City Council listens to public’s concerns

Published 8:54 am Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Austin City Council took the latest Conversations with the Council meeting to heart.

Council members met with city staff during their work session Monday night to go over resident complaints, from getting more information on meetings out to the public to formalizing the city’s own emergency plan.

Council member Judy Enright said the 11 residents who attended brought forth about 11 complaints and concerns for the city to address, including criticism over the city’s handling of the fire department’s scheduling switch, ordinance enforcement — including taking down garage sale signs and catching motorists who speed in neighborhoods — and various residences and businesses collecting junk.

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One resident expressed concern over the city’s emergency management plan. Police Chief Brian Krueger told council members the city was covered by the county’s emergency management plan in the past, but city staff were working with county staff to produce an Austin-specific emergency management plan.

Enright said residents who attended the meeting also wanted the city to do something about the parking lots at Oak Park Mall. Mayor Tom Stiehm said the city has previously contacted the mall’s owners to repair the numerous potholes and other disrepair, but nothing had come of discussions. Community Development Director Craig Hoium said he would contact the mall’s owners about the parking lot at some point this week.

In other news, the council:

—Approved a $10,000 donation to Vision 2020 organizers for rebranding efforts for the city. The council preliminarily approved the measure at its last work session, when Laura Helle, Vision 2020’s director of creative vision, approached the council with the request.

—Finished documents for the Economic Development Administration at the Austin City Council meeting Monday to complete a $5 million grant for the North Main Flood Project. The project was supposed to be done this year, but the city hit a snag after the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency found soil contamination from the old Sinclair Gas Station site. The city struck a deal to buy the property from the Sinclair Oil Company earlier this year, in order to remain eligible for the $5 million grant. Public Works Director Steven Lang said the city expects to start work this fall, as long as the EDA confirms the grant this summer. The project will take about 18 months and should wrap up in spring 2015.

—Approved a sign appeal by AmericInn Motel to put a sign on property owned by HyVee Foods near Interstate 90 and the Highway 218 exit.

—Declined the option to purchase a parking lot at Second Street and First Avenue Northwest which formerly serviced the old public library. Mower County technically owns and uses the lot for parking near the Law Enforcement Center, but county officials have expressed interest in building a new parking lot north of the county Jail and Justice Center. The old parking lot will likely be sold to a private entity, while the city will ask the county to at least build the same number of parking spots at a new lot.