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Winnebago City Council tries getting creative

By Staff | Oct 13, 2019

Collette Meidinger presents photos of all of the Freedom Rocks she and her husband, Jerry, visited throughout the state of Iowa to give the council an idea of what their potential Freedom Rock could look like.

Could one giant rock save the town of Winnebago?

Councilwoman Jean Anderson and a small volunteer committee to beautify the city with a well-known project called “Freedom Rock” believes it is possible.

At their Winnebago City Council meeting last Tuesday, Oct. 8, Anderson expounded on the possibility of bringing artist Ray “Bubba” Sorenson II, founder of The Freedom Rock project to the city to paint a six-foot-by-five-foot boulder to honor area veterans for service to their country and community.

It was stated in earlier conversations that Winnebago’s potential Freedom Rock could be added to the Winnebago Veteran’s Memorial, but that idea was met with resistance. Anderson informed the council there were a number of other areas in downtown Winnebago that could potentially do the trick.

“Collette and Jerry?Meidinger went all over the state of Iowa to look at the different Freedom Rocks this painter has already painted. They spent money at local amenities and helped boost these local Iowa economies,” said Anderson. “If we can get a Freedom Rock made here, I think it would be a great asset for visitors to stop and shop in our area. These are works of art with special coated paint to minimize vandalism and to sustain harsh weather. A small committee has been formed and we already have a rock, we just need a place to put it.”

The council pondered about potential location sites, including two open lots next to the Muir Library, as well as a few other marked locations throughout the city of Winnebago.

“Wherever it is, it has to be lit to fend off vandalism,” said councilman Rick Johnson. “We need lights on that thing.”

“I’m all for it as long as we grant the wishes of those who maintain the current veteran’s memorial,” added councilman Paul Eisenmenger.

Anderson noted there are only two other Freedom Rocks in Minnesota one in Lakeville, and one in Kasson.

The cost of having the artist come to Winnebago to paint a Freedom Rock that reflects the community’s history is a $2,000 deposit, which Anderson shares has already been generated. Other costs could come later if the city chose to add lighting and potential walkways to the site of the Freedom Rock.

“It’s a big undertaking, but I think it will be well-worth it,” added Anderson.

In other developmental topics, economic development director Annie Leibel spoke with regard to a proposal for the SuperValu site in downtown Winnebago. Leibel shared she received one request for proposal (RFP) from Apex Construction, a Twin Cities-based remodeling company, who proposed tearing down the current building and creating a large structure that would house two new storefronts as well as 12 new apartments.

“This would be a $2.3 million project, and we are looking at half of that cost coming from the city,” said Leibel. “What I would like the council to do is to step back and consider what your priority is. Is it to just get the old building demolished, or is it to have something built in that space? DEED funds up to 50 percent of demolition costs, while the city and county cover other costs.”

Leibel added that though the commercial and residential building does seem like an exciting opportunity, the feasibility of it happening at such a high cost is potentially out of reach.

“I don’t think we can come up with $1 million,” she told the council. “Our best bet at making progress at that location is prioritizing our goals for this property.”

“Two million scares the bejeebies out of me,” added Councilman Johnson.

“I think our top priority right now is our school building,” said Councilman Calvin Howard. “That’s where our dollars need to be focused right now.”

The Winnebago City Council also:

Approved two conditional use permits (CUPs) for 415 and 424 Second Avenue SE to alleviate issues regarding gravel dust. Resolutions 703 and 704 were passed for the CUPs. Originally, the CUP stated evergreen trees would be planted, but the council okayed a six-foot fence adjacent to any residential properties. The property owner has until Aug. 15, 2020, to complete the project without repercussion from the city.

Made payment estimate No. 6 to the Northwest Street and Utility improvement project to the tune of $396,477.23.

With regard to the waste water treatment plant, paid $29,000 for a new computer software system. City administrator Jacob Skluzacek reported this system update would allow for specific alerts to address issues at the waste water treatment plant, making call-outs to the facility minimal.

Received a liquor license request from Harold Renkly, who hopes to open the town’s old Legion bar.

Continued narrowing down the city’s budget before their Truth in Taxation meeting in December. Skluzacek informed the council he was able to move the current levy from 17 percent down to eight percent and asked the council to continue looking at the budget for places to save money. Councilman Johnson shared he did not feel the budget would get much smaller with the number of projects taking place throughout the city.

“If it’s around five percent, I’m okay with it. Anything lower than five doesn’t seem possible to me,” said Johnson.

“We have to deal with the reality of our situation,” added Councilwoman Anderson.

Approved a number of resolutions including:

Resolution 699-2019 Part-time Police PERA,

Resolution 700-2019 Setting city fees for 2020,

Resolution 701-2019 Accepting donations,

Resolution 702-2019 Resolution excess property.

The next Winnebago City Council meeting will be held Tuesday, Nov. 12.