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BE Council discusses new courts

City asked to split costs with school

By Fiona Edberg - Staff Writer | Jul 25, 2021

Unanimous votes were more elusive than usual at a Blue Earth City Council meeting held Monday evening, July 19 at 5 p.m.

Several ordinances came under review, and council members had some concerns to voice.

The council had a lengthy debate about approving a memorandum of understanding with Blue Earth Area Schools. The memorandum calls for the city to split the preliminary costs for construction of a new tennis court facility.

The total cost of preparations for this phase of construction sits at $18,000. The council is being asked to put up $9,000 of the costs.

Council member Glenn Gaylord objected strongly to the proposed split.

“I don’t see why this shouldn’t be solely on the school,” he stated. “It shouldn’t be the city’s responsibility at all.”

Council member Russ Erichsrud also objected against rushing into the memorandum too hastily.

“I’m going to vote for it, but I want us to be cautious,” he said. “This is a big undertaking, and we don’t know the extent of it.”  

Mayor Rick Scholtes was in favor of passing the memorandum. He explained he sees value in helping the district fund the tennis facility.

“There is no way the school district can build the tennis facility themselves. They need the city’s help,” said Scholtes.

He added, “The plan is for the city to fund the project up front. However, the school will pay the city back over time.”

Council member Dan Warner agreed with Scholtes.

“We’re doing it because we have a faster vehicle for serving our school as well as people who are committed to the tennis program,” he explained.

Gaylord was not swayed by Scholtes and Warners’ perspectives. “I’m not committed,” he responded. “This is all risk for the city and no benefit.”

Nonetheless, most of the council was ultimately in favor. The motion to pass the memorandum carried with a six to one vote.

The council also reviewed a resolution authorizing the city to apply for a grant covering the cost to reduce salt discharge from in-home water softeners.

The resolution did not pass without some discussion. Erichsrud expressed concern regarding the effect the project could have upon local water conditioning businesses if homeowners have reduced needs for a water softener.

“This project might not eliminate local businesses, but it would wound them,” Erichsrud noted. “We, as the council, should see how they think this would affect them.”

Scholtes addressed Erichsrud’s concerns, explaining he feels it is necessary to promptly address the Wastewater Treatment Facility’s concentrated levels of chloride.

“At some point we have to do something. We’re having issues with the waste level getting too high,” said Scholtes.

He added there is a possibility local businesses will not be as negatively affected as one might imagine.

“The improvements might not hurt the businesses too badly. People are still going to want to soften their water. It will not be totally softened at the facility,” Scholtes explained.

He further clarified the council does not have the ability to bar the project from occurring, anyway.

Sholtes said, “The only reason we’re in the loop is to get the facility the funding. We can’t stop them. They can get funds somewhere else if we don’t approve the grant.”

The council eventually decided it was most important to address the high levels of waste at the water treatment plant as soon as possible.

The resolution was passed with a six to one vote; Erichsrud was the sole opposing council member.

Finally, the council discussed acquiring a property at 321 N. Grove Street in Blue Earth. The property is currently held by Greenfield Environmental Multistate Trust.

The city intends to do environmental testing to determine the extent of contamination in the soil before they make a formal purchase offer. However, they must obtain permission from the Trust to do the testing without making a formal offer to purchase the property.

City attorney David Frundt shared the Trust’s response with the council Monday night.

“The Trust is refusing to give permission for the testing unless a fully-executed purchase agreement is in place,” explained Frundt. “This will allow the company to get out of the agreement if the testing comes back positively for contamination.”

The Trust asked a minimum of $1,000 from the city if they were to enter into a purchase agreement.

The council inquired of Frundt if they could include language in the purchase agreement allowing them to back out of the agreement if they are not satisfied with the results of the testing.

“We can make the terms contingent on our satisfaction with the testing,” replied Frundt. “We have to put up the money first, though, and pay for the testing.”

Sholtes responded, “We can offer $1,000 and still back out after the tests are done. And if we do the tests and find out the contamination is deep enough that we won’t disturb it, we’ll have the property.”

The council unanimously passed a motion to offer the Trust $1,000 for the purchase of the property.

Other business discussed by the council included:  

• A second reading of an ordinance increasing the number of dogs considered a kennel by the city from three to four. The ordinance further clarifies kennels are prohibited within city limits. The amendment was approved by a six to one vote.

• Updates regarding various construction projects around Blue Earth.

“Progress is moving along nicely,” shared city engineer Wes Brown.

Crews will shift their focus to Nicollet Street as underground work is wrapped up on Bartel Drive and is a few weeks away from completion on Walnut Street.

Brown also said within four or five weeks, the city may start to see concrete curb installed in some areas.