A public hearing held March 22 in Rushford saw just one resident in attendance, but plenty of suggestions and clarifications will be made following the discussion. Resident Tom Butterfield acknowledged that many hearings go without any citizen comment and that he felt it was worthy of discussion before being passed.
“I’ve looked at this and I have some strong feelings. I’m looking for clarifications,” he stated. Concerns listed included definitions of “motor vehicles,” parking hours, and truck parking as it relates to vehicles in excess of 8,000 pounds.
The city passed an All Terrain Vehicles (ATV)/Utility Task Vehicles (UTV) ordinance May 26 regulating the operation of such vehicles within city limits. However, in the initial draft of the parking ordinance, they were not mentioned with the definition of vehicles. “If you leave one of those vehicles out, someone will say it wasn’t defined as a motor vehicle,” noted City Clerk/Treasurer Kathy Zacher. While exemptions will still remain for lawnmowers, snowmobiles, and mobility devices, ATVs and UTVs will be added as applicable vehicles in the parking ordinance.
Butterfield also noted the times and instances related to parking. Areas of concern included the proposed 72-hour time frame, especially for those with no off-street parking and the ability for residents to park vehicles for sale in front of their residences. The biggest issue for continuous parking is vehicles which are not registered, licensed, and insured. The issue of winter parking was also noted during this discussion, but the city already has a policy for parking and road clearing during the winter and it will be referenced in this ordinance.
“I’m going to be the devil’s advocate here. It’s gonna be worked, you know this, it’s gonna be worked from every angle,” said Mayor Benson referring to making allowances.
“They will park where they want. That’s why we need the comprehensive policy,” added Councilor Sally Ryman.
As for the selling of private vehicles, there was discussion of past instances of citizens parking vehicles for sale in city lots. The city owns seven lots which include at Norsquare Mall, Nordic Lanes, Rushford Foods, the American Legion, and on Mill Street, in addition to those at Creekside Park and the municipal pool. It was decided to amend the proposed ordinance to allow parking of a vehicle for sale, in front of one’s own residence, for the duration of 72-hours, at which time the vehicle must be moved.
The issue of vehicles over 8,000 pounds, particularly commercial vehicles garnered the most discussion. “This is the one that gives me heartburn,” said Butterfield. “Just sitting in my house, I can see multiple vehicles that meet that criteria. I can see where you don’t want semis on the street, but it does more than that,” he continued. “This thing is going to make a lot of people bitter. Hindsight is 20/20. I would think hard about how you could tweak that and make it better.”
“We have people that are bitter now because we don’t have anything in place for parking,” countered Mayor Terri Benson. The biggest issue with oversized vehicles is visibility and related safety concerns. It was determined that the proposed ordinance would be amended to allow the parking of vehicles weighing more than 8,000 if they are a personal truck/work truck and in front of the resident’s own home. Vehicles parked outdoors are, however, limited to no more than two per licensed person residing at the residence.
Police Officer Nate Klinski, in attendance at the meeting, was asked about the department’s stance on the proposed ordinance. “It clarifies it and helps residents know what’s expected. The state statutes are there, but they’re a little more concise.” Klinski also noted there isn’t a predetermined number and nothing in the policy about the number of violations before a vehicle is towed by the city, but that the policy will aid in enforcement. “Workarounds are included in here. It’s not sidestepped.”
“It’s a small town, there aren’t that many that violate it, but the ones who do tend to be pretty egregious about it,” added Ryman. “It’s not just one instance.” The big concerns are those that are high and wide and affect safety and visibility. I think this speaks to those.” A revised version of the proposed ordinance is expected at the next council meeting.
In other news, the city is moving forward with negotiations for easement and property acquisition related the the 2022 Highway 30 reconstruction project. Offers to property owners are prepared and will be sent by the city’s engineering firm, Bolton & Menk. The federally-approved process for acquisition includes appraisal and is determined by a combination of land value and other compensation. Henning Professional Services is assisting with appraisals.
“The sum of all the offers is within the budget and I would only come back if final offers exceed that. But, I don’t see any reason why that would happen. Things have been going pretty smoothly,” noted engineer Derek Olinger.
Lastly, the council approved a change order, in the amount of $11,370, for the 2020 Electric Project. Energy Star Services provided a thorough detail of the work and extra costs incurred. While the council did approved the order, it wasn’t without some noted frustration.
“This looks like a poorly managed project and COVID was involved. But, it sounds like it was screwed up from the beginning,” said Councilor Jim O’Donnell noting the council’s previous frustrations with added change orders on the project. “It’s not the city that screwed up, it’s the engineers.”
Zacher acknowledged that many things that came up during the project should have been checked prior to its start. A change in project foreman and change of engineers in the midst of it also gummed it up. The project is not fully complete, but getting all loose ends tied up. There are funds that will be reimbursed to the city, for various reasons, that may help offset the added change order cost.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Monday, April 12, at 6:30 p.m., at city hall. It is open to the public.