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Christmas decorations, Nature Center goats on council agenda

The Austin City Council will vote during its next regular meeting on approving the use of $2,500 from the City’s contingency budget to replace light bulbs in the City’s snowflake Christmas decorations.

The City has received comments from the general public regarding the condition of the existing Christmas decorations. The Council hoped to address the issue further; however, because the COVID-19 pandemic has caused uncertainty about the budget, the City’s Christmas decorations are not high priority.

City Engineer Steven Lang recommended the $2,500 expenditure with the goal of getting an additional five years of use from the snowflake decorations.

The Council will also vote on a resolution urging the Minnesota Legislature to pass a bonding bill. The Legislature failed to pass a bonding bill in 2019 and has not done so this year either, both in regular and special sessions.

The City relies on bonding bill funds for infrastructure expenses and addressing economic challenges. The resolution will be sent to Rep. Jeanne Poppe (DFL-27B), Sen. Dan Sparks (DFL-27), Gov. Tim Walz and House and Senate leadership.

During the Council’s work session, Austin Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Nelson will ask the Council for approval of a free trial use of fenced-in goats at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center. The purpose of the goats would be for the removal of woody invasive species. The goats would be contained by an appropriately signed low-voltage electric fence.

Nelson will also ask the council to consider the reduction or elimination of mowing at certain parks and green spaces throughout the city. Areas include Sterling Park, Mapleview Islands, Sutton Park South, Northwest Park, Knob Hill, Old Mat Company, Wildwood Park, Goat Hill, 18th Street Southwest, and the area behind Runnings.

The trial use of the goats and the mowing recommendations were both approved by the Austin Park and Recreations Board.

City Administrator Craig Clark will seek Council approval for the City’s participation in the Mower County small business relief grants program, which comes from CARES Act funds, and Administrative Services Director Tom Dankert will continue the discussion on the 2021 budget during the work session.

The Council’s next regular meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 17, in the City Council Chambers located in the basement of Austin City Hall. The work session will take place in the City Council Chamber immediately following the meeting. Some members may participate by telephone or other electronic means. 

Any citizen wishing to monitor the meeting from a remote location should do so by tuning in to Charter Channel 180. Anyone not able to do so, or anyone wishing to address the council should contact City Clerk Ann Kasel at 437-9943 to make arrangements in advance. Any citizen wishing to monitor the work session from a remote location should also contact Kasel to make arrangements.