Eric Hedman from Prairie Five came to update the council on the upcoming change to meal sites. Starting July 1st, the Senior Center meal site will merge into the Henry Hill meal site. Prairie Five was given notice in 2017 that there would be a reduction in funding in 2018, and to expect further reductions in 2019. They have been taking measures to make the best use of money. The Henry Hill site averages 15-18 people, and the Senior Center averages 10-12.
Council member Joseph Fagnano added that he had heard about people who had trouble crossing the street from Henry Hill in winter, with ice and snow, and agreed Henry Hill was the best spot. A few years ago the senior center was flooded, and the site was moved in to Henry Hill, which went well. Mayor Smiglewski raised some potential concerns about parking, and hurting the Senior Center. He also asked the hypothetical question of "what happened?" He reported that 20-25 years ago they were serving 70+ people at the meals, and Granite Falls has more seniors now. He asked about who to talk to about the program being in financial trouble.
Hedman said that the people to contact are the State legislators. Gary Johnson added, "I don't want Prairie Five to take the hit for this. It's a Prairie Five decision, but the problem is the funding from around the state and federal government that's been going down." Hedman said that 32% of their funding comes from donations from participants. 41% comes from the Minnesota River Association of Aging.
Prairie Five serves Big Stone, Lac Qui Parle, Swift, Chippewa, and Yellow Medicine County. The senior meals provide a sense of community and also important nutrition for the elderly population. It serves as a safety net and reduces cases of hospital re-admission. Hedman emphasized the importance of serving small communities.
In other news:
The council approved a petition to form a Charter Commission. The city charter was last updated in 1987, so it's in desperate need of updates.
The council approved an easement on the Wing Bain Funeral home encroaching on the public right of way. Part of the building was too close to the city street, but it's not realistic to shave down part of a building.
The memorial park board will update the council on the Phase 1 bids in the June 4th meeting. The update will include which alternates from Phase 1 might be included in Phase 3.
The council approved a light blue design for the water towers, with the text "Granite Falls" written on it. There wasn't room for the city logo.
The Granite Falls Fire Department and The Sacred Heart Fire Department had to work together to put out a fire at the brush site. Someone had dropped off brush and started a fire. This has been an ongoing case of abuse of the site. People have been dumping many things, not just brush. There have been multiple fires, which means the DNR could pull the brush site license. There was discussion about having set hours, and adding cameras for security.
City Engineer Mike Amborn came to discuss the assessment rates for the Barber Circle and Daniels Drive project. The project is to add sewer and water lines to the lots, encouraging development. The city council had considered implementing this work over 10 years ago, but decided to wait because of the recession causing a construction slow-down. Several lot owners expressed that they do not want to pay the assessments, and don't want the project to happen, including Steven Barber, who came to the council to discuss his concerns. He wants the investment to make financial sense, he feels that it may not be worth the cost.
The council discussed that they had also heard from several lot owners that were in favor of the project moving forward. Nobody is sure what the value of the lots will be when finished. The council passed a resolution to have Amborn prepare plans and specs, and also called for bids for the street and utility work. The plan is for the bids to be presented to the council in early July. At that time they will consider whether to go forward with the project, and also whether to adjust the assessments for the affected properties.