The Spring Grove City Council met on the Tuesday, February 21, as the first flakes of the powerful winter storm began to fly. Realtor Stephanie Gulbranson was present to discuss the progress of the liquor store sale. Nearly everything is ready for the store to go on the market. At issue was the asking price for the property, and how to balance maximizing the return for the city, while also bringing in a high-quality business as quickly as possible. After a lengthy deliberation it was decided to list the property for $150,000.
Pat Longmire of Red’s IGA was present to express his concern that the number of off sale licenses could be limited to one, in order to entice potential liquor store buyers. Red’s has already invested considerable money in their own plans to offer off-sale alcohol, and they wanted assurances from the city that they could continue to move forward. Pat stated that ultimately capitalism should determine how many liquor stores can survive in the city. The council chose to draft an ordinance that does not have any pre-determined limits on the number of off sale licenses, so anyone who meets the federal, state, and municipal criteria should be able to expect they will receive a license.
The aftermath of the Mulqueen’s Hardware Store fire continues, with work beginning on cleanup of the debris pile now that it has begun to thaw out. The Spring Grove Community Investment Group is working to secure funds to restore the business, as there is a sense that it is very important to keep a hardware store in town. More details will be coming soon.
Discussion turned to a house in town which has a garage that has been split off as a separate property. The garage now has a separate address, however because it faces an alley, it is not associated with any named street. This creates danger due to first responders not knowing how to locate the structure in the event of an emergency. This led to examination of other areas in town where this may also be the case. It may be necessary to formally name and sign many of the alleys in town. The council chose to table the issue, in order to conduct a more thorough survey of where in the city this issue exists.
Staying on the topic of emergency response, the city recently completed a revision of its “code red” emergency plan. Councilor Trent Turner stated they “Norwegian-ed it up a lot” by taking a thick manual and making it much more simple, concise, and relevant for a true emergency such as the recent fire. The plan will give a framework for organizing city resources and decision makers in situations where there is not time to track down specific individuals.
Changes may be in store for homeowners on 2nd Ave. SE and 2nd Ave. NE. The street has become too congested for plows to effectively clear snow, with snow piled up and cars parked on both sides. As a result, it has become necessary to establish one side only parking. This will require a public hearing, which will be announced at a later date.
Councilor Heather Edgington initiated a conversation regarding rental houses in the city. She has been in discussions with the City of Winona, which recently enacted an ordinance regulating rental properties. The intent is to make sure properties are adequately maintained. It would also establish limits on the number of rentals allowed on a given block, with an eye towards mitigating the trend of deep pocketed investors buying up affordable starter homes and turning them into low quality rentals. Other councilors raised many concerns, including the difference between a large college town like Winona, and Spring Grove. Enforcement may pose a considerable strain on city resources. There could also be unintended consequences including lawsuits. As this was just a preliminary discussion, no formal action was taken.
A few smaller items of business included approving the hire of firefighters Jimmy Hammel, Tim Opat, Shawn Buckland, and Andy Mulholland. A final loan from MiEnergy for a transformer will be paid off early to avoid hefty interest charges. A zoning permit was issued to Kwik Trip for a new sign, and to Jeremy Lee for various changes at his auto shop.
The meeting wrapped up with the council thanking Kathy Taylor for her 17 years with the city. She retired December 31, 2022. The next meeting will be March 21, at 6 p.m. The public is welcome.