The September 7 Lanesboro City Council meeting opened with a public hearing on the proposed sidewalk assessments. As there were no questions or comments from the public, the hearing was closed and the regular meeting was opened.
The consent agenda was approved and included accounts payable, early closings at noon on September 22 and October 8 for the city office, the MMUA Safety Management Program agreement, and the appointment of Adam Hazel to the Lanesboro Fire Department.
Interim Ambulance Director Dan Jaquith addressed the council about the state of the Lanesboro ambulance service. “I’m just going to come right out and say it. We’re on the verge of closing,” he said. “We just don’t have the volunteers to keep it open.” The volunteers that currently serve on the crew are not able to fill all of the hours necessary to keep the ambulance running and although four people are currently in training to become EMTs, they won’t be certified until January or February of 2022. If there is no ambulance service in Lanesboro, ambulances will have to travel from another area, increasing the wait time to 30-45 minutes. Jaquith noted that he was looking into the requirements to move from an ambulance service to a first-responders unit. That would mean that EMTs could respond and give care on-scene, but would not be able to transport patients. Mayor Jason Resseman asked if doing so would create issues if the ambulance service would be in the position to re-instate itself at a later date. Jaquith wasn’t sure, but planned to find out more details. It was noted that a shortage of EMTs is a problem in many local communities. Jaquith said that he’s seen many different solutions and ideas for coping with the issue, from paying EMTs on an hourly basis to carry pagers to contracting with the Mayo Clinic Ambulance Service. “It all comes down to economics,” he explained. “Can the city of Lanesboro afford $15 an hour? I don’t think so.” Mayor Resseman asked about the possibility of creating a cooperative agreement or substation with other local communities. He noted that he is planning to attend an upcoming Fillmore County meeting to see if options like those have been discussed or if the county is willing to look into the feasibility of them. Council member and EMT Mindy Albrecht-Benson reminded the council that even if a substation is created with another community, it would still need to be fully staffed and would be responding to twice as many calls. Council member Joe Goetzke asked Jaquith what the timeline was before the ambulance service would need to shut down. “We have it covered until 8 a.m. tomorrow morning,” Jaquith responded. “The days after that don’t look much better.” Mayor Resseman asked Jaquith to review the schedule with the current EMTs to see if that alleviates the issue for the time being. The city will then determine the viability of the service at a special meeting.
City Engineer Brian Malm recommended that the council approve pay request #9 from Wapasha Construction for the wastewater treatment facility project. At a progress meeting last week, it was determined that the contractor is about 4-5 weeks behind the plan schedule, but they should be able to still meet the deadline by doing some extra work over the winter. The council approved the pay request.
City Maintenance Director David Haugen asked for the council’s permission to move ahead with the last two sections of the street repairs that need to be done now that the money is available from the Small Cities Assistance Program. The council approved the request.
Goetzke gave the EDA report. Cathy Enerson applied for a grant from SMIF in the amount of $9,500 which would be used to develop a new city and chamber website highlighting the livability aspect of Lanesboro with the goal being to encourage more people to move to, start businesses in, or just visit Lanesboro. The council approved the grant.
Starting at 8 a.m. on September 15, there will be a ribbon cutting for businesses in Lanesboro that have opened over the last 18 months or so, as many of them were unable to do so at the time of opening due to the pandemic.
National Welcoming Week, a movement to welcome diverse members of the community and foster a sense of belonging, will take place September 10-19 and Lanesboro will be taking part with a proclamation read during the ribbon cutting event on September 15. Mayor Resseman read the proclamation before the council adopted it. He encouraged all members of the community to attend.
Resolution 2021-21 adopting the sidewalk assessments was approved. Resolution 2021-20 approving the proposed tax levy was tabled until after the special meeting takes place to discuss the future of the Lanesboro ambulance service. The council reviewed Resolution 2021-23 receiving the feasibility report and calling for a hearing on the street improvements. Mayor Resseman noted that the project had been categorized as a priority and in order to get funding for it, it had to be “shovel-ready” which is why the report has been drafted already. The resolution was approved and the public hearing was set for the beginning of the October 4 council meeting.
The council reviewed the proposal to turn the old Ford dealership into an emergency services building to replace the current one. Three bids were received for the project. “We have been moving forward with the understanding that this is a good option for the city,” Mayor Resseman said. The current emergency services building has substantial issues and its interior size as well as the size of the doors makes it difficult to get new fire trucks for the city. New trucks have had to be retrofitted with parts removed in order to fit through the doors. Albrecht-Benson asked if the call volume for the fire department supported spending the money for a different building and also asked if other locations and options for renovating the current buildings had been looked at by the council. Mayor Resseman felt that the Ford dealership was the optimal solution as it would meet the current and future needs of the fire department. No other viable options in town have been identified. Former council member Tom Smith was present at the meeting and noted that the council had looked at many different sites over the years, even putting in offers on several of them. “I just don’t feel that we’re doing our due diligence,” Albrecht-Benson stated.
Owner of Green Gables Inn, Jackie Green addressed the council with her concerns. “Having a fire department next to a place where people sleep is a big concern to me,” she said. She also noted that cars often come around the corner coming into Lanesboro right in front of her business and the Ford dealership at speeds that could make it dangerous to have fire trucks pulling out right there. Mayor Resseman informed her that the DOT had been contacted and didn’t see an issue with the corner. If necessary, warning lights or something of that nature could be installed to warn people when the trucks are being called out. He also noted that the council needs to look out for the entire community and all businesses. “Personally, a totally renovated building and a cleaned up site that goes along with it would be a great improvement to what you are currently dealing with,” he said. Green was still not in favor of the proposition, stating that she feels that the council is willing to put her out of business by moving the fire department to that location.
The council agreed to table the matter and discuss it further at a special meeting.
Ordinance 54.06 regarding the public utilities fee schedule was reviewed and approved.
At the August city council meeting, the council had extended an offer for a one-year lease in the amount of $2,400 to the owner of the land that the city’s brush dump sits on. The lease was accepted by the landowner.
At the May meeting, the council discussed options to remove brush and replace a fence on Ron Amdahl’s property. The damage to the property was originally caused by a city plow some years ago, when Amdahl’s father still owned the land. The council offered to pay up to $5,000 for the brush removal. At the September meeting, Amdahl stated that the amount offered was not enough to pay for the project. It was determined that the original estimate for work included three piles of brush, but it has been discovered that there are actually seven. The city and property owner are not in agreement as to what the city is responsible for with the project. Mayor Resseman pointed out that the original agreement took place between the previous property owner and the council at that time, which has since had a complete turnover. “I don’t know personally how we move forward since you weren’t there and we weren’t there,” he said.
Amdahl felt that the city should pay for a contractor to get the area cleaned up. It was noted that the city staff did replace the fence about 10 years ago to the owner at the time’s specifications. That fence has since fallen down. Mayor Resseman asked if there had been any maintenance done on the fence during the time it was up and asked if livestock played a role in it falling down. Neither Amdahl nor the previous owner had done any maintenance on it, but he stated that it fell because it wasn’t adequately installed.
Mayor Resseman said that he felt the proposal offered to Amdahl in May was just and fair and pointed out that Amdahl had agreed to it. The offer still stands and he asked Amdahl to reach out to the city administrator within a reasonable time frame to accept or deny it.
The next Lanesboro City Council meeting will be held on October 4 at 6 p.m.