Council reverses decision on public dock

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Boating on Fountain Lake was again a hot topic at the city council meeting on Monday night, but this time action centered on a public dock, and not on boat rentals.

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Boating on Fountain Lake was again a hot topic at the city council meeting on Monday night, but this time action centered on a public dock, and not on boat rentals.

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A boat dock for the city beach area was approved, after council member George Marin asked the council to revisit the proposal, which had been denied at the last council meeting.

It was a busy night for Marin, as he also prompted the council to add the Serenity Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance to the agenda of future council meetings and to discuss how to identify those who write letters to council members on matters that are being discussed in public hearings.

Discussion and action on the possibility of the city providing a public dock on Fountain Lake was brought up at the end of the meeting, by both Marin and Tony Trow of Destination: Albert Lea, acting separately.

Trow argued that a public dock makes the lake area and Albert Lea itself more inviting.

&uot;We currently offer no facilities for docking boats on Fountain Lake. There is no safe or secure place to tie up boats when people want to picnic or go shopping,&uot; Trow said.

Marin brought the issue back to the council because, with both he and Warren Amundson absent at the last meeting, the council’s previous decision about a dock was not valid. It did not receive four votes in favor, the number required for all city council decisions.

In the vote at this meeting, the motion to build a public dock passed four to three, with council members Amundson, Al Brooks, and Mayor Bob Haukoos joining Marin in approving the dock, and Ron Sorensen, Mary Kron and David McPherson voting no. No timeline was set for the addition, but the dock will be added this year.

The discussion on how and whether to identify those who write letters to council members arose out of a public hearing during the council’s last meeting. Four people had written letters opposing a boat rental operation near the city beach, but their names were not entered into the public record of the meeting.

Marin expressed the opinion that anyone who writes a letter to the city or council members should be willing to have a summary of their opinions and their names read out during the meeting.

There currently are no city council procedures for such disclosures in place, said Paul Sparks, city manager. Because of the many different reasons that constituents contact their council member, setting a policy that tries to treat them all exactly the same way might not be a good idea, he added.

&uot;But if we get letters written to the city itself, we should make them part of the public record,&uot; he said.

Council member Ron Sorenson spoke against making the names of all contacts made by constituents part of the public record, because many of them may have good reason to be fearful if their position is not the same as many of their neighbors.

&uot;There are times when people don’t want to give their names, they may feel threatened, they may be intimidated by their neighbors. That is the reason we (the council members) are here. That’s part of my obligation,&uot; said Sorenson.

Marin also made the motion about having an invocation and saying the pledge. He spoke of many city councils around the country doing this as a result of the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and New York City.

The motion passed unanimously.

– Authorized the transfer of $12,000 into TIF District 5 in order to keep it solvent. Several TIF districts are facing deficits as a result of the lower property tax rates created by the legislature last year. The money that was supposed to go into a fund that was set up to help TIF districts created before tax rates were lowered was absorbed by the state’s own budget deficit, leaving cities to handle the problem on their own, said Sparks.

– Approved bids of $99,510 from Sorenson Bros on a water line replacement project and $602,992 from Ulland Bros for a street overlay project. Both bids were under the estimates provided by city engineers.

– Approved the purchase of a new, larger snow plow. The plow is needed for streets in more open areas on the edges of town, where the snow drifts up. The plow will be purchased through state bid contract. The cost is estimated at a little more than $132,000.

– Agreed to supply matching funds for a grant from the Minnesota Department of Aeronautics in order to purchase a new tractor and mower attachment for the City Airport. The city’s share of the purchase is part of the 2002 budget and amounts to $46,600, while the state will pay $69,900.