TH Council moves forward with trail, roundhouse demolition, utility ordinance
By: Tammy Francois, Lake County News Chronicle
Two Harbors Area Fund to the (possible) rescue
Representing the Two Harbors Area Fund, Gordy Anderson appeared before the Two Harbors City Council to offer a potential partial solution to financial problems that have slowed plans for the construction of a trail near Super One and Shopko. At the end of July the council put the skids on plans when contractors’ bids came in higher than expected and project engineer, Tom Pfeffer, said additional costs could not be ruled out. The trail, which the council originally assumed would be covered by grants, is now expected to cost the city well over $100,000. As the time neared for Lake County commissioners to award the bid to a contractor and start the work, the city got cold feet and asked for an extension to consider its options. The county, which is providing financial oversight of the project, granted the request. Enter the THAF.
Anderson said that $50,000 may be available from THAF’s major project fund, but the city must apply for the grant and get approval from the Duluth Superior Community Foundation, who oversees the THAF.
“I feel pretty confident that it would be approved,” Anderson said, adding that the fund was set up by an individual who “is really a trail person.” The council passed a motion to approve the submission of a grant application. In another action related to the trail, the council passed a motion to authorize the Army Corp of Engineers to continue the process of getting necessary wetlands permits.
Before awarding the bid and going forward with the trail, however, Lake County Commissioner Brad Jones said that the county board wanted to meet with the council or City Administrator Lee Klein to ensure that the city is fully onboard and committed to the project. The council agreed to do so.
Roundhouse demolition bid accepted
Bids on the demolition of the former roundhouse have been received. The council passed a motion to accept Veit Specialty Contracting as the contractor, but had to decide whether or not to spring for the cost of excavating and crushing the below-grade concrete footings. With only $250,000 worth of funding in hand from the Iron Range Resource and Rehabilitation Board and the cost of demolition —including the footings-related work —estimated at $629, 437, the council opted to forego the below-grade work, saving $157, 500. After that savings and the application of the grant funding, the city is still facing a bill of $221,937 to raze the building.
Two airport projects under consideration
In other big ticket items, the Airport Commission is considering two major upgrades to the Richard B. Helgeson airport. Back on the table is the fixed-base operation hangar, which was recently put on hold after bids on the project came back higher than expected. The second project is an expansion of the arrival and departures building. Councilor Seth McDonald said that undertaking both projects looks more promising because, if approved, they would receive funding from different sources — the IRRRB could possibly provide partial funding for the hangar and Minnesota Department of Transportation-Aeronautics Division has grants available for the expansion of the arrivals and departures building. The MnDot grants require a local match of just 10 percent. The council passed a motion allowing the airport commission to consult with SEH, an engineering firm, on a project estimate for the expansion. With an estimate in-hand, grants can be sought.
Utility pole agreements - one complete, one in process
City Attorney Steve Overom reported that attorneys negotiating a utility pole ownership agreement between the city and Frontier Communications have settled the matter. Yet to be resolved is the joint usage agreement, which is currently under discussion between the parties. Overom said that he anticipates the usage agreement will be in place in four-six weeks. The resolution of these issues removes two hurdles that have contributed to delays in the county’s broadband project.
TH landlord opposes proposed amendment to utilities ordinance
Two Harbors resident and landlord, William Tranah, addresses the council in opposition to the proposed utilities ordinance amendment. The ordinance would make property owners responsible for the unpaid utility bills of their tenants. He disputed the claim made by City Attorney Steve Overom that communities like Duluth and Hermantown had similar ordinances. Tranah said that he had called the local municipalities to inquire as to their practices. He reported that Hermantown billed landlords for tenants’ outstanding water and sewer bills (not gas), with Duluth billing them for water only. Neither city, he said, had plans to change its policies in this regard. Tanah said that it wasn’t fair that one party should have to pay the debts of another and that the city was overlooking remedies —legal action and a prepayment policy — that could more effectively and fairly resolve the issue of unpaid utility bills. Mayor Bolen, Councilor Glaser and Council President Norberg voted against the amendment to the ordinance, with councilors McDonald, Erickson, Simonson and Scheidt voting in favor. The motion carried.
A motion carried to approve the purchase if four gas monitors for the Two Harbors Fire Department at a cost of $4597.16, and permission to request $500 from the Lake County Recreation Board for the Kidz Block Party this weekend.