Council to discuss incentives, Welcome Week

Published 10:01 am Monday, September 5, 2016

The Austin City Council has a busy night ahead on Tuesday.

The council will meet for its regularly schedule meeting in the council chambers of Austin City Hall,500 Fourth Ave. NE, at 5:30 p.m. with a work session to follow.

Here are a few highlights of what the council will discuss:

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 Grow Austin

In the work session, City Administrator Craig Clark and Development Corporation of Austin Executive Director John Garry are slated to discuss the Grow Austin Incentive Package, a plan to “Make Austin a leader in economic development growth while focusing on adding quality paying jobs and tax base enhancement.”

The idea is to have an easily understandable program that rewards local and new businesses to the community for capital investment and new quality jobs. Austin’s proposed program builds upon the state’s Job Creation Fund, Capital Investment Rebate and Job Training programs.

The programs provide resources for businesses that have capital improvements of $500,000 and more as well as those that create at least 10 jobs above $12.85 and/or extending grant resources of up to $400,000 for those businesses who need training for new employees.

The local incentives package could provide familiarity for business expansions that may be looking at other Minnesota communities, but enhancements could allow Austin to position itself above other communities’s offerings and give reasons to choose Austin.

 Welcome week

Sept. 16 to 25 will be a time for Austin to make all feel welcome.

The council voted in July to join Welcome America, an Atlanta, Georgia-based membership program of about 75 to 100 members offering tools, resources, webinars and toolkits from other communities who have tried and had success with becoming a more welcoming community.

Now, Mayor Tom Stiehm is set to declare Sept. 15-25 Welcome Week 2016, as it will be seen as a week to celebrate the community’s vibrant diversity and success that stems from being a welcoming community.

“I invite all residents of Austin to join this movement of communities nationwide by renewing our commitment to our core American values and by taking action in the spirit of welcoming,” Stiehm’s proclamation reads. “By working together, we can achieve greater prosperity and make our community the kind of place where diverse people from around the world feel valued and want to put down roots.”

Several events are planned for the week, including a Lights on After School event at the YMCA, the Austin Area Chamber of Commerce will sponsor a 5K and food drive, and a Human Rights Commission event is planned to discuss barriers to being a welcoming community.

The Community Learning Center, the South Sudanese, the United Way of Mower County, Austin Literacy Group, Mower County Health and Human Services and The Hormel Institute’s Mentor Group all have events planned.

 City Hall remodel ticks ahead

The city of Austin is getting ready to remodel City Hall to bring most of its offices under one roof and help improve accessibility to the public.

On Tuesday, staff is recommending the council approve a $8,888 bid for a security access system in City Hall, along with a $12,033.02 bid to Precision Signs for new signage at City Hall.

After the remodel, the former Austin Utilities space will house most of the city’s administrative and finance offices along with Mayor Tom Stiehm, Administrator Craig Clark and other offices.

Austin Parks and Recreation will move into the current administrative office area on the ground floor.

The city’s engineering departments — like public works, storm water, building inspections and such — will also move to the old Austin Utilities engineering area on the second floor.

The council is also set to discuss water leaks in the basement.

 Visual Quality Manuel takes shape

A Vision 2020-backed plan to beautify the bridges along Interstate 90 through Austin is nearing completion.

In Tuesday’s work session, Public Works Director Steven Lang is slated to present on the completed Visual Quality Manual.

The manual will serve as a guide as bridges are replaced in the community, and it intends to tap into existing architecture from landmarks like Austin High School, the First National Bank building, St. Olaf Church, St. Augustine Church, Queen of Angels and others when determining aesthetics for the bridges.

The plan will also include landscaping around the bridges.

The 11th Drive Northeast bridge slated for replacement next year will be the first bridge completely reconstructed through the plan, though the Oakland Place Northeast bridge set to be replaced this winter will include a few additions inspired by the manual.