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City Council approves reopening guidelines

The Albert Lea City Council on Monday approved requirements for reopening city buildings, with the goal of expanded services by May 10 in adherence with state and federal health guidelines.

Albert Lea City Manager Ian Rigg said his biggest concern from the start was the spread of COVID-19 amongst staff and what would happen to operations if multiple staff members were out on quarantine.

With the vast majority of staff being vaccinated by the end of the month, he said, he thinks the city can safely reopen as long a series of guidelines are followed.

The city at the end of March opened City Hall and the public library from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays with limited services and reduced occupancy limits to provide for social distancing requirements. Services not requiring an appointment needed to be completed in 15 minutes and the recreation office lobby remained opened with reduced occupancy limits.

With the expanded reopening, the resolution states all services capable of compliance with federal, state, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Minnesota Department of Health guidelines will fully reopen no later than May 10 and remain open unless it is not “practical, prudent or financially feasible to do so.”

It states increased public access, services and hours of operation not subject to federal or state recommendations will be determined by departmental staff vaccination percentages of greater than 50%, as well as guidelines for similar services.

Masks and social distancing will be required, and unvaccinated staff may need restricted access to other staff and the public and may have stricter quarantine protocols to reduce the spread of COVID-19 during the pandemic.

Because of concerns of social distancing during City Council meetings because of possibilities for larger attendance with public hearings, the council separately voted to continue to allow electronic meetings.

In other action, the council:

• Approved a resolution allowing the city manager to work with the Albert Lea Family Y on an agreement to manage Senior Center services.

The city put out a request for proposals for an entity to manage the Senior Center, and the Y was the only entity to submit a proposal. Rigg said the city will pay the Y approximately $30,000 a year, or $2,500 a month.

He said there would be a 12-month review of services built into the contract, and that the agreement could be canceled with a 180-day notice.

Albert Lea Mayor Vern Rasmussen thanked city staff for their work on the collaboration and said he thinks it will be a good opportunity for seniors in the community and will allow increased services, while at the same time help the city contain costs.

• Approved the sale of $2.325 million in general obligation bonds that will be used to finance the city’s neighborhood improvement project for 2021; the reconstruction project of Edgewood Avenue, St. Peter Avenue, Stanley Avenue and Ulstad Avenue; and the reconstruction of the parking lot at Washington Avenue and Water Street.

The bonds will have a 10-year term.

• Awarded a contract with Ulland Brothers Inc. of Albert Lea for about $84,000 for the reconstruction of the parking lot at the intersection of Washington Avenue and Water Street.

• Amended the zoning and land use map for property at 423 Adams St. to accommodate for an adaptive reuse housing development. The zoning will change from light industrial to a planned development district.

• Approved a resolution supporting the 2021 Shinefest Week of Service, including waiving application and landfill fees associated with the improvement projects.

• Approved the removal of two-hour parking signs and no parking signs on the 100 block of East College Street. Two two-hour parking signs will be removed on the north side, and three will be removed on the south side.

No parking signs will also be removed on the south side because the driving tests are no longer being conducted. If testing begins again, signs could be reinstated.

Check back for more about the Monday meeting.