Members of the Fergus Falls City Council breezed through six discussion items Wednesday during the first Committee of the Whole meeting since March 11.

Bearing face masks in compliance with Executive Order 20-81 signed July 22 by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, the committee first fielded a request for action by city finance director, Bill Sonmor regarding a billing policy for water disconnect requests. Sonmor recommended that the council continue to bill flat rates for all utilities when a property owner requests their water be disconnected. The monthly flat rate charge for the average resident would be $34.30 and would include water, flat, sewer flat, storm water and tree management. 

After the committee carried a motion on Sonmor’s request. Fergus Falls Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) executive director, Mikel Olson took the floor to recommend the council approve a tax levy of 0.185% for the estimated taxable market value with the city in 2021. Olson said the HRA needed the levy for operational funds. Olson told the committee his agency is assisting approximately 142 families at the present time with housing choice vouchers. Olson pointed out that applications for assistance outnumber the HRA’s ability to assist by more than 2 to 1. 

The motion carried.

City Administrator Andrew Bremseth took the podium to present an annexation petition from Bruce and Stefanie Gerhardson, presently living at 1702 Minnehuta Drive in Aurdal Township.

In a letter from City Attorney Rolf Nycklemoe dated July 16, Bremseth received a property owner petition to the municipality for annexation by ordinance. In order to act on the petition, Nycklemoe indicated the city would be required to notify the Aurdal Township board and the Office of Administrative Hearings. Because a public hearing would then have to be set approximately 45 days later, Bremseth informed the committee that a public hearing was being set for Sept. 21 at 5:30 p.m.

The committee approved the motion.

City engineer, Brian Yavarow presented the last three requests for committee action.

The first was a recommendation to accept project plans and authorize advertising bids for Public Improvement Project 6072. The probable cost of the Pebble Lake public access project has been set at $217,000. 

Yavarow proposed to incorporate an alternate bid in the proposal that would consist of paving the access road from DeLagoon Drive to the new public access site. 

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is providing $250,000 for the project.

In thanking Yavarow and the DNR, Fergus Falls Mayor Ben Schierer said: “Obviously this is a much-needed project.”

The proposal was approved.

Yavarow received approval by the committee for a parking lot improvement project on Court Street with a price tag of $76,000. Features of the 16-stall parking lot would be curb and gutter and a pretreatment device for water runoff prior to it entering into a “rain garden” to enhance water quality.

The city has committed $50,000 in mutual state aid (MSA) general funds toward the project. The Verdeen Trust and representatives would provide the remaining project funds.

Completing the morning’s agenda was the approval of a recommendation by Yavarow to execute a land lease agreement with the Fergus Falls Rifle and Pistol Club.

The club is nearing completion of a new $225,000 HVAC air-filtration system in the city-owned building at 508 W. Adolphus Ave. The system was ordered by the Minnesota Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The six-figure expense has prompted the club to request that it be allowed to purchase the building from the city for a token amount and also establish a land lease agreement. Yavarow pointed out that club supporters would then be able to make improvements to the building based on their own capabilities. Future maintenance costs are upcoming for the property.

By granting the proposal the city will be able to collect taxes on the building.

The city purchased the 16.5 acres the building rests on for $50,990 in 1980. The latest CAMA valuation of the building is $78,570.

The Fergus Falls City Council will meet at 5:30 p.m. Monday in the City Hall.

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