The Lanesboro Council discussed the repairs needed on the walking bridge to Little Norway at their March 6 meeting. At the last meeting, it was agreed that letters would be sent to the residents of Little Norway to get their thoughts on the bridge. The responses were reviewed by the council and were overwhelmingly in support of keeping the walking bridge. Mayor Jason Resseman pointed out that before repairs can be made, the city first needs to determine on whose property the bridge sits. He asked if it would be possible to talk to the potential property owners to see if they would be okay with the city repairing the walking bridge. City Engineer Brian Malm pointed out that one of those potential property owners is the DNR, which would complicate the process. He said that the first step to making repairs would be to look into the property declaration. The council tabled the repairs until further information can be obtained. Council member Joe Goetzke suggested that the council begin researching costs for repairing or replacing the bridge in the meantime. Malm cautioned the council that any pricing for prefabricated bridges would not include the foundation. A motion to close the bridge as of March 7, 2023, due to safety concerns was approved.
Deane Benson spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting in reference to statements made by Council member Chase Bakke at the December 5 meeting. Bakke had been discussing his job as city liaison for the fire department and mentioned that he had taken time off of work to attend a meeting for which no one else showed up. “What got my attention was that the final statement that he made was, ‘I did my job,’” Benson said. “You never showed up at any meetings and yet on this audio, you’re saying that you did your job. You never reached out to me.”
The consent agenda was approved and included the accounts payable, the 2023 B&B lodging licenses, and a temporary liquor license for the Lanesboro Area Chamber of Commerce. A fiscal agent request on behalf of the Lanesboro Business Promotion Group for a grant application was also approved.
Malm presented pay request #27 for the wastewater treatment facility in the amount of $119,547.82, which represents 90% of the work that is to be completed in the contract. The council approved the request.
Several of the council members had been able to tour the new wastewater treatment plant earlier that day. The plant is up and running, and the last items to be done are expected to be completed by May if the weather permits. Malm reviewed a fee amendment for Bolton & Menk in the amount of $100,000, which would bring the total amount of engineering services for the project to $750,000. Contingencies for just such situations were included in the financing package. Malm noted that he expects the total construction costs to come in at or below the bid amount. Council member Mindy Albrecht-Benson asked if the council could see a detailed breakdown of the requested additional fee. The request was tabled so further information could be reviewed.
Malm reviewed a list of change orders for the 2022 street and utility improvements project with the council. The changes would increase the contract amount by $18,182.75. The change order was approved. A request for an additional $174,000 in additional fees for construction engineering for that project was also reviewed by the council. The money would come from the contingencies funding available in the financing package. Mayor Resseman asked if the additional engineering costs were partly due to the contractor running behind schedule, and Malm said that they were. “I’m extremely concerned about what happens this spring and this summer with this contractor,” Resseman stated, citing missed milestones and the schedule delays.
“We’re going to do what we can do on our end to control our costs, but we’re really at the mercy of the project and construction,” Malm said. He is hopeful that the project will finish at or below bid cost. He noted that the delays are all documented at the weekly construction meetings. The fee amendment request was tabled.
Malm discussed the Highway 250 reconstruction project planned for 2026 with the council. MnDOT is planning to do a mill and overlay on the road. As multiple utility issues have been identified under the street, the project will shift to a cooperative one between the City of Lanesboro and MnDOT.
The fire department has received three offers for the truck they’re selling, and a contract should be in place by next month. An open house will be held on April 29 at the new emergency services building.
The police department is accepting application for a full-time officer and two part-time officers. The department’s hardware will be updated in 2023 as mandated.
The EDA has been able to award a number of loans to Lanesboro businesses lately. The $100,000 received in an USDA grant for revolving loans has almost been used up. The council approved Resolution 2023-11 authorizing the EDA to apply for the grant again. Discussions are continuing to take place to explore winter tourism in Lanesboro with an event in early April being planned to present the results of the community surveys on the topic.
A question was raised at the February meeting on whether or not the city could adopt flexible language in city ordinance 31.60 for the fluctuating number of EDA members. City Attorney Joseph O’Koren determined that that was not possible, which means that the city will have to change the ordinance each time the size of the EDA board changes. The ordinance was tabled for further discussion.
The proposed remote work policy was reviewed. Albrecht-Benson asked to which city jobs the policy would apply. City Administrator Michele Peterson said that it would probably just apply to her position at this time, but that the policy could be useful if someone had to be hired in the future for other positions such as a grant writer. Albrecht-Benson stated that she didn’t think the policy was necessary, and that she would prefer that, if a situation arose, it would be brought to the council. Council member Mitchell Walbridge agreed. “I’m just questioning if we’re ready for this step without defining the role of a remote worker.” Council member Joe Goetzke was in favor of the policy, stating that from an HR standpoint, having to catch up with policies would narrow the pool of candidates for a position. The policy was approved with a three to two vote.
Mayor Resseman noted that he had received an email from a council member asking if he could put a capital improvement plan list together of his personal priorities. He did so and distributed it to all the members of the council, noting that it had been a good request to get him thinking. Goetzke asked what the procedure was for allowing one council member to request lists and information such as that. Mayor Resseman noted that interactions between council members and the mayor are different than requesting city staff to spend time collecting information. Requests for that would need to go through the whole council.
The remaining balance in the ambulance department funds was discussed. The city’s financial advisor and auditor advised the council that there were no specific requirements for which the funds can or cannot be used. Albrecht-Benson suggested putting it towards the ambulance service in Preston as it covers the Lanesboro area as well now. Mayor Resseman recommended investing the money for several years and then using it for EMS service needs in the future. A motion to look into options for investing was approved.
John Pieper from the Lanesboro Public Utilities Commission asked the council to consider contributing $30,000 in the near future for a project to replace the electric meters. LPU has $140,000 in capital funds, and the project will cost $170,000.
A note was received from MnDOT staff announcing that preliminary unanimous support was received for the Arts + Culture for construction mitigation on Hwy 250. Lanesboro Arts was involved in the presentation which led to the unanimous support.
The next Lanesboro City Council meeting will be held on April 3 at 6 p.m.