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Park Rapids City Council to seek state bond to pave gravel streets

In other Aug. 23 workshop discussion, council members agreed to give the city planning commission the first look at license agreements and to withdraw from voting membership in the Armory board.

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Park Rapids City Hall
Park Rapids Enterprise file photo
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The Park Rapids City Council held a workshop on Aug. 23 to discuss potential state bonding to pave city streets that are still graveled, and other issues.

Besides Larson Avenue, off 8th Street W., the gravel streets were part of a request the city had sent to the State Legislature for authority to levy a local sales tax to fund selected projects.

City Administrator Angel Weasner said the request was heard in committee and included in the Legislature’s tax bill, but the Legislature didn’t pass the bill.

“So, at this point in time, we cannot move forward,” she said, adding that the city could resubmit the request next year. Meantime, she suggested requesting state bonding money, which can be used for road projects, such as turning gravel streets into asphalt.

“It might be worth at least asking,” said Weasner. She said it would be up to the city council to decide whether the project would include curb and gutter.

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“I think we (should) do an application and we still go after the sales tax for next year,” said council member Erika Randall.

Mayor Ryan Leckner asked whether the state would expect a local match. Weasner said they usually want some matching funds, but suggested gearing the project toward upgrading only one street to see how it goes.

“And if it’s cost prohibitive, we can say no,” Randall said, for example, if the match is 50/50.

License agreementsWeasner asked the council for advice on parameters for license agreements, such as one the council recently approved with Bruce Johnson and another that is in the pipeline.

Weasner voiced discomfort with the current procedures, where applications for license agreements come directly to the city council. She recommended having them first go to the planning commission, because license agreements tend to encroach on right-of-way issues.

“That way, everybody knows what’s going on,” she said.

Council member Liz Stone said it makes sense for license agreements to come to the planning commission, which can give them more time.

“If it’s something that would be a natural fit for the planning commission and it doesn’t go before them first, I feel that it’s a bit clumsy when it comes to us,” she said.

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The council gave general assent to Stone’s view.

Armory Board representationWeasner reported that the Armory Arts & Events Center board is reviewing its bylaws, due to the Heartland Lakes Development Commission needing to withdraw from voting membership.

She said this creates an opportunity for the city council to reconsider whether a representative of the city – either a council member or city staff person – needs to have a vote on the board.

Stone and Randall, who have served on the Armory board, shared a concern that being a voting board member obligates them to participate in other Armory activities and subcommittees, adding to the volunteer time demanded by their portfolio as city council members.

During extensive discussion on the issue, Randall said she wouldn’t want to put a staff member, like public works and airport supervisor Scott Burlingame, in that position in addition to all his other responsibilities within a 40-hour work week.

However, council members agreed the city has some responsibility as owner of the building, and needs to be kept informed of maintenance issues and potential problems with the lease held by the Midwest Minnesota Community Development Corporation (MMCDC) and its sublessee, the Armory board.

Weasner, who attends Armory board meetings ex officio, said she can continue doing so as long as the meeting times and dates don’t conflict with her childcare. Without a vote, she wouldn’t be responsible for the additional volunteer time and could report to the city about any issues that arise.

Discussion moved toward operation of the Armory, which council members and Weasner agreed, due to the lease, is the business of the Armory board and MMCDC.

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Council members agreed that Weasner should ask the Armory board to change its bylaws, deleting the requirement that the city provide a voting member.

MORE RELATED COVERAGE:
Two conditional use permits and two planning and zoning requests were approved on Nov. 22.

Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at rfish@parkrapidsenterprise.com or 218-252-3053.
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