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Council gets a ‘lot’ surprise

By Staff | Apr 14, 2008

Bob Weerts

The city footing the bill for a parking lot where a grocery store will be built this year caught some Winnebago city officials by surprise Tuesday night.

Cost of the concrete lot, a “reader sign,” installing storm drains and surveillance cameras is estimated at under $100,000.

While the actual cost hasn’t been determined yet, city leaders have begun searching for funding sources.

Businessman Bob Weerts, who owns the property where the store will be built, attended a recent city council meeting to set the record straight.

He also was seeking the council’s blessing to proceed with the project.

“I don’t know what the confusion is. I talked with some councilmembers about this a year ago,” says Weerts.

City Administrator Jennifer Feely says she just recently learned about discussions Weerts and other officials had about the parking lot before she was hired last October.

“When I found out, I called Nate and he told me about it,” Feely told the council of her recent discussion with Nathan Mathews, Winnebago’s former city administrator.

Mayor Randy Nowak and councilmember Maryann McClain said they remember city officials talking with Weerts about paying for the parking lot.

Nowak was a member of the council when the city agreed to purchase the parking lot when it is finished.

The city would own the parking lot and maintain it.

That would not be anything unusual, according to Nowak.

He says the city owns the parking lot behind the grocery store and the ones behind the bank and other Main Street businesses.

Councilmember Paul Loomis spoke in support of paying for the parking lot.

“It would be a definite improvement to our Main Street. I think it is a good idea,” Loomis says.

The building located just north of the Municipal Center would be the new home of MarketPlace Foods

Feely says monies might be available through tax increment financing or the Economic Development Authority. Weerts was given the go-ahead with the project and city officials will examining various funding options.

In other business, the council:

• met in closed-session for one hour for a six-month performance evaluation for Feely. A summary is expected to be presented at next month’s meeting.

• approved the hiring of Megan Huston of Easton to fill the administrative/accounting assistant position. She is scheduled to begin her duties on April 23.

• approved a feasibility report for the Sixth Street Southwest project prepared by Bolton & Menk, Inc. Total cost of the project is estimated at $189,000. About $142,000 would come out of the general fund and the remainder would be special assessments.

However, councilmembers decided to delay the improvements until 2009.

“I would like to see the street done, but we also had assessments for this year. That affected all taxpayers of Winnebago. I don’t think we should put a burden on them again,” says McClain.

Although understanding McClain’s concerns, Councilman Dana Gates says the council should tackle the project sooner than later.

• Rejected a motion to fund the city improvement committee’s plan to test a small rain garden near the stop sign at the Municipal Center.

Nowak voted against the funding, breaking a 2-2 tie. He says there was not enough information on the project.

The proposed cost of the rain garden was no more than $1,000, with the Faribault County Soil and Water District providing 50 percent matching funds.