At this week’s Granite Falls City Council meeting Jean Garbarini, from Damon Farber landscape architecture firm, provided an update on Memorial Park improvements for Phases 1-3. Work at the park will continue in the spring, the improvements to the shelter house and the completion of the new restroom building are expected to be done by Memorial Day weekend.

The master plans for improvements at the park continue to evolve. The biggest change in the plans is the location of RV camping. Originally the idea was to move the campsite farther back in the park, but now the plan is to improve the sites current location. Some of the RV camping improvements include raising the road 6 inches, paving the road and RV camping spots, adding tent pads next to the RV campsites, improving utilities, and fixing drainage issues around the campsites.

A new nature-based playground is another big addition to the plans. The playground will include new equipment made from black locust lumber, and it will also incorporate the nearby rock outcrop as well as some of the older playground equipment which can’t be replaced if removed due to new regulations.

There are also plans to build a new canopy shelter house with no walls next to the park to replace the older existing shelter house. Garbarini talked about the possibility of altering the existing shelter house and removing some of the walls to make it more open, but she was unsure if that would compromise the structural integrity of the shelter house. There will also be an additional required archeological test in the spring which is a 2-3 day process.

The Utilities Commission talked about using savings to help fund the replacement of the substation feeders and making safety improvements at the hydro plant. The commission is working on obtaining an estimate for a potential bid package proposal for Council to look at. That will be discussed more at the next utility commission meeting.

The Council discussed wastewater plant improvements. There is a possibility that the project could get state bonding dollars due to the recent interest in funding infrastructure projects. The plans for the potential improvement project will continue to be developed and the Council will be updated on this in the near future.

The Council discussed adopting a voice bill-pay system for utility billing through Xpress Bill Pay. The City, on average, gets 50-75 calls a month. Benefits of the system include freeing up of staff time, residents ability to pay over the phone 24/7 vs only during normal business hours. The system will tell residents their account balance and due date, there is no startup cost, and there is no contract so the city could choose to stop using the system at anytime.

There is a transactional fee of .95 cents but the City feels this is a reasonable cost compared to what it saves in staff time. If someone calls and they want to speak to a person they can talk to an Xpress representative for no additional cost. The Council approved the resolution to adopt a voice bill-pay system through Xpress Bill Pay, but view the first few months as a test to see if people like using the system, or to see if there are any issues with the system.

In Other News:

•There are ongoing discussions between Granite Falls and Sacred Heart about the possibility of Sacred Heart purchasing water from Granite Falls, and the possibility of Granite Falls having access to water from Sacred Heart’s well.

•The Council Approved a $100 donation to the Minnesota Valley Scenic Byway

•Scott Tedrick talked to the Council about possibly supporting a grant application for an initiative led by the Renville County Historical Society and the Yellowstone Trail Alliance of Western Minnesota. The initiative is looking for a grant to develop a cultural heritage tourism plan from Granite Falls to Buffalo Lake and the communities in between. The Council voted to sign and support the grant agreement.