Construction season comes calling

by April Scheinoha

    The pages are turning on 2016, and the Thief River Falls City Council is making plans for the 2017 construction season. At its meeting Tuesday, Dec. 20, the council called for a feasibility report for the 2017 street and utilities improvements.
    The potential 2017 projects include:
    • Reconstruction of the Ole Engelstad Park tennis courts
    • Edge mill and overlay of Oakland Park Road
    • Edge mill and overlay of Evergreen Street
    • Full mill and overlay of southwest area streets
    • Reconstruction of Zeh Street
    • Street construction of Eastwood Drive
    • Construction of a sidewalk along Arnold Avenue near Lincoln High School
    • Street construction of Hanson Drive from Willow Court to Pennington County Road 62
    • Water main replacement underneath Reserve Avenue from Seventh Street to Riverview Trailer Court
    • Overlay of miscellaneous trails
    • Mill and overlay of miscellaneous alleys in the Central Business District
    • Full mill and overlay of Riverdale Drive
    • Edge mill and overlay of Jerome Street and Columbia Avenue
    • Water main replacement underneath State Avenue from Zeh to Backe streets
    • Storm sewer repairs underneath Westview Avenue
    As it stands now, if all of the above items were approved, the 2017 Street and Utilities Improvement is estimated to cost $1.97 million.
    As part of its consent agenda, the council approved a resolution of support for Discovery Place’s application for a Greater Minnesota Child Care Grant. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development has authorized $500,000 for the grant program, which would assist in increasing the number of childcare providers outside of the Twin Cities. The grant program would help fund such things as the start-up or expansion of childcare facilities; training; and facility modifications or improvements required for licensing. Recipients would be required to match the grant amount on a dollar-for-dollar basis.
    When contacted by The Times, Dayna Bruggeman, Discovery Place director, declined to comment.
    The council approved vacating the Greenwood Street right-of-way where the street was located prior to the realignment. The property is north of the intersection of the realigned street and the frontage road.
    Community Services Director Mark Borseth said 0.32 acres of right-of-way was created during the realignment. He said the city will retain a utility easement on the unbuildable parcel. Sanford Health will now take possession of the parcel and maintain it.
    City Council held a first reading of a proposed ordinance regarding sign performance standards in zoning districts. If approved, it would remove percentage limitations from the current ordinance pertaining to signs advertising the city or city facilities in the park zoning district.
    Right now, the ordinance stipulates that “up to 33 percent of the sign surface may be used to display an event.” It also indicates that “up to 20 percent may be used to display the insignia or name of any nonprofit organizations and educational institutions sponsoring the sign.”
    The proposed ordinance would also eliminate the sentence, “Letters or characters may not be changed more often than once every two hours.” Borseth said that restriction is already included in the city’s dynamic sign ordinance.
    The city plans to install an electronic sign outside of the Huck Olson Memorial Civic Center and Ralph Engelstad Arena. The sign will promote the activities of any civic or charitable cause associated with HOMCC and REA. At its last meeting, the council accepted a $65,932 bid for the sign. The city will deduct $2,590 if it installs the contractor-designed footing for the sign, which will be located along Third Street.
    The ordinance is expected to be considered at the next council meeting.
    Mayor Brian Holmer recognized Pennington County Commissioner Oliver “Skip” Swanson and Council Member Jim Strandlie, who are leaving their posts at the end of 2016.
    Swanson has served as the District 5 commissioner since 1985. He was defeated this fall by challenger Bruce Lawrence.
    Strandlie was appointed March 1 to the post of Thief River Falls council member at large. He succeeded Ken Schmalz, who died unexpectedly Jan. 22. The term is set to expire Dec. 31. Strandlie faced three challengers in the election, ultimately losing the seat to Jason Aarestad.
    Strandlie said he appreciated the experience of serving on the council and thanked his fellow council members.
    Council Member Rachel Prudhomme replied that she looked forward to seeing him wear his fabulous sweaters when he attends future council meetings as a Sons of Norway representative.
    Holmer proclaimed the week of Jan. 22-28 as Thief River Falls School Choice Week. The proclamation noted that “Thief River Falls is home to a variety of high quality public and nonpublic schools from which parents can choose for their children, in addition to families who educate their children in the home.”
    It further indicated “School Choice Week is celebrated across the country by millions of students, parents, educators, schools and organizations to raise awareness of the need for effective educational options.”