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Rushford passes chicken ordinance

By Kirsten Zoellner

Mon, May 21st, 2012
Posted in Rushford All

After much debate within the council and planning commissions, Rushford has passed a new ordinance that will allow for the keeping of chickens within city limits. According to city administrator Steve Sarvi, the ordinance came before the commission several times for adjustments and discussions. “The majority of the commission recommended the ordinance,” he added.

The permit is designed to be relatively easy to obtain, but is detailed enough to take rescind if there is a problem. The permit will be $20 for the first year and renewable by application only each subsequent year if there are no infractions against the ordinance on file. Homeowners will be solely responsible for getting authorization from those who share property lines with the applicant prior to getting the permit.

Speaking during the public hearing, lead proponent Tina Darr thanked the council for tackling the topic.

Another debate, over the future of the Rushford Public Library, continues. Addressing the council with the annual library report, library director Sue Hart and Library Board Chairman Jim O’Donnell again requested parameters from the city as to the projected remodel of the current Tews Memorial Building.

Noting preliminary estimates from architect Val Shutte, which had come just an hour prior to the meeting, Hart spelled out the details. According to the estimate, without relocation, or the construction of an addition onto the facility, but rather simply the remodeling of the first and second floors, the project could cost the city a projected $792,000. At minimum, it would require the library to be closed for 22 months as the building is essentially gutted and flip-flopped blueprint-wise to accommodate state requirements.

“We’ve been here before,” sighed Hart. “In 2005, we were told it would take $987,000 for remodeling. Before we sink time and effort into studies, designs, and more, we need to know if it’s a go with you. If we take the USDA loan, at 4.25 percent for a 40 year term, it’s roughly $63,000 per year, from the city, to make principal and interest payments. We could meet the crunch time for the USDA, which is June 30. We could ask for a waiver for the July 31 construction deadline. It’s tight, but we could meet it. With adding on instead of remodeling both levels, there’s no way we can meet the deadlines.”

“You know my position,” countered Councilor Bunke. “I don’t want to borrow any more money. I was hoping we could use the FEMA funds from the community center, but I hear it hasn’t been applied for yet.”

“You have to have a plan in place and approved before you can even submit an application for the FEMA funding,” responded Hart. According to Sarvi, the city would also need to spend funds out of its own coffers before FEMA will reimburse the funds for the project. It also appears that FEMA funding would only be available for “bricks and mortar” library project, through an addition to the west or a new facility.

“Is there a limit to the amount of debt a city can carry?” questioned Councilor Roger Colbenson.

“That’s exactly my point,” echoed Bunke. “There’s not a huge appetite anywhere for more debt. That’s why I made my motion the way I did. The Library Board would need to provide us a plan that requires no funds from the city, through FEMA funds, fundraising, etc.”

“Everything you just mentioned, we had in place… everything,” O’Donnell retorted. “Now, you want us to do it again, but in this building? So we’re back to square one.”

The library will need a minimum of 6,000 square feet to decompress the current collection and meet ADA requirements. The upper floor alone, as it currently sits will provide only 3,500 square feet. “We can only go by professional opinion, the number of people served, and the services provided to determine square footage needs,” noted Hart. “We serve three counties here.

“Do we start a project and hope?” asked Sarvi. “Three months ago, the council was asked for a number so we could understand the tax impacts and what the architects can design with. Now, we’re spinning our wheels and that USDA money is going to slip through our fingers. We’re going to be sitting down at a new city hall, while you’re [the library] trying to figure out what to do.”

“But our debt level; it’s ridiculous,” added Colbenson.

“A lot of this is because of the flood; the levee, the infrastructure, the Highway 43 work. It’s going to take financial responsibility and management,” responded Mayor Chris Hallum. “There are needs and wants. There are needs and wants and opportunity. The council set this path months ago. Are we going to do what we need to and make it happen? If not, why did we go down this road?”

“I suggest the board continues to tighten up the project so the city feels comfortable funding it,” concluded Bunke.

“Well, there’s still one option left,” responded O’Donnell. “We do nothing.”

“We’re offering something here,” countered Councilor Mark Honsey. “It’s not new, but it could be shiny.”

The Library board will meet to discuss the preliminary estimates and the continuation of the project.

The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Monday, May 28, at 6:30pm, at city hall. The public is encouraged to attend.

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