LF Council votes to proceed with just one of five road projects proposed for 2012

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
[email protected]

The choice to approve street projects in Little Falls for 2012, came down to not whether the projects should be done, but what the city could afford to do.

Five proposed projects were estimated at a cost of $784,000, with the city’s portion expected to be $432,000 after assessments.

One project taken off the table all together was the request by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to extend utilities on the future Heron Road for a maintenance building it wanted to erect.

Public Works Director Jerry Lochner told the Council in its work session, Monday, that MnDOT had decided to go another route, on Pine Avenue, so as not to have to deal with the Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railroad. MnDOT said it wanted to begin building soon, and dealing with the railroad, might delay the project.

The Council voted down three of the four remaining projects.

The utility extension project on Third Avenue Southeast behind the former Walmart building, where Faith Lutheran Church plans to build its new building, was the only project approved and it was passed unanimously.

Faith Lutheran agreed to pay half of the $64,748 cost of the project, with the city paying the other half.

In addition, Lochner told the Council, the utilities could easily be extended in the future, into an area just east that is available for development.

The Council discussed patches on First Street Northwest rather than a complete overhaul at its work session, to save money on the proposed $211,194 project, which several people said they were against at the Feb. 6 public hearing. The city’s cost was estimated at $114,505. In addition to the degrading bituminous, the storm sewer is very poor, said Lochner, and problems with water standing in catch basins occurs at the intersection of Broadway and First Street.

“It’s a hodgepodge put together years ago,” said Lochner.

“Someone’s going to get hurt,” said Council Member Brian-Paul Crowder. “It’s an embarrassment. I know the public doesn’t want to do this, but just even an overlay. Something just has to be done with it, it’s just bad.”

Council Member Jeremy Hanfler walked the sidewalks in that area and said they were “busting up all over the place,”
despite Al Nouis’ claim at the Feb. 6 public hearing, that the sidewalks were in good shape.

The First Street Northwest project was voted down, 5-3, with Council Members Hanfler, Crowder, Frank Gosiak, Loren Boyum and Lee Ann Doucette voting no.

Richard Waddell, who lives on Seventh Avenue Southwest, had pleaded with the Council at the public hearing to tar the now-gravel road between Eighth and 10th streets. Waddell said he couldn’t take the dust, because of COPD and emphysema.

But that project was estimated at a cost of $142,774, with $118,174 of that being the city’s responsibility. The motion to do the project failed on a 6-2 vote, with Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem and Gosiak voting no.

The project on Eighth Avenue Southwest, estimated at $79,901 with $67,901 to be paid by the city was voted down on a 6-2 vote, with Council Members Doucette, Klinker, Hanfler, Crowder, Gosiak and Boyum voting no.

The Council was cautioned in its work session that, with the exception of the Third Avenue Southeast project, each project had to pass with a 7/8ths vote. This is because the residents who petitioned for those projects own less than 35 percent of the footage in the project area. The First Street Northwest project was a staff-initiated project, not petitioned by any resident.

Little Falls City Council Briefs

In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, the Little Falls City Council:

• Approved gambling permits for St. Gabriel’s Hospital for a Sept. 15 event at Zylka’s Red Bull Bar and for Horizon Health, for a June 28 event at the Linden Hill Historical Event Center;

• Accepted a recycling grant of $5,039 and a cleanup day grant of $3,996, from Morrison County;

• Accepted the Little Falls Fire Department report for January, which showed 126 firefighters responded to six incidents in the city, two of which were cancelled;

• Approved unanimously the preliminary and final plat for Zettel’s Golf View Addition, adjacent to the intersection of Thomas Drive and Hilton Road, made up of two residential lots;

• Approved unanimously to accept the Planning Commission’s recommendation to amend the Chief Hole in the Day plat by removing the buffer zone on all but the westerly side of the plat. The master plan will be modified to reflect the change. The 50-foot buffer zone width is in addition to the standard setback requirements, and was originally set to include only the westerly side. The final plat extended the buffer zone around the entire plat, leaving a number of existing lots with a very small footprint on which to build;

• Approved unanimously the sale of a 1993 Isuzu Rodeo and two Weg sludge pump motors, all deemed excess property;

• Approved unanimously the acquisition of property owned by Kim D. Kroll on Eighth Street Southwest, for the sum of $10,000 plus closing costs. The blighted property will be cleaned up, the house torn down and the land sold;

• Accepted a letter from Little Falls resident Robin Hensel, requesting a letter be sent to all property owners and renters in the city that are in violation of the city’s present sign ordinance, as well as to demand an explanation as to why she was singled out to remove the signs in her Southeast Little Falls yard that were in violation. The Council took no action, as the city’s sign ordinance has been sent to the Planning Commission for revision;

• Heard from Council Member at Large Brian-Paul Crowder that a resident requested a handicapped parking spot be moved from the area by the former Mushel Drug Building, to across the street; and

• Learned from Finance Officer Lori Kasella that Crowder brought to her attention that the city can charge only 25 cents per copy for government-collected data, not the $1 per copy as was set in the city’s fee schedule. People who bring in items to be copied can be charged $1 per copy for that service.

The Little Falls City Council will hold its next regularly scheduled meeting Monday, March 5, at 7:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers. Its work session will begin at 6:30 p.m.