodeling, and community members helped out. According to Johnson, 90 volunteers donated 380 hours of time to help move books and shelves so new carpeting could be installed.

In 2011, the library had 14,500 visits, and 19,000 items were circulated. This is an increase from 2010. In addition, 500 children attended the children’s programs.

Hennessey said he wanted to thank the staff there, especially Johnson for her hard work with the renovations.

Council member Ceil Allen said the renovation idea started when they realized they needed new carpeting, and then realized it would be a great opportunity to do even more remodeling. They did painting, moved computers, and lowered the shelves to make things more bright and open. An open house was held when the library reopened.

“The Friends of the Library was instrumental in this,” said Allen, noting that they supplied a Nook eReader for a door prize at the open house.

Allen also praised Johnson for coordinating the whole project, the community for helping out, and the Friends of the Library group.

“Everyone raves about how good it looks,” said Allen.

Johnson said they couldn’t have done it without help from the city, and that she appreciated their contribution.

League of Minnesota Cities Conference

Allen recently attended a League of MN Cities Leadership Conference in Brooklyn Center. She noted that the city is facing a lot of challenges right now with high price tags, such as the dam and the water issues.

“The projected trends are that cities of every size could be broke by 2015,” said Allen. “And cities and local government can no longer expect anything from federal or state. We have to consider the long-range consequences of our short-term plans.”

Allen has reviewed the Lanesboro 2020 Plan, which states where Lanesboro would like to be by the year 2020. She proposed the council spend a couple of hours outside the regular council meeting to reassess those plans. The council agreed that would be a good idea.

Public Utilities

Council member Joe O’Connor said the Public Utilities Commission is preparing to move forward to automatic electric and water meters. They will start with the water meters. O’Connor believes they can recoup the costs of the meters quickly by having accurate readings.

He also spoke about the high radium levels in one of the wells, which is not posing any health risks. They received a visit from the MN Rural Water Association to review the situation. They suggested the city put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) for an engineering study.

O’Connor also mentioned that Representative Greg Davids was going to be speaking to legislation on February 8 about exempting Lanesboro from historic requirements for renovation of the dam. City Administrator Bobbie Vickerman will be in the Twin Cities at the time and has agreed to testify. The State Historic Preservation Office is requiring the city to use historically accurate materials to repair the dam. This would make it a much more expensive project.

Also, Tim Walz’s office in Washington, D.C. is aware of the situation and they are looking for options to give the city some assistance.

Whittier Street Assessments

Robert Thompson returned to the meeting with a few of the residents affected by the Whittier Street assessments. He said that special assessments are just another way for the city to tax its residents. Mayor Rahn replied, “Or to get projects done.”

Thompson argued that the assessments were not fair. He believed that he and the people there with him were assessed for utilities that they did not get. He noted that there were no special assessments on Highway 250 when streetlights were installed.

“When you assess for one utility, you have to assess for all of them,” he said.

Thompson also spoke about the assessments done at the same time on Maple Drive. Those people were assessed 100 percent of the cost because it was new construction. The people on Whittier Street were assessed 25 percent of the cost.

The project on Maple Drive ended up costing $80 a foot, and the Whittier Street Project was $175 a foot.

O’Connor said they were told the work on Whittier Street would be more involved, hence the higher cost. Council member Tom Dybing, who lives on Maple Drive, said they already had storm sewer and water lines when they purchased their lots, and that was included in the value of the lot.

“You have to compare apples to apples, Bob,” he said.

Rahn said they had already had the engineer explain the costs to everyone. Allen noted that Thompson had already taken this issue to court, and they already made a decision. She didn’t feel it was their place to go against that.

Thompson said he wants the assessment on the utilities to be removed.

O’Connor said he would undertake a search to see how other cities assessed their utilities and he would get back to Thompson.

“We just want you to be fair about it, that’s all we’re asking,” said Thompson.

Other Business

Mayor Rahn said the Lanesboro LLC has asked the city if they are interested in purchasing the lot where the grocery store is located before they put it on the market. Rahn felt they were not interested, and Council member Keith Eide agreed the city is in no position to purchase a lot right now.

At the recommendation of City Employee Andy Drake, the council approved the purchase of a new street sweeper for $85,500. The first payment is in the street budget for 2012.

A liquor license was approved for the Art Center for 2012.

A public hearing will be held on a Small Cities Grant on March 5, 2012 at 5:30, as part of the grant process.

Kay Wold was approved for appointment to the library board.

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