Ashley Hanson came to the council to propose starting a Granite Falls City Artist Residency program. The idea is an artist would come and stay in the city for three or four months. During that time they would work with city departments on a project that encourages civic life, engagement, and creative energy in the community.

She showed sample projects from Fergus Falls and Minneapolis. One was a poetry contest where the winning poems would then get stamped into the sidewalk when that sidewalk gets poured. Another was a “Citizen Swag Kit” where citizens would basically get a punch card and earn punches by attending council meetings. There was also a vacant lot that got turned in to a beautiful park and flower garden. There are a lot of different types of art that work - theatre, music, poetry, as well as visual arts. The ideas can be vastly creative and tailored to the individual community.

These types of programs are becoming more popular in urban areas, but no city with a population under 10,000 has something like this. Hanson’s goal is to make Granite Falls a model, documenting the process and results to share on a national level for other cities to follow.

The council approved Hanson’s partnership request. There is no cost to the city at this time. She will take the city’s letter of support when she applies for grants for the project.

There was a hearing to discuss street and utility improvements.

Project 2, 11th Ave from 15th St. to 17th St. involves street reconstruction. Also, a few residents are connected to a shallow sanitary sewer line, which needs continuous maintenance. West of the road is a deeper sanitary sewer, so they will make an extension to that line and eliminate the need for frequent maintenance. Several citizens criticized the plans to narrow the street to 38 feet. Between parking on both sides and two-way traffic, it’s already narrow. This doesn’t include firetrucks, snowplows, or the baseball games that pack the street even more. The council moved to keep the street at 40 feet.

Project 3, 7th St. from T.H. 212 to 12th ave, also involved street reconstruction and narrowing the street to 36 feet. City Engineer Mike Amborn mentioned he already had requests to keep the street wider. After much discussion, the council motioned to look at options for width and curb design.

The other projects didn’t generate much discussion. Project 1 is to Jet and Televise the Sanitary Sewer. Project 4 is 9th St. from 10th Ave. to 8th Ave. Project 5 is expanding the library parking lot east to allow for 90 degree parking.

The total cost of the projects is estimated at $883,000. The math works out so about 20% of the costs are assessed, which means the cost per foot is calculated, then compared to the property line measurement. The citizen can pay within 30 days, or have it added to their property taxes, which can be spread over up to eight years.

There was also a public hearing for the Small Cities Grant. Kristi Fernholtz from the RDC explained the plan. The Small Cities grant has to meet one of three objectives: benefit low-to-moderate income people, eliminate slum and blight conditions, or address an urgent public community need. Fernholtz’s goal addresses the first two. The targets are owner-occupied rehab and single family rental rehab. The idea is each home does some kind of home improvement project. For owner occupied, a project up to $25,000, and is eligible for up to $18,750 of the costs. For rental property, the project can be up to $20,000 and is eligible for $14,000 reimbursement.

There’s a third component for commercial rehab. The council passed a slum and blight resolution to qualify.

The grant has to focus on a target area, which was a challenge for Fernholtz. A smaller area makes the proposal much more competitive. If the program is successful other areas can be targeted in future years. They will find out grant funding in May or June. The next step would be getting a state contract, and homeowner meetings. Construction would take place next year. The proposal lists Target Area A, which runs from the North border of Holiday Road to Dike Road, East Border of the Minnesota River, South Border of Hwy 212 to MN River and 4th St., and West Border of 4th St. west to 7th St. and north to Holiday Road.

The proposal includes 11 units. If there isn’t enough interest, Target Area B would run from a North Border of 10th Ave. East Border 4th St. South Border of Hwy 212, and West Border of 12th St.

In other news:

The council voted to transfer the dividends from Granite Falls Energy to the EDA. Mayor Smiglewski called attention to the fact that this was a rare discussion for a council to have, since a city can’t buy securities. The 50 shares were a gift from Granite Falls Energy.

The council voted to buy a stacker machine, which will greatly speed up stuffing envelopes. The machine is estimated to last for 10 years, and will pay for itself in saved employee time in three years.

The council voted to donate to Scholarship YME , which is the 16th year they donated. They also donated to the Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway for the 3rd year.

The council discussed update plans for the Hwy. 212 and Hwy. 23 intersection project. The project is slated to start in 2020. They weren’t sure if the plans would require municipal approval. There was discussion about losing the convenience of the free right turn from southbound to eastbound, but adding a dedicated left turn lane.