Council: Steven Lang pegged as engineer

Published 10:15 am Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Steven Lang, Austin’s assistant city engineer, will be the new city engineer and public works director if the Austin City Council has its way.

City Council members and Mayor Tom Stiehm agreed to offer Lang the position currently held by Jon Erichson, rather than go through a public interview process, at a work session Monday night. Lang will replace Erichson, who will start as executive director of Austin’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority on Feb. 1.

“We’ve got Steven here, who has basically been trained for 10 years and knows everything,” Stiehm said. “We’re just going to end up costing money bringing people down and going through a long, lengthy process and probably, I’m sure, getting Steven anyway.”

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Council members agreed, in favor of hiring from within and saving money rather than go through an interview process which would cost money.

“There’s about 85 reasons to hire Steven as a successor,” said Council Member Steve King. “I can’t think of a valid reason, other than … [to show] that we’re transparent, but then we’re spending money.”

Council Member Janet Anderson proposed hiring Lang and starting the search for a new assistant city engineer once the job opens up in February, and the council unanimously agreed on the motion.


Council goes ahead with proposed grandstand burning

It looks like the Mower County Grandstand will burn after all.

Council members will allow the Austin Fire Department to spearhead a training burn of the Mower County Fair Grandstand an update from Mower County Coordinator Craig Oscarson.

Oscarson told council members the city and county could save at least $22,000 by burning the grandstand down compared to demolishing it, based on the cost of disposing remaining debris.

“It’s basically a cost issue for us,” Oscarson said.

While it will cost $25,000 to abate the grandstand — The county received a hazardous materials report from a consultant identifying asbestos and lead in the structure which needs to be sealed and properly removed — the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency would allow the structure to be burned for training purposes.

County officials were all but certain the grandstand wouldn’t be burned after a preliminary environmental assessment found lead and asbestos, but a final report from the environmental assessor shows the grandstand would be safe to burn after the property is abated.

“It’s a win-win,” said Council Member Judy Enright. “It saves money for the county and shows the city and county working together.”

Austin Fire Chief Mickey Healey said he wished to head up the burn and work with other Mower County fire departments and Riverland Community College students for the exercise. Healey and other city officials expressed interest in getting a “hold-harmless” agreement with the county and other organizations

in case of injury or worker’s compensation. Each department is expected to take responsibility for its own employees, according to several city officials.

Oscarson said the Mower County Board is expected to make a motion at its next meeting to officially work with the city to hold the practice burn.


In other news, the council:

—Agreed to have Austin become one of 20 cities receiving help in crafting solar energy ordinances under the Minnesota Solar Challenge. Hoium said the city doesn’t have ordinances regulating solar energy production in the city, and solar panels have been treated as accessory properties until now.

Hoium will work with Minnesota Solar Challenge officials until next February to create permitting, zoning and other ordinances for solar energy.

—Approved a preliminary plat to add five houses to Dobbins Creek Estates. The property, located at the 1700 block of 28th Street NE, would also need new easements, roadway and utilities, and city officials would have to revise road and storm drainage plans. The council also set a public hearing for proposed assessments to sanitary sewer work at Dobbins Creek for Dec. 17.

—Voted to allow the city’s Planning and Zoning department to remove junk or illegally stored vehicles at 1509 First Avenue SE and 100 12th Street SE during its public meeting.