By Ivan Raconteur
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Park Board Member Chris Schultz provided an update on development of the Dakota Rail Regional Trail during Tuesday’s Lester Prairie City Council meeting.
The portion of the trail from Mayer through New Germany to the McLeod County line will be substantially completed this year, and will open for use in the spring of 2013.
A Legacy grant application for funding the two-mile section of the trail from the county line to McLeod County Road 1 in Lester Prairie came up four points short of being funded last year.
Schultz said McLeod County will apply for funding again this year. The application deadline is Sept. 8.
The application will be increased 5 percent, to a total of $490,000, to cover increased costs.
Schultz noted that last year, no local match was required, but he could not guarantee that this will be the case this year.
He said a local match up to a maximum of 20 percent may be required, but this has not yet been determined.
Schultz said McLeod County’s application lost some points last year because a box committing to a local match was not checked.
He said if McLeod County is serious about moving forward with the trail, it may want to include commitment to a local match, with the understanding that it may not be required.
Schultz said the Lester Prairie Park Commission has recommended that the city commit up to $50,000 toward a local match.
The total maximum match that could be required, based on the $490,000 grant application, is $98,000. This would require McLeod County to commit to part of the local match.
It was noted that part of the two-mile section covered by the application is in the city limits, and the rest is outside of the city limits.
Schultz said if the city is unsuccessful in securing a grant this year, another option that has been discussed is paving the 950 linear feet of trail from the Carver County line to the first road approach in McLeod County. This would provide access to McLeod County Road 23, which would allow trail users to get to Lester Prairie.
Cost for this option is estimated at $29,000 for a paved surface and $15,000 for an aggregate surface, according to Schultz.
He said McLeod County could have saved money if it had included development of the trail in the recent County Road 23 reconstruction project, and he expressed disappointment that this option was not discussed, even though it was known that Carver County would be extending the trail to the county line.
Schultz also noted that the city has made significant investments in Sunrise Nature Park, and extending the Dakota Rail Regional Trail to Lester Prairie and including a connection to the park could increase usage of the park.
Mayor Andy Heimerl said he is in favor of extending the trail to Lester Prairie. He noted that he frequently drives to Waconia, and has observed that the trail gets significant use, and could benefit the city.
Council closes door on solar proposal
The council discussed a proposal from Council Member Eric Angvall to spend $22,508 to install solar panels on the roof of city hall.
The subject has been discussed during numerous meetings over a period of months.
Angvall said the deadline to move forward with the project is approaching if the city plans to take advantage of a grant from Xcel Energy for the project.
He said the company will cut the amount of money available for grants in half, reduce the amount paid per kilowatt in 2013, and eliminate the program completely the following year.
Angvall also noted that the cost of solar panels is expected to increase next year.
Council Member Art Mallak suggested that, if the council is interested in saving energy, it should look into installing wind energy, possibly to power the wastewater treatment facility, which he said would generate a better return on investment than spending $20,000 to put solar panels on city hall, where the electric bill is only $1,200 per year.
Council Member Ron Foust said solar power is a good idea, but the city has limited funds for improvements at city hall, and other items may be higher priorities.
Angvall said there was no discussion of making improvements at city hall until after he proposed the solar project.
Council Member Bob Messer said in order to do minimum renovation, including updating the floors and restrooms at city hall, the city would need to do more fundraising, because it does not have enough money to do the work now.
Mallak said his concern with the solar proposal is that he does not believe the current city hall will be feasible to meet the city’s needs for another 20 years, so the city would not get the full return on its investment.
He said some residents asked him if the council was “crazy” when they heard the council was considering putting solar panels on city hall.
Heimerl also noted that the current city hall may not fit his long-term vision for the city.
A motion to move forward with the solar project failed 3-2, with Angvall and Messer in favor, and Mallak, Heimerl, and Foust opposed.
Lester Soil to be sent to governor
The council approved a proclamation recognizing Lester soil, which has been named the official state soil. The city will display a sample of the soil at city hall, and will send a sample to Governor Mark Dayton.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• heard from City Clerk Marilyn Pawelk that the city has received $125,000 from McLeod County for preliminary engineering related to the street turnback project.
• heard from Pawelk that the city will need to include Americans with Disabilities Act compliance for the city pool in the budget for 2013, to meet new lift requirements that will take effect in January.
• authorized One Eyed Willy’s to work with city staff and move forward with an outdoor patio in front of the business.
• approved purchase of a freezer for concessions at the city pool to replace one that was purchased last year, but which was damaged and no longer works.
• heard a request from Heimerl for council members to direct the commissions under their areas of responsibility to go through the appropriate channels and not contact public works staff directly. He also noted that residents should direct questions or concerns through the city office.
• heard a proposal from Angvall that the city look into the possibility of establishing a dog park. The council forwarded the request to the park commission for review.