Two steps forward, one step backward.
Bruce Mandler, owner of Marketplace Foods in Wells, has requested the Wells City Council create a redesign of the Highway 109 project, which was approved by the City Council in January of 2016, in regard to the sidewalk in front of his store.
At the regular City Council meeting last Monday evening, Mandler had shared his concerns with the council about the project. He stated the planned sidewalk was too close to his truck loading zones, and he also had concerns with his ability to expand, if he ever chose to do so, in the future.
According to city administrator Robin Leslie, the cost of the redesign, which would include a filled ditch, a new culvert, new drainage as well as curb and gutter, would cost the city of Wells $30,000 for the change in plans to be made.
“Additionally, the plans would need to be redesigned by Bolton & Menk at the city’s cost for about $2,000 to $4,000,” said Leslie. “Mr. Mandler stated he would be willing to split the cost with the city or have the cost of the project assessed to his property.”
“I don’t want to pay for this. I don’t even want these sidewalks, but I’ll pay for it if I have to,” said Mandler.
The project is headed up by the Minnesota Department of Transportation with cooperation from cities along Highway 109, like Wells. However, in this case, Leslie stated MnDOT would not be willing to redesign their entire project around Mandler’s request, which makes the ultimate decision fall into the city’s lap.
The council’s decisions, which needed to be made that evening due to the highway project’s deadlines, were to figure out a redesign plan and how to pay for that plan.
“The grocery store is an asset to our town,” said councilman John Herman. “I think we can help pay for some of it.”
“I definitely agree with you, but I also don’t want to possibly double the cost of this project, either,” said councilwoman Crystal Dulas.
The project is slated to begin in the summer of 2018, and with the council’s approval of the plan made an entire year ago, the cumbersome process of redesign came down to three options.
Plan one was the original approved plan, with no changes made, while plan number two was offered to Mandler this past January.
According to Leslie in an email to the council, there was no response from Mandler in regards to the second plan; MnDOT?took that as he was not interested in the redesign. Also, by the time the Wells City Council meeting took place, council members were informed the second plan was no longer feasible due to MnDOT’s inability to obtain temporary easements in time to build the proposed curb and gutter.
Plan number three, which the council had most interest in, has yet to be drawn up, and will cost the additional dollars brought up in discussion. However, it would allow Mandler the opportunity to grow his business safely as he sees fit.
After much discussion, the council decided to support Mandler by requesting a redesign, which has yet to be drawn up. The added cost of the new redesign will be tacked on to the city until the Council decides how to designate the additional dollars of the project.
Herman made an official motion to move forward with creating an entirely new redesign for Mandler’s sidewalk in front of the Wells grocery store. Herman also requested a discussion later on to determine how the money involved with the redesign would be divvied up.
The council also discussed the upcoming location change for the Wells VFW. The local VFW?chapter will be leasing the former Wells Municipal Liquor Lounge area, which is next door to the VFW’s original location on South Broadway Street.
The council had to decide the length of the VFW’s lease for the city-owned property as well as the cost of the rent they would be paying.
Leslie informed the council the VFW’s current rent was $600, and it would be wise to stay in that range.
“They (VFW) would be responsible for things like snow plowing, garbage, recycling, making sure their outdoor smoking area is kept clean and doesn’t cause too much of an issue for other residents. They would also need to make sure they had an insurance policy in place as well as their standard-issued liquor license,” Leslie said.
The council tentatively went through a draft of the lease agreement together.
Through discussion, the council decided to make the length of the lease five years for the VFW, with rent staying at $600 a month, which included six months free rent, to allow time for the VFW to make proper improvements to the building before opening for business.
The council decided to add language to the lease stating if, after the five year lease, the VFW did not want to renew their contract, they would need to give the city a 90-day notice.
With those details in place, as well as an 18 percent interest rate if the VFW cannot pay their rent at any point, the council approved the VFW lease, allowing the plan to move forward.
The council also approved the resignation of Jamie Wise from the Wells Theatre Board, the appointment of Wise as a part time theatre clerk, and the appointment of Ryan Elasky as a part time police officer.
The Wells City Council’s next meeting is scheduled to take place on May 8, at 5 p.m. at the Wells Community Center.