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Area lakes to be the corner feature of downtown sidewalks

Hubbard County's signature landmarks - its lakes - will be an aesthetic component in the downtown renewal project's sidewalks.

Plans call for 16 four-by-four-foot laser-cut marble (the lakes) and granite (the background) mosaic inlays to be installed at each corner of Main Avenue intersections.

The lake inlays will run from Highway 34 south to 5th Street, each to represent one of the county's largest and/or most populated bodies of water.

Sponsors are being sought for 14 of them at an anticipated cost of $2,500, with a minimal maintenance fee under consideration. The city has agreed to fund two of them.

The Downtown Revitalization Steering Committee, chaired by Ellis Jones, is spearheading the initiative.

The cornerstone inlays may be purchased in memory or in honor of an individual or family. Businesses, organizations or lake associations may serve as a sponsor.

The lake name will appear in the upper left, the donor on the bottom right.

Next Innovations in Walker developed the conception, the durable, two-inch thick inlays to be placed in a concrete base with sand.

Bill Cowman, who resides on Long Lake, introduced the idea at Thursday night's COLA meeting, the idea receiving a positive response.

Coalition of Lake Association members felt it was a great way to represent the city and the area, he said.

At Tuesday's Park Rapids Council meeting, city administrator Bill Smith said the city is considering including the Headwaters of the Mississippi and the lower Mississippi delta as possibilities.

For more information on the project, or to purchase, contact Jones at 237-7777.

In other action Tuesday, the council:

n Modified loan forgiveness terms for the Small Cities Development Program grants for Main Avenue improvements.

The council adopted a provision in July calling for loan forgiveness to begin after seven years.

But when the funding from the Department of Employment and Economic Development was being discussed, businesses were told the loan forgiveness terms would begin at four years, with 1/72 of the loan forgivable every month for 10 years.

Dave Collins of the Hubbard County Regional Economic Development Commission recommended the change; the Headwaters Regional Development Commission indicated DEED is amenable.

The council agreed to change the forgiveness terms from seven years to four as had been originally discussed.

n Approved, on a 2-1 vote, a cost of living wage adjustment for city non-union employees, beginning in September.

In January, the unions received a $.40 increase in wages, but the non-union staff has not received a raise, Smith reminded the council.

"The city's in good shape," he said, referring the favorable 2009 audit report. But what the future holds, "depends on which crystal ball you're looking at."

"Our employees are our best natural resource," council member Sue Tomte said. "But there is nothing fair going on in the world right now. I don't buy the argument that just because some get a raise you have to pony up for others.

"Taxpayers pay for raises," she said. "Handing out more isn't responsible."

She indicated wages received by city employees are enviable compared to the average area worker.

"We have to take the economy into consideration," she continued. "We can't hand out raises without a compelling reason. We also need to look at this from a negotiations standpoint with the unions."

"Employees," Smith said, "have a mindset they will get a raise. But times have changed. It's a tough decision."

Tomte's motion to deny the wage increase died for lack of a second.

A motion from Rod Nordberg to approve the increase beginning in September earned council approval on a 2-1 vote, mayor Nancy Carroll also in favor. Council members Pat Mikesh and Paul Utke were absent.

The cost of the increase beginning in January would have been approximately $7,200, or $3,000 beginning in September.

Unions also received an increase in health insurance. A commensurate increase for non-union employees would amount to $1,800 to $2,000 retro to January or $750, as approved.

Employees receiving the increase include Angela Brumbaugh, Scott Burlingame, Terry Eilers, Carmen Lockhart, Scott Olson, Kristine Pohl, Bill Smith, Brenda Stuemke, Margie Vik and Dan Walker.

"This will affect union negotiations," Tomte told the council.

n Authorized acquisition, via purchase or lease, of a tandem plow truck for use in plowing snow and maintaining city streets. The state bid totaled $180,067.

The truck replaces a 1979 Ford single axel.

n Will purchase a mower and trailer for the Parks Department, at a cost of $11,929 for a John Deere Ztrak mower and a Towmaster trailer for $5,839 totaling $17,768, less the trade-in amount for the 1999 model.

n Will advertise for bids for a new pumper for the fire department, at an estimated cost of $340,000.

Fire chief Donn Hoffman said the present pumper has priming issues and would become the secondary vehicle. The department has a fund balance of $283,000 toward the purchase of the truck.

"All funds should be available before arrival," Hoffman said of the minimum 12-month delivery timeframe.

n Approved a bid of $5,090 from Midwest Mobile Washers to clean the exterior of the water tower on Huntsinger Avenue.

n Agreed to work with the Park Board and Public Works on a proposal from the Fish Hook Lake and River Association to install boat docks at Red Bridge Park.

The proposal is for two 48-foot aluminum docks that could moor eight pontoon boats. Estimated cost is $8,800.

n Proclaimed Aug. 26 as "Making Democracy Work Day" in recognition of the League of Women Voters 90th anniversary.

n Tabled a request for an easement for a building encroachment at 202 Grove Ave. South from Timothy and Saliah Kako pending legal advice on the issue. The easement would not be permanent.

The Kakos indicated closing on the sale of the property is contingent upon resolution of the matter. The home may foreclose if the issue is not resolved.

n Agreed to lease a copier for the police department from North Country Business at $168 per month.