The 'community garden' concept may be expanded to allow Falls Hunger Coalition patrons to help themselves to fresh produce.
The idea was brought to the International Falls City Council Monday by Daniel McGonigle, Community Education director, who said Falls Hunger Coalition Director Ashley Hall and he had discussed the idea. They would seek a grant for expansion of the concept to create a garden where those in need could harvest the vegetables.
Mayor Harley Droba was quick to support the idea, and is expected to bring the idea to the city's next Land Use and Legislation Committee and to city department heads for input on locations and other details.
Droba said the committee will come up with a recommendation to the council about what site makes sense for the garden at the next council meeting.
The original Community Garden on Third Street was created in 2013 through the AGE to age organization, involved in crossing generational boundaries between the elder community and younger community.
Community Garden plots are rented and maintained by their respective renters. The flowers and produce grown in the gardens is not intended to be free to anyone; those who rent the plots expect to reap the fruits of their labor.
McGonigle said people have been helping themselves now and then because of a need that a different kind of garden could help address.
The garden would be similar to that on Third Street with raised beds, and would need access to water.
The council agreed on a 3-1 vote to purchase property at 801 Third Ave., the former Stock Tire location, at a negotiated price of $136,000.
Councilor Leon Ditsch voted no, and Councilor Walt Buller was absent.
The structure will be used to consolidate the Public Works Department, eventually onto one property, thereby making the department more efficient and freeing up storage space with the move.
Droba, acknowledging some public criticism of the plan, and asked Public Works Director Ted Brokaw to explain the motivation.
Brokaw said equipment is now in the middle of a residential neighborhood, and the various sites for equipment and staff require the department to "bounce all over town on projects," adding the department facilities are spread out too far, and not efficient.
He said he could not support spending money now to construct new public works facilities when the city's streets and other infrastructure need it.
"Stock Tire is not ideal, but I think it will work for us; the price is right and the location is ideal," he said.
The purchase price includes a hoist and other personal property Brokaw said would benefit the city.
Ditsch said the cost to renovate could be higher than expected, and he was not sure of the need.
The council also:
- Voted 3-1, with Ditsch voting no, to release a property at 1531 Second Ave. E., from court judgment to allow for an agreement that would more involve the property owner in corrections.
- Awarded a contract to low bidder Travis Thompson for a court ordered demolition of a structure.
- Awarded, and heard the first reading, of a contract for $1.47 million to lowest responsible bidder Bowman Asphalt Products, Inc. for local street improvements.
- Heard the second and final reading of an ordinance to repeal sections of the code of ordinances and adopt the 2021 International Property Maintenance Code. Interim Administrator Betty Bergstrom noted a condensed version of the code will be published, so citizens know what is taking effect, after publication.
- Approved a financial planning agreement with Northland Securities, Inc. for tax abatement for the Alexander Baker housing project.
- Approved, based on a Human Resources Committee recommendation, a 1-year labor agreement and memorandum of understanding on pay for members planning and negotiating the contracts between the city of International Falls and the IAMAW District Lodge 5, Woodworkers Local W33, IAMAW Union for the Firefighter Engineers and Paramedics, effective Jan. 1, 2021 to Dec. 31, 2021.
- Approved 2021 wages and benefits for nonunion and seasonal employees at $2.5 percent increase.
- Approved a special assessment policy to make public improvements and levy the costs. The action will allow the city to access a grant to cover part of the costs to make improvements to 22nd Street.
- Approve initiating road construction and utility work for 22nd Street improvement project, as an assessed project in conjunction with being awarded an infrastructure grant.
- Denied a demolition application from Brad Hagen for property located at 516 Memorial Dr., received after a moratorium on demolitions by the city.