By Ryan Gueningsman
LORETTO, MN Fueled by a desire to potentially redevelop the area where fire destroyed an eight-unit apartment complex at the corner of Medina and Railway streets, Loretto is investigating bringing back its economic development authority (EDA).
City Attorney Paula Callies said an EDA was formed in the early 2000s when the city council at that time had a redevelopment district.
Callies recommended to the council that the city delay appointing a group of people to an “economic development authority,” noting that she wanted to research the past EDA as there are legal requirements that need to be met and bylaws that will need to be given to all new members.
Two informal meetings have taken place, and Callies suggested the group meet as a “redevelopment committee” until formally appointed by the city council as an EDA.
The committee at this time is focusing on a vision for the “triangle,” as defined by Hennepin County Road 19, Lorenz Street, to Railway Street West. Kathy Taylor, Deb Johnson, Tom Van Beusekom, Clark Lohr, Kent Torve, and Barry Andersen have been meeting as the committee, which is led by city planner Annie Rexine.
At the council meeting, the council noted sometimes grant funding may only be available if there is an EDA in place, so the council decided to move forward with having Callies investigate the structure of an EDA.
Fire department merger discussed
Last month, Loretto Fire Chief Jeff Leuer, also the city’s public works director, told the council the fire department is exploring a possible merger with the Hamel Fire Department.
A meeting took place with a consultant about the merger, and the cost to implement a “scope of work” would be about $40,000, which would be passed on to member cities based on a market value percentage.
The merger would not be so much a cost-savings, but possibly create a stronger department serving the area and allow for strategic planning for future placement of stations. Leuer said firefighters have not made a decision on whether or not to pursue the merger, but asked for council input if the plan does move forward.
The consensus of the council was that it is too early to tell, and noted the city has not budgeted that expense for 2010. Council members also stated they would like the fire department to remain independent from the cities.
Sheriff visits Loretto
Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek presented a brief report to the council on the work the sheriff’s office does.
Local property owners pay taxes to support county departments, and Stanek wanted to inform local officials of the role the county plays in public safety.
He said approximately 19,000 911 calls were generated within the Medina Police District, which includes Loretto, in 2008.
Lt. Todd Nelson, attending with the sheriff, spoke about the violent offender task force and the west metro drug task force, which work together for criminal information sharing and analysis.
Stanek said the sheriff’s department is able to support the local police organizations within each community in the county and are also called upon to support other county agencies because of the county’s size and assets.
Shared public works building also discussed
Leuer said the City of Medina is interested in partnering with Loretto and Corcoran to purchase a building in Medina to house the public works of all three cities.
He said there is a bonding bill that could cover 75 percent of the funding if three cities would work together on this type of project. Medina officials said the cost to Loretto would be minimal, as Loretto’s portion of the building would be minimal.
The city engineer from Medina is putting together a concept plan. Council consensus was in favor of this project.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• approved a raffle permit for Our Lady of Loretto Knights of Columbus for Sunday, April 25 for the Dick Weller Memorial. The council expressed its appreciation for the early request.
• approved a resolution requesting funding for the Westonka Community Action Network (WeCAN).
This is a yearly request the city gets from this organization that helps people achieve greater self-sufficiency and family stability.
• noted the city’s comprehensive plan adjustments have been sent to neighboring jurisdictions for input. There is a 60-day review process.
• reviewed the needs of updating the city’s code book. Following discussion, the council directed Rexine to work on code amendments for right-of-way, on-street parking, and a chicken ordinance.
The city discussed looking for future grants to help with this type of project and also to budget for it in 2011, if feasible.
• agreed to offer seasonal employee David Kottke the option to start work next week and to keep him on year-round so Leuer will be able to use his paid time off and comp time during the year.
A lengthy discussion took place regarding different options for Kottke after he submitted an unemployment application.
The council also voted to change its personnel policy to reflect compensation time at 80 hours maximum, prior to being paid out. Discussion took place on different ways to pay down from the current 240-hour maximum.
• learned that cities will only be able to put banners on Xcel Energy poles if the cities have a permit. Loretto has 20 poles for flags and banners. Leuer will work on the issue and bring it back to the council at a future meeting.
• learned the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s investigation at Gary’s Diesel following an explosion last year was complete and that Gary’s adequately addressed a petroleum release.
• learned of the City of Medina’s intent to develop a wellhead protection plan. No action is needed from Loretto, which completed a similar plan in 2002. The goal is to protect more drinking water.
• heard from the railroad that if the watermain break that occurred in early January created any problems for the railroad crossing, the city could be liable for any damages. During the break, water ran over the tracks and had to be removed by a contractor. The council questioned how this would be different from a large rainfall.