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Big buck projects

By Staff | Apr 9, 2017

Members of the Blue Earth City Council, left to right, Wendy Cole, Russ Erichsrud, city administrator Tim Ibisch, Marty Cassem, mayor Rick Sholtes and John Huisman listen to Public Works supervisor Jamison Holland (yellow shirt) describe the condition of all three of the Public Works Department buildings.

Already looking at a $5 million wastewater treatment plant upgrade this year, the Blue Earth City Council spent much of their meeting last Monday night studying two other projects a new housing development area and a new public works building.

Depending on how much of the housing development they do at one time, that cost could be between $1 million and $3 million. The new public works building could have a $600,000 or more price tag.

Before last Monday’s meeting even began, the council members took a tour of the three public works buildings.

The one main building is 50 years old, having been built in 1975 or 1976. Public Works Department supervisor Jamison Holland told the council that there have been issues with the roof and the amount of space inside.

“We have had numerous violations during inspections and we have corrected most of them,” Holland said. “But some, such as getting the wash bay area away from the welding area, we just can’t do in this space.”

This was not the first time the council had conducted this inspection of the public works buildings. They had done it before about five years ago when they first started discussions on replacing the facility.

City administrator Tim Ibisch furnished the council with a drawing of a new public works building in Madison Lake.

“This is very similar to what we want to do in Blue Earth,” Ibisch said, noting the cost of that building was around $650,000.

During their walk through of the current shop building, the council discussed making the new one as large as possible on the space available.

“If we are going to do it, I think we need to do it right,” mayor Rick Scholtes said.

Back at the regular meeting, the council voted on a motion by councilman Glenn Gaylord and a second by Russ Erichsrud, to move forward with a design for the new building and to have city staff contact local builders to develop plans, or to possibly contact area architects for plans.

Also included in the motion was to add a new overhead door to another of the three buildings, the one which was the former municipal liquor store in Blue Earth.

Moving forward with a new housing development generated a lot of discussion, but did not end up with a motion.

Faribault County Development Corporation and Blue Earth EDA director Tim Clawson reported to the council on three possible sites for a new addition the area by Lampert’s Lumber, an area near Highland Drive and an area north of Blue Earth that includes Riverside Heights.

Clawson spoke of the housing need and said a housing study conducted a couple of years ago could be updated at a cost of $8,900.

The study would be needed in order to try and have any developer come in and build new homes.

Mayor Scholtes said that waiting for a developer to come and start constructing new homes would be nice, “I just don’t see that happening. If we want to keep moving forward we have to make lots the available first and see if someone wants to build on them.”

Ibisch said another question, if the Lampert’s site is chosen, would be how much of it to do at first.

A first phase could be done for about $1.2 million, Ibisch said, but mayor Scholtes said the council might as well go for a larger number of lots at $2 million.

Scholtes called on each councilman to state what they think should be done.

Councilmen Marty Cassem and Erichsrud said they were not ready to commit yet, and felt cautious on the project, and smaller ones could be in order.

But councilman John Huisman, Wendy Cole and Gaylord all spoke in favor of the Lampert’s site.

“We need to move ahead on this,” Huisman said. “We need to be forward looking.”

Gaylord pointed out that the Lamperts site was the best for many reasons, including the fact the city already owned the land.

And Cole added a plus is its proximity to the school.

Councilman Dan Warner was not present at the meeting.

In the end, the council decided to continue the discussions on the housing project at the next meeting,

In other business at last Monday’s meeting, the council:

Heard a report from Michelle Hall, the director of both the city-owned Faribault County Fitness Center and the Blue Earth Community Swimming Pool.

Hall told the council that she has agreed to take over the Giant Run at Giant Days this year.

While the run will still include a 5k, 10k and Kids’ Fun Run, there are some changes coming in the event.

“In the past, there has been some issues with the timing of the races,” she said. “So we have contracted with a professional timing group this year.”

Another change, Hall said, was moving the time of the races. The Kids’ Fun Run, renamed the Sprouts 1 Mile Run, will be held on Friday night, as part of the party at the Giant Park.

The 5k and 10k will be moved from Saturday morning to Saturday afternoon at 3:15 p.m., and will be run on Main Street, the fairgrounds trail and the trail to the I-90 rest stops.

“The registration area for the runs will be in the First Bank Blue Earth parking lot,” Hall says. “And not at the fairgrounds.”

The council passed a motion to allow the races to be held on Main Street.

Heard a report from city attorney David Frundt dealing with a possible new rental ordinance, as well as an update on the nuisance property ordinance procedure.

The council said they would like to see more police enforcement of the nuisance ordinance, including having each officer take a quadrant of the city to patrol. They decided to hold a meeting with the police officers for further discussion.