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Brainerd City Council: New policy to focus on pedestrians, bicyclists

A newly adopted policy says the city will strive for streets that are accessible for pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as vehicles.

At a Brainerd City Council meeting Monday, the group adopted the Complete Streets Policy.

Voting against the move was council member Mary Koep, who in the past expressed concern with a policy that would require the council to make certain moves when it comes to street projects.

The policy calls for streets that have corridors that are safe, functional and aesthetically attractive. It says the city will seek to enhance safety, access and convenience for pedestrians and bicyclists.

It may come in the form of sidewalks, trails, street bike lanes, street and sidewalk lighting, shared-use lanes or crosswalk improvements.

"By adopting this policy, we are telling the community our rights-of-way are not only for vehicles," said City Planner Mark Ostgarden.

He continued that it means putting more of a focus on accommodating bicyclists and walkers.

Council member Dave Pritschet said the policy is more inclusive.

"It's not a mandate saying we have to do this. It's making sure pedestrians aren't afterthoughts," he said.

Council member Sue Hilgart added that the more the council thinks about those who are handicapped as well, the better.

In other Brainerd City Council news:

Ostgarden said he was concerned with the recently released preliminary altered pay grade, assigned points and title change in his position.

He asked the council to reevaluate the initial changes proposed by Springsted, which was hired in 2013 to complete a position classification and job evaluation study for each department and employee in the city.

Ostgarden argued that as department head, the assigned points should exceed any non-department head position. He also said the title should be "director" and not "coordinator" as proposed by Springsted.

All other department heads are on a higher pay grade and points value than his position, yet Ostgarden says he oversees several more areas for the city including zoning, planning and development.

City council member Gabe Johnson said he agreed with Ostgarden's points, but doesn't want to vote to make changes to Springsted's evaluation study before it was completed.

That will be within the next several months.

The council voted to take no action yet, but to continue to review the situation as more information becomes available.

Voting against the move was council member Kelly Bevans, who said he wouldn't vote in favor of any motion to "do nothing."

Heard an update from City Attorney Eric Quiring on what the city can do when it comes to problem rental properties.

Council member Kelly Bevans asked for the topic to be discussed, noting that residents deserve answers, referring to the homicide on Juniper Street earlier this year.

Quiring said he's looking at ways to revise the current ordinance to make the rental enforcement policy better, whether it mean a more streamlined process, or more simple to follow, or other changes.

Held the first reading of a proposed ordinance that would raise certain fees in the building department for some permits. The move is an effort to have permit costs closer to other cities, staff say.

Heard an update on the historic water tower, which has had large pieces of grout falling off over the past several months. Staff recently found out the renovation won't be covered by insurance, but it will be reimbursed for some of the cost in investigating the problem. The city will get back $6,862.

The city was also recently awarded a $10,000 grant from the Minnesota Historical Society. The money will be used to analyze the tower, review the history of it and the condition, as well as to investigate the possibility of building a dome over the roof.

That work will be done over the next year and results should be ready by late next fall. With the results, the city will be able to apply for more grants in the repair, said City Engineer Jeff Hulsether.

Pieces of grout can still fall from the tower bowl, he said. The dry winter has resulted in fewer chunks falling, but that can change when more moisture comes.

Voted to continue downtown landscaping procedures the same way they've done in the past. Recently, Ed Menk of E.L. Menk Jewelers asked the council if he could take over the four planters near his shop instead of just the one immediate in front of it.

The planters are kept up by the city through a contractor, and the cost is assessed back to business owners, along with other costs like snow plowing.

In Menk's request, he asked he not be assessed the normal costs since he'd be taking care of half of the planters out of his own pocket.

City staff said it could get messy splitting up the assessments and the costs once paid by Menk would have to fall on someone.

Voting against the move were council members Mary Koep and Dave Pritschet.

Koep said the city should encourage property owners who are willing to show that initiative.

Voted to adopt a support resolution of the League of Minnesota Cities, supporting dedicated state funding for city streets.

Voted to re-adopt a resolution enabling legislation to authorize supporting dedicated state funding district.

It's a re-adoption of a resolution dealing with street improvement districts put out by the League of Minnesota Cities.

It allows a city to establish the districts to help fund pavement preservation projects, resurfacing and reconstruction projects, potentially without special assessments or local levies and bonding.

If passed, the properties in the districts would be assessed a fee to fund the projects in the districts.

Voting against was Koep, who said it's a "wolf in sheep's clothing."

It will give people less opportunity to speak and it will still cost them money, she said.

Approved a union contract the IAFF (firefighters) for the year 2014 and a second contract for the years 2015-17.

JESSIE PERRINE may be reached at jessie.perrine@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/brainerdnews.

Jessie Perrine
Jessie covers the Brainerd City Council and the Brainerd School Board. Born and raised in southern Minnesota, Jessie attended Winona State University, where she majored in journalism with a minor in women and gender studies. She worked at the Winona Daily News, Tomah Journal and the La Crosse Tribune before starting at the Dispatch in 2012.
(218) 855-5859
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