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Public hearings, 2020 Freedom Fest on the council agenda

The Austin City Council will be voting to set public hearing dates for the Waste Water Treatment Facility Plan and adoption of the 5-year Capital Improvement Plan for Dec. 2 and Dec. 16, respectively, during its next regular meeting.

City Engineer Steven Lang provided the council with several waste water treatment plant design options during its work session meeting on Nov. 4. Lang is recommending an option that would utilize a combined activated sludge treatment process, which would work for current and future water regulations.

The cost of such a facility is estimated to be $77.9 million; the city has been actively seeking grant funds to help offset the cost.

The city is looking at waste water treatment plant options as a means to upgrade the 80-year-old existing facility and allow it to meet phosphorus discharge regulations set by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

The 5-Year Capital Improvement Plan outlines the estimated schedule, timing and details of specific capital improvements, as well as estimated costs, the source of revenue and the need for the improvement, over the next five years.

The council will also vote to approve or deny an ordinance to amend the future land use plan from mixed high density residential to commercial and rezone a property from “R-2” multi-family residential to “B-2” commercial for the property located at 1500 Seventh Ave. NW. The council initially voted 5-2 in favor of the amendment, with Councilmembers Laura Helle and Steve King casting the dissenting votes, during the Nov. 4 meeting; however, the adoption and publication of the ordinance must be approved unanimously on the first vote. Because it was not, the vote had to be rescheduled for the following meeting, where a majority vote would allow for the adoption and publication of the amendment.

City Administrator Craig Clark will be discussing extending the housing tax abatement, the application date of which expires on Dec. 31, during the council’s next work session. Originally passed by the city in August 2016, the housing tax abatement allows for a five-year tax abatement for any new single or multi-family housing. To date, the city has approved 40 housing tax abatements, though not all have moved forward with construction.

Mower County voted to renew its housing tax abatement program for another three years earlier this month.

The council will discuss the city’s involvement in the 2020 Freedom Fest during the work session.

The Austin Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors voted in September to no longer have the Chamber plan the event as in previous years. The Board’s decision came as a result of Chamber’s “limited staff and a declining volunteer base,” Chamber President Elaine Hansen said in a previous story.

The Chamber will continue to organize the annual Fourth of July parade.

According to a letter from City Clerk Ann Kasel, “The City has looked for partners for the festival but no groups have stepped forward yet…” Mayor Tom Stiehm has proposed the city plan the event with Kasel serving as coordinator.

Stiehm has proposed the following format:

  • One-day celebration on July 4 sponsored by the city, Austin Utilities and the Hormel Foundation (other major community donors to be determined);
  • Entertainment from 2-10 p.m. at Bandshell Park;
  • Food vendors from 2-10 p.m. at Bandshell Park; and
  • Fireworks extravaganza at 10 p.m. at Bandshell Park.

The council’s next regular meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 18, in the City Council Chambers located in the basement of City Hall. The work session will be held in the conference room across the hall from the Council Chambers immediately following the meeting.

For a complete agenda, visit www.ci.austin.mn.us/city-council.