Ranier lift bridge

A proposal that would create a park with a view of the Ranier lift bridge could be the focus of a public meeting.

Whether a plan to construct a safe harbor and transient dock in Ranier will move forward in a grant process should be known next week.

The project would provide docking for large boats in Ranier on Rainy Lake.

Steering Committee Chairman Tom Dougherty reported to Ranier City Council Tuesday about a June 27 presentation he and Councilor Ron Wilcox made to the Legislative-Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources as part of the grant-seeking process.

"Ours went real well," he said of the presentation, which followed other community presentations also seeking money. "The committee only asked a couple questions afterwards."

The project is seeking a $760,000 grant from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. The LCCMR makes recommendations for funding projects with ENRTF money. Should the state grant be approved, it would be used to match a federal Boating Infrastructure Grant Program, or BIGP, the city will also seek.

Dougherty told the council the LCCMR will announce proposals selected for recommendation to the Legislature Wednesday.

Should the project be selected, LCCMR will require work on plans to be submitted in August-September. He said sometime in November-December 2019, funding recommendations will be adopted by LCCMR and presented to the Legislature for consideration. Should the Minnesota House and Senate approve the bills, the governor's signature would make it law. In June 2020, LCCMR is scheduled to approve work plans for projects that are funded, with money made available July 1, 2020.

Meanwhile, Dougherty said AJ Pirkl, a consulting engineer on the proposed project, also attended.

Dougherty said one question posed by a lawmaker involved accessibility for people with handicaps, to which he responded it could be used by people who are ambulatory, or able to walk. He said the question caused him later to think more about that. He suggested the project include a kiosk that can provide information about the community for the sight impaired.

Dougherty said ENRTF has a $61 million annual budget. He noted the money comes from a constitutional amendment which established the fund in 1988 with 77 percent of voter approval. The constitutionally dedicated fund that originates from a combination of Minnesota State Lottery proceeds and investment income is to provide a long-term, consistent, and stable source of funding for activities that protect, conserve, preserve, and enhance Minnesota's air, water, land, fish, wildlife, and other natural resources for the benefit of current citizens and future generations. Since 1991, the ENRTF has provided approximately $630 million to approximately 1,600 projects around the state, said its website.

Meanwhile, the BIGP application process is open for proposals July 31. The city's proposal submitted in 2018 was denied because it indicated no matching funds. Dougherty and city Administrator Sherril Gautreaux are expected to work with Pirkl to revise the 2018 proposal and submit it.

Councilor JoAnn Kellner reported about the work of a committee on a child care initiative, on which she serves. She said five goals were developed in a visioning session in March, adding that the licensing process for childcare providers must be streamlined to encourage people.

Councilor Todd Coulombe said he wants to discuss adding four-way stops at River Street and Spruce Street, and at Duluth Street and Spruce Street. Because the signs would be placed on County State Aid Highway 20, also known as City Beach Road, the county board must approve.

During the open forum, Sue Swendsen asked the council to schedule a public hearing, and John Bruggeman noted he had a petition, about a proposal to developĀ a boat launch at Seven Oaks Park on the Rainy River near the public dock already there.

In addition, he asked for a hearing on the Safe Harbor proposal, wondering about city maintenance costs if the project is completed.

Sharon Ball, a nearby resident, said she could offer land to further the Seven Oaks proposal. Mayor Dennis Wagner said he'd not had a chance to consider her input fully.

Ball also referred to an earlier meeting when she said a member of the audience told her to "shut up." Wagner said he tries to keep meetings civil, and everyone has a right to an opinion and to be heard.

Wagner and Coulombe indicated that while there is no legal obligation to conduct a hearing, they would schedule a meeting to provide accurate information about the projects.

Other business

In other business, the council:

Considered a proposal from Koochiching County Assistant Engineer Trent Nicholson for angled parking on Main Street/County State Aid Highway 20, which Wagner said could add another 12 parking spots at the corner. He estimated adding diagonal parking in the area could total an addition of 43 parking spots. Councilors Coulombe and Bob Dunbar are expected to attend the July 23 county board meeting, as requested by the board, where further discussion is expected.

Accepted the Ranier Municipal Liquor Store operating statement for June, when a net profit of $6,503 was made, compared to June 2018 when a net profit of $1,047 was made. Year to date profits are $20,859 compared to the 2018 year to date profits of $17,189, noted Liquor Store Manager Jenn Seegert.

Recognized Tara Mai, deputy clerk and water billing, for 10 years of employment with the city.

Heard an annual report from International Falls, Ranier and Rainy Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Pete Schultz, who said occupancy rates were up in 2018. Wagner wondered whether the lodging tax the city receives could be used to promote a specific event, but Schultz said the spending is governed by state law and tax proceeds must be dedicated to advertising outside of the area to draw tourists.

Heard from Wagner about the approach on the Highway 11 overpass, about which he said he'd received numerous complaints. Wagner said a bump on the west side of the approach poses safety concerns because it causes drivers to swerve into the other lane to avoid the bump, which he said caused a vehicle's tire to burst last week. Gautreaux will contact the Minnesota Department of Transportation about the concern.

Heard from Wagner that the city should consider the blight issues that International Falls has taken to court "and follow the outcome."

Heard from Mai that monthly water tests taken at Ranier and City beaches show very low coliform colonies, indicating the water is safe for swimming.

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