City Hall to open, library to start express browsing for 2 days a week at end of March

Published 5:56 pm Tuesday, March 9, 2021

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The Albert Lea Public Library and other offices at City Hall are targeted to reopen for patrons starting March 30 for two days a week, the city manager said Monday.

Ian Rigg said the library will have express borrowing on Tuesdays and Wednesdays of each week, and the building on those days will also be open for people who wish to pay utility bills or for people who need building permits.

“It will be on limited capacity, but it’s a start,” he said.

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Curbside pickup will be available from the library on Mondays and Thursdays.

Library Director Peggy Havener said people will make 30-minute appointments for express browsing starting at 9 a.m. on the days the library is open. The last appointment will begin at 4:30 p.m. Appointments will be separated by 15 minutes, in which staff will sanitize before the next patrons come in.

The Albert Lea City Council during its regular meeting Monday voted 5-2 to extend its state of emergency declaration, which has been in place for nearly one year. Councilors Rich Murray and Al “Minnow” Brooks voted against.

Rigg said he knows there is some growing discomfort with the continuing emergency orders, but noted there is legitimate concern about operations without it. The declaration acknowledges the pandemic, allows the city to continue to hold open electronic meetings and to place restrictions on when city facilities can be open.

He said the biggest concern is not staff interaction with the public but more so the concern of bringing back all staff and the risk of a “crippling” shutdown in the event a staff member contracts the virus and people have to be quarantined and services shut down.

First Ward Councilor Rich Murray asked at what point the city facilities could open back up fully — and how many staff would need to be vaccinated to do so.

Rigg said it would depend on building by building and the set up for each. He said his preference would be if 50% of the employees could be vaccinated and said the sooner the vaccines roll out, the sooner things could be opened up.

Brooks said though he appreciates the attention Rigg has given to the process and he could see the reasoning with some of it, he voted no against the continued emergency declaration because he thinks there needs to be a few more things opened back up.

Third Ward Councilor Jason Howland said it is hard to believe it has almost been a year since the city first enacted the emergency order related to the pandemic, and he believes things are in the homestretch with increased vaccinations.

In other action, the council:

Approved plans and ordered bids for the reconstruction of the Washington Avenue and Water Street parking lot. The parking lot was last paved in 1976.

Estimated cost is about $108,000.

Approved an agreement with The Joseph Co. for repairs of the Albert Lea Aquatic Center for $72,900.

Awarded the contract for the reconstruction of Edgewood Avenue, St. Peter Avenue, Stanley Avenue and Ulstad Avenue.

Work includes replacement of pavement, curb and gutter, sidewalk, sanitary sewer, storm sewer and watermain.

The city received seven bids for the project, of which the low bid came in from Wencl Construction Inc. of Owatonna for about $1.83 million.

The engineer’s estimate was $2.74 million.

Approved the purchase of a pressure walker and walk-behind saw for the street department. The low quote for the pressure washer was about $7,180, and the low quote for the saw was about $7,200.

Approved a plan for Small Cities Development Program spending.

Approved writing a letter in support of the Shell Rock River Watershed District’s request for $7.5 million in state bonding dollars.

Approved the second reading of an amended ordinance dealing with docks in the city.

Amended two ordinances in an attempt to clarify permitted conditional uses in the single-family residence and residential preservation districts.

Voted to repeal ordinances dealing with the requirements of dance hall and cabaret licenses.

The state no longer requires a cabaret license to allow public dancing, and dance halls are no longer prevalent.