At the regular Houston City Council meeting February 8, the council revisited the proposed OHV (Off-Highway Vehicle) trail. In order to be able to proceed with the trail, the council accepted the RTP (Recreational Trails Program) grant, authorized the submission of NHIS (National Heritage Information System) data request form, and accepted and authorized the signature on EAS (Environmental Assessment Statement). Councilman Tony Schultz stated that this was to secure their spot in line and the grant amount.
Owl Center Executive Director Karla Bloem addressed the council about her concerns with the content of the EAS. In it there is a claim that sound levels will meet requirements; she proffered that they can’t state that since they don’t know yet what the effects may be. Bloem added that creating the trail wide enough for two vehicles to pass will affect the tree canopy. She also suggested animals would be affected.
Community member Marlene Schultz responded to Bloem saying, “We (a group of citizens) fought hard for the Owl Center; now we need more diversity. We are in favor of pursuing this (the OHV Trail).” Schultz encouraged Bloem to be less rigid.
Mayor David Olson commented, “These are professionals; they put in a proper trail and replant along it. We’re not playing with amateurs.” He stated that more paperwork will follow after the noise study is completed.
City Administrator Michelle Quinn presented a $2,000 bid from OHV Acoustics to perform the OHV trail noise study. Councilman Cody Mathers stated that he wondered if it was worth spending $2,000 on the study. He felt that those who were for it are for it, and those opposed will remain opposed.
Councilman Tony Schultz responded that he felt the council needed to do it; Quinn added that it would show due diligence. The council voted to accept the bid. The study will use a minimum of OHVs for an hour long test; HUD (Housing and Urban Development) sound level testing for high density housing areas will also be conducted. OHV funds are available to pay for the test.
John Graupman presented the bids for the WWTP. The low bid of $3,471,000 from Wapasha Construction was accepted; this was more than earlier estimates since the project was delayed due to COVID. Graupman encouraged the council to act now; it’s early in the funding period with the early applicants able to get the extra money. This will call for a loan of $1.6 million based on a 30-year loan with the remainder in grant money.
The council accepted a resolution in support of LRIP (Local Road Improvement Program) Grant Application from MnDOT for Westgate Drive which will help pay for surfacing the road.
Mitch Bublitz properties
Mitch Bublitz attended the council meeting to inform the council he had 13 lots near the Margaret Knutson property that he wanted to sell and asked when sewer and water would be put in. Tony Schultz responded that he would need to submit a development plan first. Bublitz asked Quinn to provide him a list of what he was required to do.
When the council moved on to consider the next step for the code violation on Bublitz’s Westgate Drive property, Bublitz informed them that he had taken care of the violations and encouraged Mayor Olson to call him to meet and look at it.
In other business the council:
• Approved a purchase agreement with Lee Zenke who is moving a house and building a garage on the property.
• Adopted a levee recertification resolution.
• Approved the city emergency operations plan.
• Adopted a benefit plan document.
• Authorized signature for a change order for Paxton Electric for cable leads and data for the police office and new community building.
• Set LBAE (Local Board of Appeal and Equaliztion) meeting for 5:30 p.m., May 10, 2021.
• Approved advertising for seasonal city help for lawn mowing and student summer rec help.
• Heard from Randy Thesing, Public Works superintendent, that while there was a blip of a high radium reading in the water testing, further testing results have been good.
The next meeting of the Houston City Council will be March 8, 2021, at 6 p.m. Citizens are welcome to attend.