Residents kick off holiday lights fundraising campaign

Published 10:00 pm Monday, February 12, 2018

Goal is to raise $75K for lights, decorations

Downtown Albert Lea could be more festive during the coming holiday season thanks to the work of a group of local volunteers.

The Albert Lea City Council Monday approved the group of 10 to 15 community members to raise money beginning today to install a traditional light display in the downtown district.

The decorations could include garland wrap and wreaths with red bows at the intersections of Broadway Avenue and Clark Street and Broadway Avenue and William Street.

Email newsletter signup

“If things go well with our fundraising opportunities, we’re hoping that we can, yes, definitely have these lights in place by next year,” Albert Lea Mayor Vern Rasmussen Jr. said before the meeting.

The group hopes to raise $75,000 by the end of this year to install the decorations. Donors can contribute online at, by mail or in person at the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber Foundation, and organizers plan to reach out to potentially larger contributors in the next few weeks.

In discussing her support for the project, volunteer Sarah Hensley said it has been more than 20 years since a significant capital investment has been made for downtown holiday decorations.

“There was considerable negative public sentiment of our holiday decorations during the past 2017 holiday decoration season,” she said. “Residents and many others expressed a desire for more decorations throughout the holidays.”

Rasmussen said the decorations would create “this destination that we’re trying to do in our community. We put a lot of time and effort into that region of our community.”

If enough money is raised, organizers hope to add lighting to the splash pad area, holiday and event lighting at Fountain Lake Park gazebo and year-round lighting on downtown trees, as well as seasonal banners that could be used during the summer.

“This is just a great opportunity for the community to be involved in what I think we’ve had a lot of discussion about, in helping to solve one of these issues for us, and so this will be a great opportunity for the community to come out and really support something that they have spoken pretty vocally to me about wanting to have, and so I am looking forward to the community having the ability to really say what they want,” Rasmussen said.

The group is also launching a Facebook page “Spruce up Albert Lea For Christmas,” where they plan to share updates on fundraising and ways to give.

In other action, the council:

• Approved a professional engineering services agreement with Bolton & Menk Inc. for the Lakeview Boulevard rehabilitation project. The agreement includes a design fee not to exceed $56,722 and an estimated materials construction fee of approximately $57,632.

The project includes the rehabilitation of Lakeview Boulevard from The Fairway to Richway Drive, including complete reconstruction of concrete road and reconditioning of the rest of the road.

“The portion of Lakeview Boulevard near Lakeview Park has very poor soils under the road,” Adams said. “The water and sewer mains in this area have approximately 15 to 20 years of useful life remaining; therefore, staff is not recommending a complete reconstruction of corridor at this time.”

The road is expected to be patched and the surface smoothed “to provide better performance and appearance and shall be value-engineered to last as long as the utilities under the roadway are expected to be in service,” Adams said.

Sidewalk panels that are trip hazards and ramps that are not ADA compliant will be replaced.

• Approved a $19,170 agreement with Bolton & Menk Inc. for the eastside chlorination and pumping and storage evaluation project. 

“This project will include an evaluation of the need for a new well, water treatment plant and water tower following the demolition of the central water tower,” Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams said in a report.

The downtown water tower is scheduled to be removed in the next five years. The project will also include evaluation of low chlorine levels in the east section of the city’s water system.

“The results of this portion of the work may include a recommendation to add a chlorine injection station or a change in the way we operate the water tower on that corner of town,” Adams said.

The city received proposals from three firms for the project.

• Accepted storm sewer re-routes for two Bay Oaks Estates lots for construction of a new house.

• Approved a lot reconfiguration at 805 Stanley Ave. for the demolition of a non-conforming garage and construction of a new garage. The council also granted a setback variance for the project.

• Permitted an agreement for a $25,000 loan from the city’s economic development revolving loan fund to Pro Trucking Inc. to pay expenses from the 2013 expansion that did not meet qualified expenses under state law pursuant to a tax-increment financing agreement. The loan is at 2 percent and is forgivable based on job retention through July 31, 2020.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

email author More by Sam