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January 27, 2023

11/23/2022 9:48:00 AM
Recap of fire hall budget sought

Lindstrom City Council members last week were expressing feelings the new fire hall budget is getting somewhat out of control, when presented with yet another set of “change orders” to the multi-million dollar budget/ bid.  The LFD will vacate the fire hall on Highway 8, by August 2023,  and occupy the new facility under construction a block south of city hall.

There have been 26 change orders so far.  While a change order can potentially be a credit,  reducing the budget, most in this case have increased expenditures.

The project is coming along well, council was told.  The August 2023 completion deadline will be met easily.  The access to Akerson still needs to be addressed, and the city administrator said in his weekly memo it is possible the firefighters could occupy the building by spring.

When last week’s change orders were  brought for approval by the city council, through the building architect Scott Mower, Councilmember Linda Merkel asked if the hall is still within budget? City Administrator John Olinger said it’s “close.”

Mower said that design and materials “adjusting” happens.  He said part of the challenge here is because firefighters on the building committee identify elements they want to correct, change the location of or add— and guessed about 40 to 50 percent of changes are tied to their on-going site visits.

Mayor Kevin Stenson  remarked that the council “...wants a facility personnel is going to be happy with,”  adding ‘I’m just glad we’re getting towards the end.”

The architect agreed, “I don’t like to hear about change orders,” he said.  Still, council should realistically anticipate more coming, he concluded.

Administrative staff said a  running project cost summary isn’t available right at this time, but will be compiled, with all the change orders, and a recap can be prepared for council to see at an upcoming meeting.

~ Council also voted to designate the former O’Jay building on Hwy. 8,  as “blighted” which is one step towards a hoped-for redevelopment plan.  (The last few years it has housed a bait shop, roller rink, granite fabricator and restaurant.) The city, county and EDA are looking at purchasing the site and razing the structures for attracting a new project.  

~ Council also approved a reimbursement motion so costs associated with this can be returned to the city in the future.  

The idea is to have a Tax Increment Financing District which generates a predictable amount of revenue that can be applied to expenditures supporting the plan.  City Administrator Olinger said there are businesses interested in the site and he doesn’t foresee any problems advancing this.  

Mayor Stenson added it is “frustrating” to know of businesses that want to be in the city but “...we have nothing here for them” as far as lots.

Newly-elected Brian Norelius and Judy Chartrand were in the audience.  They will be sworn in in 2023;  but Chartrand questioned the process to determine “blight” and if this site has met necessary later funding conditions. Staff said the building inspector is qualified to rule when there is blight and has done so.  Plus, the current property owner is cooperating and is not going to oppose or appeal measures.

Councilmember-elect Norelius said he’d be more comfortable fleshing out the long term design/ plan before diving into the redevelopment process.  Public money is slated to be used to acquire the property and get it ready for a new use.  Lindstrom already won a $200,000 state grant to assist (story Press Nov. 3) and other government funds are slated as contributions.

Another area of town the council visited,  was the Park Street parking lot.  

The goal is to create a useful space, a “frontage’ worthy design for the stores’ former backsides before one way pairs.  The lot would be rebuilt with gathering potential and improved stormwater management too. The adjacent businesses are involved and downtown recreational uses are being considered.

Council will see plans as they develop.  Funding can come from a number of accounts already held by the city, such as the Xcel settlement, the ARPA monies and proceeds from bonding the city acquired to buy the Lakeview Motel, which apparently isn’t being negotiated any longer.

In open microphone, resident Trudy Canine spoke about traffic and property damage from reckless driving behavior on Mentzer Trail. Her extensive property fencing has been destroyed by vehicles veering off the road, usually going at high speed or performing an unwarranted manuever. She said many vehicles are operated by youth,  but not all of them.

Chief of Police Schlumbohm said the high school resource officer deals with incoming new drivers annually and talks with them. The “main troublemakers” are usually pretty easy to spot on surveillance tools, and are dealt with. Right now young drivers like their trucks, with big tires and they like to see what they can do with these trucks, the chief observed.  

The roadway is a second exit from the high school campus and has seen some development traffic (Lake Country Estates) over the years as well.  Mentzer  has a gravel stretch alongside the Canine property,  and often this transition from pavement to gravel is where vehicles leave the road.

Canine said she has no solution to offer.  She said she has stopped reporting vehicles because it’s now happening daily, but she did file a property damage report resulting from a recent costly incident. “Whatever you can do would be appreciated,” she stated.

Chief Schlumbohm said the SRO will continue to work with students.  He will look into access to rural style speed bumps but he said sometimes they become an attractive nuisance as truck jumps.

And, Council adopted the delinquent list for putting unpaid water/sewer and city service fees on property taxes.  The amount due is a little more than $92,600. These are properties where the owners are not making any effort to set up a payment plan and amounts due are substantial.

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