Council signs resolution for new bridge

by April Scheinoha

    The Thief River Falls City Council has approved a resolution supporting Pennington County’s Mark Boulevard bridge project. The resolution was approved at its meeting Tuesday, Aug. 16.
    Slated to be constructed in 2021, the $5 million proposed bridge is currently planned over the Red Lake River from County State Aid Highway 8 (east of Challenger Elementary School) to Mark Boulevard (north of Sanford Health).
    Discussions have also centered on the possibility of building the bridge on CSAH 7, which is located south of CSAH 8. CSAH 7 is located closer to the Thief River Falls Regional Airport, which may lead to some issues with Federal Aviation Administration requirements. The bridge is listed in the 2017-21 Road and Bridge Plan.
    City Council approved the Community Development Advisory Board Mortgage/Lease/Rent Reimbursable Plan. The plan is effective Sept. 1, 2017, to Dec. 31, 2019. The initial plan expired Dec. 31, 2016.
    In order to qualify for the plan, the business must be new to Thief River Falls and located within the General Business District (C-2) or Central Business District (C-3). Applicants must also provide three years of tax returns, a current personal financial statement and a complete business plan. A maximum of $120,000 in CDAB funds will be available over the course of the two-year program.
    Each project will be reviewed on a case by case basis. Existing competition isn’t a factor in determining participation in the plan.
    Recipients are required to provide an annual report listing the number of jobs created and/or retained. After one year of business at the same location, they will receive a cash lump sum of up to $6,000 or the actual amount of the mortgage/
lease/rental, whichever is less. If the business moves to a second location due to an expansion, it may still be eligible for the second year of the plan if additional jobs are created.
    With one abstention, the council tabled renewing the lease with the Norskies. Council Member Rachel Prudhomme abstained from voting since she is employed as the director of community outreach for the Norskies.
    Council Member Jerald Brown said there were financial issues between the Norskies and the city that needed to be resolved from the past lease. He noted Finance Director Angie Philipp needed additional information from the team.
    Brown added that scoreboard advertising funds belonged to the city. He further noted that the city would never give up naming rights for Ralph Engelstad Arena.
    The council may consider the lease at its next meeting. The Administrative Services Committee was scheduled to meet prior to that time in an effort to resolve the situation.
    City Council approved filling the position of full-time parks/arenas maintenance worker. Acting Public Works Director Mark Borseth said the city has a permanent part-time parks/arenas maintenance worker. That position assists with mowing and helps the city forester with tree removal. So far this year, 100 trees have been removed. In the event the permanent part-time parks/arena maintenance worker is selected for the full-time position, the part-time position will be unfilled.
    Kristi Hanson, director of the Northwest Regional Library System, appeared before the council. Hanson presented information about the Thief River Falls Public Library.
    Hanson is seeking a 2 percent increase in city funding for the library in 2018. This year, the city is contributing $165,738. A 2 percent increase would amount to an additional $3,315. The council is currently in the process of determining the preliminary 2018 city budget.
    It costs about $285,000 each year to operate the library. The state of Minnesota hasn’t increased its public funding for libraries.
    The library has seen some changes recently. The use of Wi-Fi has increased, which led the library to increase its broadband capabilities. Meanwhile, the use of public computers has decreased at the library. As a result, the library decreased the number of public use computers from 13 to seven.
    The library continues to circulate more books than any other library materials, Hanson said. It also finds a large number of patrons seek access to its public use copier and fax machine.
    The next council meeting is scheduled Tuesday, Sept. 5 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. The council is expected to meet as the Committee of the Whole following that meeting.