Several Little Norway residents spoke at the May 2 Lanesboro City Council meeting about the recent closure of the Little Norway walking bridge due to safety concerns. “We use the bridge everyday,” Melissa Johnson stated. “I understand if it needs to be closed to the general public, but for us, we don’t have any other option.” As long as the bridge is closed, Little Norway residents have to walk on County 8 to get to the rest of Lanesboro, which she felt was unsafe due to traffic, especially in the summer months. Johnson asked the council if it would be possible for Little Norway residents to sign a waiver assuming personal liability. Another Little Norway resident added that she was shocked to learn of the bridge’s closure and feels cut off from Lanesboro.
The consent agenda was approved and included the accounts payable, ordinance 30.111 regarding the city fee schedule, a summary of ordinance 31.60 regarding the establishment of an economic development authority, and Resolution 2023-19 appointing Jon Kettner as a volunteer firefighter. Several agreements of assessment and waiver of irregularity and appeal were also approved as well as an agreement allowing Bicycling Across Minnesota to use Lanesboro as its 2023 host city for the event in August.
A representative from Smith Schafer gave the 2022 audit review for the City of Lanesboro and Lanesboro Public Utilities. Each received a clean, unmodified opinion in the final report. A financial summary for both organizations was reviewed with the council, and the audit report was approved.
City Engineer Brian Malm presented pay request #28 from Wapasha Construction for the wastewater treatment facility to the council in the amount of $349,429.81 representing 95.5% of the work in the contract. He also shared pay request #6 from Generation X for the 2022 street and utility improvements in the amount of $164,585.60, noting that the project is looking good so far this spring. The council approved both pay requests.
Planning and Zoning reported that the city’s comprehensive plan needs to be updated, but the potential cost of $20,000-40,000 may delay that project.
City council member Mindy Albrecht-Benson gave a report from the Historic Preservation Commission. The blue hotel is still for sale. The HPC approved a mural to be painted in Lanesboro. The state holds an annual conference that a member of the HPC is required to attend, but due to scheduling conflicts, no one has been able to for quite a few years. However, training material was obtained, and all members are in the process of reviewing it.
The council reviewed the Little Norway walking bridge structural evaluation from Bolten & Menk. “The importance of having that bridge is not lost on me,” Mayor Jason Resseman commented, adding that the accessibility of Little Norway to the rest of Lanesboro is being taken into consideration. The evaluation reported that the condition of the bridge is serious and has components that are unsafe for public use. The decking and superstructure were found to be in poor condition, and the substructure and channel were found to be in serious condition. Bolten & Menk recommended that the bridge stay closed until repairs or replacement have been completed. Two options for reopening the bridge were identified. The first was the most economical with an estimated cost of $71,000 and consisted of installing concrete abutments on helical piles while reusing the existing bridge structure. However, Malm discouraged that as a good use of city funds as the project would conclude with the city still having to deal with an old, dilapidated bridge that would soon need more repairs or a total replacement. The second option had an estimated cost of $127,000 and would involve replacing the whole structure with a steel truss bridge. Malm noted that some of the work may have to go through the DNR. Malm offered to look into what funding is available for the project, but wasn’t optimistic as the application probably wouldn’t be competitive enough to be awarded funds. Mayor Resseman asked if there was a temporary solution that could be found in the meantime, allowing the Little Norway residents to continue to use the bridge? Malm said that it is only a matter of time before the abutments fail, which will be catastrophic. Council member Joe Goetzke asked if the project could be funded through property assessments and was told that that was a possibility. Albrecht-Benson asked if it would be feasible to have the Little Norway residents sign an agreement removing any liability from the city as they had suggested. City attorney Joseph O’Koren said that while that was possible, it would not keep other people from using the bridge as nobody is monitoring it. As the City of Lanesboro is aware of the defective state of the bridge, it would be negligent to remove the boards that are currently restricting public access to the bridge. As of now, the city has done its due diligence by communicating the closure to the public, restricting access, and posting signs. A motion was made to table the matter until next month to give Malm time to look into funding options. Albrecht-Benson noted that the bridge was an unexpected expense that the city didn’t plan for, but that it still needs to be taken care of as quickly as possible. Council member Chase Bakke pointed out that Little Norway residents do have the option of walking across the bridge by the museum to avoid walking on County 8, although it is, unfortunately, a much longer walk. The motion to table was approved.
City Administrator Michele Peterson asked the council when they would like to hold a budget planning meeting for 2024. A workshop was scheduled to take place in June.
Nick Hahn and Peyton Olson were both hired as seasonal Park employees.
Updates to ordinance 35.02 regarding the 2023 rural taxing district were reviewed. A 3% increase was recommended and approved. Ordinance 150.06 for historic preservation in Lanesboro was also reviewed. A public hearing was approved to be held for the ordinance at the June 5 meeting.
The next Lanesboro City Council meeting will be held on June 5 at 6 p.m.