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Mayor King proclaims Welcoming Week

Council continues budget talk

Mayor Steve King proclaimed Sept. 10-19 as “Welcoming Week” during the Austin City Council’s regular meeting Tuesday evening.

Welcoming Week, created by Welcoming America, celebrates community diversity and raises awareness of the benefits of welcoming everyone. The City of Austin has participated in Welcoming Week every year since 2016.

“Austin’s success depends on making sure that all residents and community members feel welcome here,” King said. “Today, new residents are a vital part of our community – bringing fresh perspectives and new ideas, starting businesses and contributing to the vibrant diversity and the quality of life that we all value for current and future generations.”

Welcoming Week will consist of the following activities, all of which are open to the public:

Sunday, Sept. 12

• Multicultural Potluck and Tree Sculpture Reveal, 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the Hormel Institute.

Monday, Sept. 13

• Write on Race to be Right on Race Kickoff, 6 p.m. at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center Interpretive Center.

Tuesday, Sept. 14

• Immigrant Voices, Immigrant Stories, noon at the Riverland Community College Library.

• Immigrant-owned Business Bike Tour, 6-7:30 p.m. at a meeting place to be determined.

Wednesday, Sept. 15

• Flag Walk, 1:30 p.m. at Sumner Elementary School.

• Immigrant and Refugee Business Panel, 3-4 p.m. at Launch.

• Inviting Table Dinner, 5-7 p.m. at Austin Congregational UCC.

Thursday, Sept. 16

• Citizenship Day Celebration, 11 a.m. to noon at Riverland Community College.

Friday, Sept. 17

• YMCA Free Family Fun Night, 6-8 p.m. at the YMCA at the Austin Recreational Center.

• Fiesta Latina, 7-11 p.m. in the parking lot of Tienda Y Taqueria Guerrero.

The Austin Public Library will also host a daily storytime event with a different reader everyday from Sept. 13-17. For times, visit www.aplmn.org or call 507-433-2391.

The council unanimously approved a sidewalk improvement assessment for Eighth Street Northwest (Eighth Avenue to 13th Avenue Northwest) at a public hearing during the meeting.

Neither the council nor City Engineer Steven Lang received any objections about the assessment, which will assess expenses in the total of $8,421.41 at 3.5% interest for 15 years to adjacent properties.

The council voted in favor of revising current city liquor regulations to allow for more than one on-sale license to any one person or place. It also raised the limit of on-sale liquor licenses that the city can issue to exclusive bars from 16 to the state-allowed 18.

The council also unanimously approved opening the free yard waste site at the Cook Farm from Sept. 18 though Nov. 27.

The council continued discussing the 2022 budget during the work session following the meeting. A request by Councilman Oballa Oballa (First Ward) to increase the Welcome Center funding from $7,500 to $8,000 and a request from Councilman Jeff Austin (At-Large) to increase funding for the Human Rights Commission from $5,000 to $6,500 were approved.

The council discussed whether or not to bring back in-house tree trimming services as part of the budget discussion. The city opted to contract with Albert Lea Tree Service as part of a pilot program for fiscal year 2021. The council decided to return tree trimming service to in-house under the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department for next year’s budget.

The proposed tax levy for 2022 is currently at $7,950,000, an increase of 6.91% from 2021, the equivalent of about $37 a year in property taxes on a home valued at $100,000. Some members of the council asked Administrative Services Director Tom Dankert to look at ways to possibly lower it to 6.5%.

The council will vote on setting the tax levy during the Sept. 20 meeting, after which it will be submitted to Mower County and the State of Minnesota. Under Minnesota statute, the tax levy may be decreased, but not increased, after Sept. 30.