The Grand Rapids City Council began regular business Monday, Sept. 9 with a closed meeting for the purpose of discussing strategy for labor negotiations followed by a work session to start work on the city’s 2020 budget. Specific budget plans will be brought before the council in the coming months.

During the council’s regular meeting, council reports provided insight into progress made on the IRA Civic Center repairs and highlighted local groups going above and beyond their civic duties.

Councilor Tasha Connelly gave an update on the Civic Center Steering Committee’s work. Connelly said the committee has been meeting twice a month and has maintained healthy participation.

Connelly explained, “One question that keeps appearing both within the group and the community is ‘why doesn’t the city have a reserve fund to pay for replacement of the civic center roof?’”

In response, Connelly clarified that the city does not have a reserve fund for such large expenditures because of the city’s right to bond for big projects.

“We can’t put taxpayer money aside,” Connelly said.

Grand Rapids City Administrator Tom Pagel added, “Typically in government funding we bond for projects so that the people using the facility pay for the facility.”

A second common question brought forth in community discussions, according to Connelly and Pagel, has speculated why the city doesn’t increase ice time fees to help pay for the repairs. As Connelly explained, this fee would have to go from $168/hour to $376/hour to cover the costs.

“That’s just not practical - it’s an affordability issue when it comes to ice time,” commented Pagel who said people don’t realize that since 2008 the city has invested $1 million into the civic center and the ice time fees have helped cover maintaining the facility.

Connelly said the steering committee will be coming before the city council in October or early November to present their findings and recommendations.

“It’s probably best to answer those questions now as we’ll have to come to some kind of conclusion as we move forward,” said Connelly.

In another report, Connelly explained that the Rural Arts and Culture Summit will be coming to Grand Rapids Oct. 3-5, bringing both regional and national attention to the city. Connelly thanked city staff and the Grand Rapids Arts and Culture Commission for their work in bringing the summit to Grand Rapids.

“We are doing really big things and bringing people to the community,” said Connelly. “People are watching and wanting to know how we do rural arts.”

The Rural Arts and Culture Summit gathers rural practitioners in the arts, culture and community development fields every two years. The Reif Center will be the hub for this year’s event with featured speakers and artists.

In his report, Mayor Dale Adams emphasized his intentions to recognize businesses and individuals going above and beyond what is expected of them within the community. Three groups, the Minnesota Street Road Association, Log-A-Load for Kids supporting Gillette Children’s Hospital, and the Itasca Pickleball Association hosted successful events in Grand Rapids this past weekend, explained Mayor Adams, bringing in hundreds of people from all over.

“We thank you for choosing Grand Rapids,” noted Adams.

Also recognized by the mayor was the family of the late Bill McBride who started an annual golf tournament to raise scholarship funds for students of Itasca Community College.

Adams expressed further appreciation to Dan and Nancy Root of Grand Rapids. The couple has been active in youth mentoring for many years, most recently teaching children at Southwest Elementary School the game of chess.

“Kids hang on them like flies on the most sticky pad,” commented Adams.

In other business, the council:

• Approved council minutes for the Monday, Aug. 26, 2019 worksession and regular meetings and Aug. 29, 2019 budget meeting.

• Approved verified claims for the period Aug. 20, 2019 to Sept. 2, 2019 in the total amount of $769,583.20.

• Approved a purchase by the GRFD for Sika Deco Flake flooring from Duluth Coating Solutions to be installed in truck bays and a meeting room. Total cost is $30,085 and will be paid from Taconite Production Tax proceeds.

GRFD Chief Travis Cole explained that the flooring will help protect the recently-installed new concrete in the fire hall and provide a non-slip traction in the truck bays to prevent falls when the floor is wet. According to Cole, the Sika Deco Flake flooring has a 20-year warranty.

• Approved the purchase of two half-ton pickup trucks from Lakewoods Chrysler half paid for through the Airport Operations Fund and half from the City’s Capital Improvement Fund.

On the Consent Agenda, the council:

• Accepted a donation from Get Fit Itasca/AARP via the YMCA in an amount of $27,640 for the purchase of a public sculpture, two decorative benches and the placement of an informational kiosk to be located at the new Mississippi River Pedestrian Bridge.

• Approved off-site gambling application for Grand Rapids Amateur Hockey Association.

• Approved a temporary liquor license for Klockow Brewing Company event on Saturday, Sept. 28.

•Accepted a $2,436 grant from the Minnesota Board of Firefighter Training and Education.

• Authorized an application to the IRRRB Regional Trails Grant Program for CP 2015-3, Highway 2 West Trail.

• Adopted a resolution issuing an order to raze or remove structures on properties located at 2803 DeSchepper Drive, 2408 SW 18th Street, and 302 Golf Course Road all in Grand Rapids.

• Approved a MOU between the city and the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local No. 49 - Clerical Union.

• Authorized staff to solicit quotes and accept quote from Rides for a topper for the Community Development/Building Maintenance pickup, for a total cost of $2,697.53.

• Approved a Supplemental Letter Agreement (SLA) 2015-3 with SEH Engineering related to CP 2015-3, Highway 2 West Trail.

• Approved a Supplemental Letter Agreement (SLA) 2014-2b with SEH Engineering related to CP 2014-2, 2020 Street Improvements Project.

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