The City Council meeting for International Falls, Minnesota, was called to order on Monday, May 15, 2023. The meeting began with the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. It was noted that Councilor Holden was absent, but all other council members were present.
Approval of Agenda
The first item on the agenda was to approve the meeting's agenda. A request was added under item number five for new business, which pertained to the use of Kerry Park, specifically Smokey Bear Park, on Fridays for movies in the park. A motion to approve the agenda was made by Councilor Buller and seconded by Councilor Wigner. The motion carried with a unanimous vote.
Approval of Minutes
The council then moved to approve the minutes from the previous meeting held on May 1, 2023. The motion to approve the minutes was made by Councilor Kaler and seconded by Councilor Buller. The motion was carried unanimously.
Committee of the Whole Minutes
The minutes from the Committee of the Whole meeting held the previous week were also presented for approval. Councilor Wagner made a motion to approve these minutes, which was seconded by Councilor Kaler. The motion was carried unanimously.
Payments and Claims
The council then reviewed the city's payments and claims. The resolution included city transfers going to the 401 Permanent Improvement fund and the 403 Capital Reserve or Reserve for Capital Outlay. The total amount of transfers was $87,233.91. The total accounts payable, including International Falls claims, Airport Commission claims, and International Falls Public Library board claims, amounted to $612,617.66. A motion to approve the resolution of the payments and claims was made by Councilor Wagner and seconded by Councilor Buller. The motion was carried unanimously.
The council then opened the floor for audience participation. A question was raised about the Kerry Park project, specifically whether it included a splash park and whether that decision was final. The council clarified that the splash park was being funded by Rotary, which had raised approximately $75,000 of the $100,000 needed for the splash park. However, the city had not yet moved forward with the Kerry Park project in any capacity. The city was seeking funding through the legislature via a bond that would not need to be paid back by the city or the residents of International Falls.
Kerry Park Project Discussion
The council addressed a question from the audience regarding the Kerry Park project. The council clarified that the city's request for $1.8 million for engineering had been removed from the bond as of that morning. However, there was still a possibility for future funding if a general obligation bond was issued. The council emphasized that nothing was finalized regarding the project as they did not want to commit city funds to a project that could not be completed.
The audience member expressed concern about the cost of the splash park and its potential usage, given the limited summer season in International Falls. The council responded that the liability for the splash park would be no more or less than any other playground equipment and would be accessible during daylight hours. The council also noted that the splash park was a community request and that Rotary was willing to raise funds for it.
Pride Month Proclamation
The council moved on to new business, starting with a mayoral proclamation declaring June 2023 as Pride Month. The proclamation was requested by Borderland Pride. A motion to approve the proclamation was made by Councilor Kaler and seconded by Councilor Wagner. The motion was carried unanimously.
Memorandum of Understanding with Minnesota North College Rainy River
The council then discussed updating the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and amendment between Minnesota North College Rainy River and the City of International Falls. The MOU allows the police department to work with the college in the event of any issues. A motion to approve the MOU was made by Councilor Buller and seconded by Councilor Kaler. The motion was carried unanimously.
Small Cities Development Program Housing Rehabilitation Loan Agreement
The council considered a subordinate agreement of the Small Cities Development Program Housing Rehabilitation deferred loan repayment agreement and mortgage previously issued to Gene Dalt to allow financing and a mortgage through Rocket Mortgage. A motion to approve the agreement was made by Councilor Buller and seconded by Councilor Wagner. The City Administrator provided background on the agreement, explaining that it was part of a program to help rehabilitate housing. The loan would be deferred if the property owner stayed in the property for 10 years. Rocket Mortgage had requested the city to consider subordinating and being second as they were asked to refinance for the property owner.
The City Administrator provided further clarification on the Small Cities Development Program Housing Rehabilitation Loan Agreement. The loan was deferred, meaning if the property owner stayed in the property for 10 years, the loan would be forgiven. However, because the property owner was refinancing before the end of the 10-year period, they were obligated to pay off a percentage of the loan. As of October of the previous year, $18,540 of the loan had been forgiven. The difference between what had been forgiven and the original deferred loan was $2,060. The council had the option to either trigger the due on sale clause and require the property owner to pay the $2,060 due to refinancing, or sign a subordination agreement and forgive the remaining loan amount in five months. The council decided to sign the subordination agreement, effectively forgiving the remaining loan amount.
Hiring of Office Clerk
The council then moved to the recommendation of the Office Clerk Hiring Committee to hire Crystal Skrine to fill the vacant office clerk position in accordance with the IUOE Local 49 collective bargaining agreement. A motion to approve the hire was made by Councilor Buller and seconded by Councilor Wagner. The motion was carried unanimously.
Request for Use of Smokey Bear Park
The council considered a request from I Falls Nice to use Smokey Bear Park on Wednesdays between May 31st and August 30th, 2023, for concerts in the park. Additionally, the council was also considering using the park on Fridays from June 9th to August 4th for movies in the park. A motion to approve these requests was made by Councilor Wegner and seconded by Councilor Buller.
The council discussed the funding for the concerts and movies in the park. The council member responsible for I Falls Nice, a community organization, explained that they had taken over the concerts in the park and had been raising money through sponsorships from local businesses. They had not asked for money from the city for several years. The concerts cost about $2,000 for the summer, with performers being paid $200 each. The drive-in movie theater was started during the pandemic when the local movie theater was closed. Even though the movie theater has reopened, the council member believed that having movies in the park was still a good idea. All the movies were either sponsored or paid for. The motion to approve the use of Smokey Bear Park for concerts and movies was carried unanimously.
Land Use and Legislation
Garbage Hauler License Application
The council moved on to land use and legislation, starting with the approval of a garbage hauler license application for Northern Disposal LLC, owned by Zachary Dahlin. A motion to approve the license was made by Councilor Buller and seconded by Councilor Taylor. The motion was carried unanimously.
Feasibility Study for Bituminous Paving
The council then considered a resolution declaring a petition ordering a preparation of a feasibility study for bituminous paving of Fifth Avenue West between 19th Street and 20th Street. A motion to approve the feasibility study was made by Councilor Buller and seconded by Councilor Wagner. The council discussed the cost of the feasibility study. The city engineer explained that the cost would be minimal as they were already doing similar work on other projects. The council would decide whether to proceed with the project after the feasibility study was completed and the estimated cost was presented to the adjoining property owners.
The council discussed the feasibility study for bituminous paving further. The city engineer explained that there was a large gap in the area that was not paved, which included a lot of wooded area. The council decided to just do one block of paving due to the 100% participation from the adjoining property owners. The motion to approve the feasibility study was carried unanimously.
Grant Application for City Support
The council then moved on to approve a resolution authorizing an application for grant navigation for city support. A motion to approve the application was made by Councilor Kaler and seconded by Councilor Wagner. The motion was carried unanimously.
Kerry Park Project
The council then discussed the Kerry Park project. The council member responsible for public works explained that one of the goals of the city was to have quality equipment for the youth and quality sidewalks for the community to use. Kerry Park was identified as being run down, and the council was working on a project to improve it. The park had been used to stage sandbagging efforts during a flood the previous year, which had caused further damage. The council member noted that the basketball courts at Kerry Park were not being used by the youth, who preferred to use the courts at Smokey Bear Park. The tennis courts at Kerry Park were also in poor condition, and the city had recently spent a significant amount of money to improve the tennis courts at another location. The council was considering how to best utilize the community's resources.
The council discussed the Kerry Park project further. The city engineer explained that they were in the process of setting up a new tennis net that could also be used for pickleball. The council discussed the cost of refurbishing the surfaces at Kerry Park, which was estimated to be a minimum of $60,000, not including the cost of repairing the fence. The council decided to remove the bituminous surface and the fence and plant grass instead, leaving it as a field. The council noted that they did not have the funds to refurbish the surfaces and maintain them. The council also discussed the cost of maintaining the Kerry Park arena, which was estimated to be between $3 million and $4 million. The council acknowledged that they did not have the funds to maintain the arena either.
Removal of Basketball and Tennis Courts at Kerry Park
The council discussed the removal of the basketball and tennis courts at Kerry Park. The council member responsible for public works explained that the courts were in rough shape and that it would cost a minimum of $60,000 to refurbish the surfaces. The council decided to remove the courts and plant grass instead. A motion to approve the removal of the courts was made by Councilor Kaler and seconded by Councilor Buller. The motion was carried unanimously.
Municipal Facility Needs Assessment
The council then moved on to consider an agreement from BKV Group for the municipal facility needs assessment. A motion to approve the agreement was made by Councilor Wagner and seconded by Councilor Buller. The motion was carried unanimously.
Boards, Committees, Department Heads
The council then moved on to reports from the mayor, council, committees, boards, and commissions. The council discussed a recent radio appearance by Councilor Kaler and Mayor Droba. They also discussed upcoming meetings, including a meeting with department heads to discuss new policies for garbage service and recycling in the community.
Mayor Droba discussed a recent meeting with the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) to address housing issues in the community. The mayor acknowledged that there had been some hard feelings between the city council and the HRA in the past, but emphasized that they were now working together to address housing issues. The mayor noted that there were contractors interested in building in the community, and they were working on how to get funding from the state to these contractors.
Future Meetings and Correspondence
The council discussed upcoming meetings, including a meeting with the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission (ARDC) to discuss their future direction. The council also noted that city offices would be closed for Memorial Day on May 29, 2023, and that the next regular city council meeting would be on June 5, 2023. The council also noted that they would be taking city council pictures before the next meeting.
With no further business to discuss, the meeting was adjourned.
Ted Saxton and TedBot
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