An agreement between the city and a local business to clean up its site should keep the issue out of court and satisfy all involved.
That was the aim of action Monday at the International Falls City Council with approval of an agreement with Friends Garbage Service to correct blight violations at its Highway 53 recycling facility.
City Attorney Steve Shermoen said an earlier plan seemed impossible for the business to achieve and so he modified it, Co-owners Michelle and Wade Friend accepted and signed it, and he offered it to the council for adoption.
“Kelly (Meyers), Jared (Baldwin) and I all agree it's in the best interests of the city,” he said referring to the city's building inspector and fire marshal.
He said the agreement sets firm deadlines that must be met to keep a criminal case from moving forward.
With the council's approval, staff will visit the property each week to gauge progress, the business owners will email regularly to report progress, and a court hearing will be delayed until August to allow them time to comply with the agreement.
Should Friends fail to comply, Shermoen said the criminal case against them will proceed and the city could retain a third party to clean the area up.
Improvements at the site have been made, he acknowledged, but said the area of short-term concern that must be addressed before May 11 is the front of the building that can be seen from Highway 53 and the area to the south toward another business.
Meanwhile, Mayor Harley Droba said he appreciated staff “working with business owners and not against them,” as it's in everyone's interest that the city's blight ordinances be followed.
In related business, Shermoen told the council he had 19 blight cases scheduled for court May 11, adding he hoped he would report to the council in two weeks that many have been resolved.
Baldwin plans to visit each of the properties prior to the court date for updates and to take new photos should the cases go to court, he said.
“We are making progress,” Shermoen said, crediting the city for creating the fire marshal position. He said much of the blight violation work requires follow up and monitoring, which no other staff could do with other duties.
Droba gave Shermoen and Baldwin kudos for handling the violations.
In other business, Droba reported the city received 16 applications for its city administer position and would interview two finalists in separate sessions May 12. The position was left vacant with the April 3 retirement of former administrator Ken Anderson.
Staff posted on the city's website Tuesday that it would interview Scott Hildebrand and Betty Bergstrom.
The city is now accepting application for police chief, following the announcement by Chief Rich Mastin to retire July 6.
A plan to revitalize Kerry Park will move forward, thanks to a contract for design services from Widseth Smith and Nolting for $47,760, and a construction management agreement with Kraus Anderson at a cost of $19,860, and other fees. Kerry Park Revitalization Project.
Representatives from Kraus Anderson at the meeting said they would provide an overview for target construction completion of 2022. Phase one would focus on the northwest section of the masterplan with a focus on the splash park, playground, restroom and shower facility, new entry road and parking lot, and site design to tie into the existing amenities on site.
Costs, a preliminary schedule and potential funding sources will be a part of the plan, they told Councilor Mike Holden, who asked about when the council would hear cost estimates.
Holden said with costs tied to each phase, the council would better know how much it could do and spend each year on the project.
The council agreed to purchase for $3,000 a used condensing unit from the city of Champlin to replace the failing condensing unit at Kerry Park Arena. The condensing unit is used to help expel heat from the glycol by running it through coils outside of the compressor building.
Public Works Director Ted Brokaw told the council the facility has been “limping this unit along for quite some time until we have a better idea of the future of the facility. This unit will get us by until we can make the much needed upgrades to the equipment at the arena.
“The equipment is getting to the age where replacements will be needed over the ability to repair major components so it is imperative that we start looking at upgrades to this facility,” he added.
The cost of a new united is from $15,000 to $20,000, he estimated.
In other business the council:
- Approved engineering services at about $68,000 from Bolton & Menk for preparing a Water Treatment Plant Asset Management and Capital Improvements Study. Brokaw noted the plant is 30 years and unplanned expenses are occurring.
- Approved a modified development program for establishment of a tax increment financial district to assist the development of the Alexander Baker project. A hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. June 28.
- Agreed to extend 80 hours of paid leave through September 30, 2021, however not to participate in the American Rescue Plan of 2021,-as it is optional and all the guidelines for the plan have not been clarified.
- Terminated five emergency medical technicians from employment due to inactivity. Ambulance Chief Adam Mannausau said the action simply has to do with clearing the books of people who have not been active on-call for a period of time, adding it is not a reflection of their work or character.
- Agreed to wage adjustment for spare firefighter engineers and casual paramedics, and increased to $20 per hour for paid on-call volunteer firefighters for training time and fire calls. Firefighters are paid $17.00 an hour for training and $19.97 an hour for fire calls. Captains receive an additional dollar an hour and the Assistant Chief receives an additional $2 an hour.