City of Tower moves projects forward, slowly

Again considers combining fire departments with Breitung Township 

TUESDAY, October 10, 2017 — The Tower City Council met Tuesday evening to conduct its regular business and took action which will help some of its projects move forward. Acting Mayor Lance Dougherty called the meeting to order in Mayor Josh Carlson’s absence. Tackling the first business item on the agenda, correspondence from Breitung Township Chairman Tim Tomsich, Dougherty provided the council with a review of the status on combining the two communities’ fire departments into one department. Dougherty said that the project reached an impasse when Breitung decided to utilize its existing Minos building, which will become vacant in November, as a new firehall facility rather than continuing to work towards building a new joint firehall. The general consensus of the city council was to continue towards combining the fire departments.

Breitung Supervisor Greg Dostert reported the Breitung Fire Department is “one hundred percent in favor of a merger.” He cited a need for a joint building “but a fire department only,” referring to Tower’s previous desire to build a new government complex capable of housing all of the city’s firehall, ambulance, city hall and the maintenance department. “I don’t want to say that I wasted my time for four years. If you don’t want to merge, kill this thing now. I’m tired of waiting around,” Dostert concluded.

Dougherty noted that although a combined fire department would save money, there will also be some additional expenses incurred. The city council unanimously decided to table any further consideration towards combining fire departments into a single department until the Tower firefighters were consulted and a full, five-member, council was available. It is expected the city council will again visit Breitung Township’s request to move forward on combining the fire departments at its October 23 meeting.

Mayor Josh Carlson arrived from work at 5:55 p.m. and Dougherty turned the gavel over to the mayor. The meeting continued with a report on the upcoming Hoodoo Point Campground project. The city is awaiting bids to complete the campground expansion and update the wastewater infrastructure. The bids will be opened on October 27 and it is expected the city council will hold a special meeting on October 30 to review and award the contract.

The city council unanimously voted to award the interior painting of the Civic Center to Vermilion Painting LLC at an estimated cost of $4,900. City Clerk-Treasurer Linda Keith reported that Nick Levens, Vermilion Painting LLC,  has proposed completing all the necessary work in about a week’s time, around the Thanksgiving holiday, which will not conflict with any scheduled activities at the Civic Center.

During the September 25 city council meeting, Orlyn Kringstad asked the city to consider placing a street light at the Highway 169 intersection with the driveway at the Marjo Motel. He cited alleviating safety issues as one of the primary needs for additional lighting in the area and noted that the highway bridge project, several years ago, had drastically altered the intersection creating the currently dark intersection. Mayor Carlson said that he did not believe the city has any authority to place a street light. “It’s not our pole, and it’s not our right-of-way. I don’t know that the city has any say,” Carlson said. City engineer Matt Bolf agreed with the mayor and the city council took no action on Kringstad’s request, suggesting that he work with Minnesota Power to see how the lighting issue could be resolved.

Lamppa Manufacturing made a formal request to obtain proposed Lot 2, located on the south side of highway 135, in Tower’s Industrial Park. Lamppa Manufacturing has also requested that the city waive any water and sewer hook-up charges. Bolf (SEH) explained that the lot has yet to be platted and that although the preliminary plat could easily be adjusted to meet Lamppa’s needs he emphasized that out of four proposed lots, south of Highway 135, the Minnesota Department of Transportation made it clear in 2007 that it would only permit two driveways to access the four proposed lots. Bolf urged the city to consider if it wanted to only establish three lots, or the proposed four before it finalized the plat.

Lamppa Manufacturing hopes to build a facility for its Kuuma (Green) Furnaces & (Fantastic) Sauna Stove production and negotiations are ongoing with the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB). It has not yet been determined if Lamppa Manufacturing will build the facility or if the City of Tower will seek IRRRB funding to build it and in turn lease it to Lamppa Manufacturing. “I think what Lamppa needs right now is the council’s blessing,” Mayor Carlson said. The city council offered its full support of Lamppa Manfacturing’s request and tabled the matter until a future meeting without undertaking any formal action.

In other action, the Tower City Council:

• Approved the minutes of the September 25, 2017 city meeting

• Received and noted correspondence from the Wolf Track Classic learning that the race organizers are changing its route for the 2018 race and, due to volunteer staffing requirements, it will now be ending the race in Ely instead of Tower

• Reviewed all reports received, including reports from: SEH Engineering; Ambulance Director and Fire Chief; Emergency Management Director; Breitung Police Department; Hoodoo Point Campground Committee; and the Tower Economic Development Authority

• Received an Environmental Assessment Worksheet from Dave Rose on his proposed East Two River campground. The EAW will be forwarded to SEH, the city’s engineers for review

• Approved Resolution 2017-012, establishing a Minnesota Department of Transportation Partnership Local Roads Grant application. It is expected the City will apply for money to complete the Pine Street renovations and relocation project. Up to $750,000 is available for individual small communities and the anticipated $600,000 Pine Street projects qualify for this grant, according to Bolf (SEH)

• Approved Resolution 2017-012 communicating the city’s concerns regarding devastating impacts of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s proposed water quality standards to protect wild rice

• Approved Resolution 2017-014, accepting a $2,000 gift for the Tower Ambulance Department and Resolution 2017-015, accepting a $7,500 gift from the Bois Forte Tribal Reservation

• Approved the hiring of Hunter Gilbert as an Emergency Medical Responder with the Tower Ambulance Department, subject to his successful completion of the mandatory background check

• Accepted a supplemental letter of agreement between SEH and the City of Tower

• Denied a request to increase an airport hangar site’s size to allow for a larger hangar footprint. The airport commission recommended that the city deny the request due to encroachments on the existing airport access roads

• Approved a request from Tower Harbor Shores LLC to delay principal reduction payments on its development loan with the city until June 2018

• Accepted a letter outlining the city’s desire to engage Dougherty & Company LLC as the underwriter and placement agent for Park and Recreation Revenue Bonds and approved Resolution 2017-016 declaring the city’s intent to reimburse certain expenditures from the proceeds of the bonds to be issued by the city. The resolution and supplemental paperwork puts the city in a position to pay for the upcoming Hoodoo Point Campground project through bonding. The city expects that the money to pay the bonds will be generated through the business increase realized by the campground expansion.