City council takes action to advance RENU projects

NEW ULM — The city council authorized multiple recommendations from the RENU Oversight Committee Tuesday.

RENU stands for Reinvest in New Ulm, an effort to fun city infrastructure improvements through a local sales tax.

During the June 7 meeting of the RENU Oversight Committee it was unanimously recommended the city authorize several requests for proposals (RFPs).

The first set of RFPs was for an indoor waterpark, indoor playground, gymnastics center and wellness center. The committee also recommended a construction manager oversee these projects as all four are planned to be at the Recreation Center.

Park and Recreation Director Tom Schmitz said staff recommended using a construction manager because there was no one on staff to manage four projects at once.

Schmitz confirmed the RENU funds could be used for the construction manager position.

City Manager Brian Gramentz explained the purpose of the construction manager was to work with the architect to find cost savings on and monitor the projects. The main reason the Oversight Committee recommended a construction manager for these four projects is because they are large scale projects at one facility.

Gramentz said the other three RENU projects don’t require a construction manager because they are smaller-scale and less complicated.

Councilor Larry Mack made the motion to authorize the first series of RFPs and review bids for construction manager services. The motion was unanimously approved.

Next, the council authorized RFPs for the architectural engineering of the Johnson Park grandstand, Hermann Heights Park and the multi-purpose dome projects. For these three projects, city staff will act as the construction manager.

A third authorization was approved for soil boring at the Recreation Center. Prior to engineering design for the proposed addition, the committee recommended preliminary samples be taken to determine if the projects were feasible at this location.

The last recommendation from the RENU Committee was to allow staff to research and report back on alternative sites for a multi-purpose dome project. Originally the city considered placing the dome over the new high school football field. Staff are continuing to work with the school district, but requested permission to seek out alternatives.

Schmitz said if the dome were located at the school it would only be used four months out of the year. At a city-owned location it could become a year-round domed facility. In addition, a temporary dome at the high school would incur additional costs associated with the take down and setup of the dome each year. The city would also need to provide storage for the dome in the off season.

Councilor Lisa Fischer made the motion for staff to research alternative dome sites and report back to the committee. The motion was approved by the council.

Kennel Construction

The Police Department requested the construction and relocation of a kennel for the animal control division. According to meeting documents, the current kennel is in need of considerable repair. Animal Control Officer Keith Anderson said the kennel was leaking water during recent rain which damaged a wall beyond repair.

The new kennel was first proposed as an integrated police and fire storage building, but due to a requirement for 1,000-foot distance separation from any residential district, this plan was not possible.

The estimated cost for the building is $50,000. Anderson said this cost included new cat and dog kennels for the facility. He believed the new cages would save the city in the long term as they should not need to be replaced.

The council approved the building construction at the associated cost.

Planner Position

A new position was approved for the community development office. Currently the administrative assistant and a part-time inspection technician positions are in need of filling. After a year of advertising, the positions remain unfilled and the personnel committee decided to create a single full-time planner position for the city.

The new position would be responsible for miscellaneous tasks in the building official’s job description and allow the building inspector to focus on code enforcement.

The planner would also help Community Development Director David Schnobrich complete the zoning ordinance and other administrative functions and assist in succession planning for the community development director.

Adding this position will result in an estimated increase of $45,000 in annual wages and benefits. Some of this would be offset by the increased cost savings from new software and income from Courtland Inspection. This still leaves an approximate annual shortfall of $17,000.

Councilor Fisher supported the position because it will provide better service for the community in the future.

Oak Street, Minnesota Street Parking

The council approved a new parking restriction on Highland Avenue. The Safety Commission previously recommended establishing no parking on the North Highland Avenue for 100 feet north and south of Oak Street.

Traffic at this location has increased since the construction of the new high school. The Safety Commission believes eliminating parking on North Highland would provide better sight distances and create safer conditions for motorists and pedestrians.

Councilor Les Schultz said it was a major safety issue and highly recommended approving it. The resolution was unanimously accepted by the council.

The Safety Commission also recommended establishing angle parking on the east side of Minnesota Street between 1st and 2nd South Street in front of the new City Center Apartments complex. The apartment complex is expected to be occupied later this summer, and the angle parking would provide 10 parking spaces, two handicap stalls and a bus loading area.

City Engineer Steve Koehler said the new layout would create additional parking and left enough space for the driving lane.

Councilor David Christian made the motion to approve. He said the layout fit with the apartment complex. The motion was unanimously approved.

Trap and Skeet Range

The council approved a resolution authorizing a grant application to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in the amount of $15,000 for Trap and Skeet Range improvements, with an equal amount of local cash or in-kind match. The Sioux Valley Gun Club and other users of the City Trap and Skeet Facility are requesting the addition of a combination trap and skeet field.