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BE City also has $241K to use

By Staff | Aug 9, 2020

Most of the Blue Earth City Council, staff and others in attendance at last Monday night’s council meeting were wearing masks as part of the new state rule.

The Blue Earth City Council wants to help local businesses and organizations as much as they can by sharing the recent funds the city received from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, Economic Security (CARES Act) program.

Blue Earth received $241,390. Other cities in the county received lesser amounts and Faribault County also received a large grant.

At last Monday night’s meeting, the council looked at a proposal on ways the city’s CARES Act money could be used locally.

About $21,000 could be used by the city itself for items related to the COVID-19 pandemic emergency.

Another $83,600 was earmarked as possibly going to other entities inside the city, such as United Hospital District, St. Luke’s Lutheran Care Center, Blue Earth Area Schools and others.

There would be $25,325 divided up between city agencies, such as the library, senior center, liquor store, Ag Center, and police and fire departments.

“We would also have $100,000 available as grants to local businesses,” city administrator Mary Kennedy said. “It could be made in $500 grant increments to a lot of our businesses.”

There are several issues with the funds, however, Kennedy added. One of those is that the money needs to be dispersed and spent by Nov. 15.

“We would need to start getting funds dispersed as soon as possible,” Kennedy explained. “The money needs to be given out, spent appropriately, and documentation on how it is spent returned to us, all by Nov. 15.”

The other issue is there are only certain things which the funds can be spent on. It cannot be used just to replace lost revenue. It is for necessary expenditures due to the public health emergency with respect to the coronavirus disease COVID-19.

The council discussed possible ideas for ways which the funds can be spent, but Kennedy said the city may not want to make too many suggestions, and let the businesses decide for themselves.

Kennedy also revealed she has developed an application form for businesses to use to apply for the grants.

“I also plan to advertise the program in the local media,” she added.

The council voted to move forward with the plan as far as the business grants program and the city departmental proposals are concerned.

In other business, the council:

Voted to go with new hours at the Blue Earth Wine and Spirits municipal liquor store of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The decision came after quite a bit of debate.

Mayor Rick Scholtes presented a plan to go with hours of opening at 10 a.m. and closing at 8 p.m.

Scholtes said his proposed hours would work into the plan by the council to have two full time employees and yet not raise the total payroll cost of employees.

However, councilmen Glenn Gaylord and John Huisman said they preferred to go along with the proposal of the liquor store manager, Dave Olson, for the 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. schedule.

The vote to do so was 5 to 2, with mayor Scholtes and council member Wendy Cole voting no.

Heard a request from a resident of the South Sailor Street Project area, Glen Murra, to reduce the amount of cost to replace the sidewalk on his mother’s home. She has moved into a nursing home and Murra will be moving into her home, he said.

The assessment is for $780. Murra pointed out that originally the city was not going to replace all of the sidewalk and there was not going to be any charge.

City engineer Wes Brown explained why the entire sidewalk needed to be removed, and also how the city’s assessment policy works, with the city paying 70 percent of the cost of new sidewalk and the homeowner assessed the other 30 percent.

Different types of deferments were also pointed out, including for veterans and persons over 65 years old with low income.

Heard an update on all the various street construction projects from city engineer Wes Brown.

Brown reported that the first lifts of asphalt were being installed on the Sailor Street and Leland Parkway projects, as well as the City Hall/library parking lot.

Briefly discussed the house at 906 Upper Valley Drive and the fact that it is now listed for sale at $38,600.

Mayor Scholtes and city attorney David Frundt reported that the city is working on possibly putting in a bid on the house, with the intent of razing it and selling the lot.

Discussed the upcoming elections on Aug. 11 and Nov. 3 and all of the safety precautions being taken due to COVID-19.

Granted a request from Kaylynn Smith to hold an all day memorial service on the fairgrounds park area on Aug. 22, and a request from the Refuge – Youth for Christ to hold a small outdoor concert on Aug. 28 outside their facility.