‘Throwbot’ ranks high in council priorities for grants

Published 8:17 am Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Austin City Council reviewed and ranked Hormel Foundation Grant requests for 2018 during its work session on Monday evening.

The Hormel Foundation asked the council to review the 13 requests and rank them.

The council rankings are:

1. (tie) Austin Police Department Throwbot

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Requested: $16,264

Points: 67

The Throwbot XTA is a small, battery-powered, remote controlled robot that moves on two wheels. It is a tool for police to assess situations, particularly those involving an armed and distressed individual, without putting anyone in harm’s way.

1. (tie) Riverside Arena scoreboard and speakers/video

Requested: $240,000

Points: 67

Riverside Arena would get a 4-sided display scoreboard with speakers suspended over the center of the rink. The video display would be an LED video board mounted on the north wall. The cost could be split among several years, according to Austin Parks and Recreation Director Kim Underwood.

3. Targeted area redevelopment

Requested: $300,000      

Points: 65

The project would target blighted residential property in two specific neighborhoods for redevelopment. Chosen based on blight and potential for redevelopment are:

• Eighth Avenue Northeast — The north side of Eighth Avenue from Eighth Street going east to the railroad right of way.

•Post Office area – East of the Post Office bounded by First Street on the west, Oakland Avenue on the north, Fourth Street on the east and Third Avenue on the south.

4. Recreational Center pedestrian improvements

Requested: $100,000      

Points: 64

Traffic and pedestrian improvements for Fourth Avenue Northeast are expected to be required as part of the Rec Center project. Possible options

include a signal light at Fourth Avenue and Fourth Street Northeast and traffic calming devices, such as bump outs for safer pedestrian crossing. The project will also include tree plantings to make the space greener.

5. Jay C. Hormel Nature Center educational programs

Requested: $40,000

Points: 63

The primary purpose of this program is to provide financial support for Mower County K-12 students, non-profit and public to attend the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center environmental education and outdoor education programs.

6. Fire Prevention and Education

Requested: $6,000      

Points: 59

Each year, fire personnel provide training and educational materials to area community members and elementary students. These fire training and educational programs provide fire safety awareness and home prevention to adults and youth.

7. Jay C. Hormel Nature Center comprehensive trail and land use plan

Requested: $90,000     

Points: 52

A comprehensive trail and land use master plan for the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center, Todd Park and Ramsey Dam area will guide expansion and connectivity to other park areas with local trails and trails that will also pass through the community. This plan will also allow the Nature Center to apply for Regional Significance status, which in turn opens up legacy grant funding opportunities.

8. Fire extinguisher education and training

Requested: $10,700      

Points: 47

Fire extinguisher education and training is offered to businesses and industries within the Austin community providing work place and home fire safety. The purchase of this equipment will offer the Austin community a more flexible schedule to meet the needs of business and industry.

9.  Austin Public Library hotspot data plan

Requested: $45,000      

Points: 41

A main goal of the Austin Public Library is to bridge the digital divide. Roughly 15 percent to 20 percent of Austin school children live in homes without Internet access, while many more live in homes without reliable access they can use with a school-issued laptop. Many low-income adults live without home Internet access. The project provides people with a way to “borrow the Internet” so people no longer are limited by library hours and ability to get to the library.

10. New turf at the Riverland Community College Stadium baseball field

Requested: $1 million (to be paid in installments of $200,000 over five years)      

Points: 36

Turf allows for field availability during early season conditions. During the high school and college season, this field has limited practice opportunities as too much use will breakdown the field. This would bring other teams to town to play and help with recruiting for the college players.

11. Community solar engagement

Requested: $5,000      

Points: 32

This project would help fund an awareness campaign for Austin Utilities’ SolarChoice community solar program.

12. Public Art Place-making

Requested: $5,000      

Points: 31

The city of Austin was named one of five Minnesota cities by Forecast Public Art in conjunction with American Planning Association to participate in a pilot program for public art and place-making. Each city is required to contribute $5,000 and the second $5,000 may be from any source.

13. Spamtown Belle Operation

Requested: $1,500      

Points: 13

The Spamtown Belle paddles around East Side Lake from June through September. This funding request would ensure that the program runs another season.

Requests for new doors at Riverside Arena and a new slide at the Austin Municipal Swimming Pool, costing $25,000 and $100,000 respectively, have been carried over and included in the Hormel Foundation’s annual allocation for 2018.

The results will be submitted to the Hormel Foundation for their consideration.