Council meeting also sees adoption of contentious pet ordinance

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The Granite Falls City Council opened long-awaited bids for rehabilitation of the town’s historic pedestrian bridge spanning the Minnesota River this past Monday but found figures that were nearly  $400,000 over the original $1.024 million engineer’s estimate, well above what they were hoping for.
“It is certainly eye opening and frustrating," said Mayor Dave Smiglewski.
The council spent a brief period grousing over the bureaucratic processes that kept the city from being able to call for bids at an earlier date before acknowledging that they would just have to bite the proverbial bullet or risk losing $1.024 million dollars in state and federal grant funds.
At one point, the outside monies were believed to be sufficient enough to keep the city from having to expend few, if any, local dollars toward the project. After receiving a state bonding appropriation in 2010 for $512,000 or half of the estimated $1.024 million required to rehabilitate the bridge, the city was informed it had been appropriated a matching $512,000 grant through the federally funded National Scenic Byway Program (NSBP) in August of 2012.
The $1.024 million estimate that preceded all of this, however, is now nearly five years old, allowing for inflation and other factors to take their toll. And so, in the end, it was a bit begrudgingly that council members unanimously accepted the low bid of $1,490,287 by Robert Schroeder Construction, also known as the Glenwood Bridge Company. One of two bids received for the project, it was noted that Glenwood Bridge Construction is a reputable firm, responsible for building both of the other bridges spanning the Minnesota River in Granite Falls, on Highway 212 and on Oak St.
As a result of the additional costs to be incurred by the city, the council also called for a tax abatement public hearing necessary before the city can issue $625,000 in General Obligation Tax Abatement Bonds. Included in that sum is the additional expense for the pedestrian bridge construction financing, interest and $75,000 in contingency costs. In addition, another $70,000 from unrelated Street/Utility improvements is also lumped into the figure.

In other news:
• In a 5-2 vote––in which councilpersons DuWayne Galow, Sarina Otaibi, Steve Nordaune, Scott Peterson and Mayor Dave Smiglewski voted in favor while councilpersons Steve Schaub and Joe Fagnano cast votes opposed – the council approved the second reading of an ordinance that will allow Vietnamese potbellied pigs to be housed in city limits.
Reflecting proponent’s views of the ordinance, Mayor Dave Smiglewski mentioned that several cities in Minnesota allow the pigs as pets while those opposed expressed concerns that the ordinance could lead to more extreme circumstances such as residential bee-keeping and Boa constrictors.
• Council members approved a five-year Ambulance Service Contract that will see townships of the Granite Falls ambulance's service area charged $75 per section and the City of Granite Falls $7,500 on an annual basis.
According to Ambulance Director Gene Hughes, each township board was approached and informed about the need for the fee in order to maintain a high level of services and replace vehicles. Hughes noted that there were a number of factors impacting the hospital and ambulance requiring the extra charge, and that he expected the need for ambulance service would only increase in coming years as trends have seen patients spend less and less time in the hospital before being transferred to other locations.
In all 10 townships, with a total 227.5 sections will be impacted by the change alongside city residents, netting the ambulance $24,562.50 yearly.
• In relation to the planned construction of the new Granite Falls nursing home, council members accepted an agreement that will allow the city’s municipal electric utility to provide electric power to the facility, which is being constructed in Minnesota Valley Cooperative Light and Power  Association’s (REC) territory. The agreement stipulates the city pay a maximum of $2,500 to the REC, unless the nursing home is sold to an outside entity, in which case the REC would be entitled to a payment of $.025 per kwh for electricity sold to the nursing home up until May 1, 2024.
• As referenced in last week’s paper there are concerns about finding a location, at least temporarily  and perhaps altogether, for the Granite Falls Senior Center which has suffered, particularly as of late, from issues of water and mold.
There were roughly a dozen individuals on hand to discuss their concerns for the issue, and City Manager Bill Lavin apologized on behalf of the council that the problems have not been dealt with sooner––especially given the potential health ramifications.
The city has hired TSP Architects, of Marshall, to study the site for solutions and will also be considering other re-location options as a potential remedy. The mealsite has been moved temporarily to Henry Hill Apartments.
• Family Service RaeAnn Keeler-Aus was also on hand to ask the city for assistance in regard to the Yellow Medicine County Food Shelf, which is expected to be without a home given that plans for a new courthouse structure did not include space for the service in order to hold down costs.
The city said they were considering options but did not have a specific solution to present at this time.
• Council was informed by the Minnesota DNR that a grant that would have made improvements to Memorial Park bathroom and the large shelter house was denied.