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PUC approves installation of power plant portrait

NEW ULM — German Park may soon be watched by the eyes of surveyor Christian Prignitz.

New Ulm Public Utilities Commission approved the installation of an aluminum portrait of Prignitz to the north side of the Power Plant building facing German Park.

Denis Warta gave a short presentation Christian Prignitz. He said Prignitz was a pioneer surveyor and in 1858 drew the plat of New Ulm. This plat design was unique because it featured wide streets before automobiles and the inclusion of public parks, gardening plots, market squares, and urban forests.

Warta said Prignitz wanted the urban forests in the area where the public utility building now sits. The idea was to use trees to absorb smoke from the mills.

Warta said his design for New Ulm was one of a few city plats that did not need to be updated in 150 years. Warta said only another city with this distinction was New York.

The portrait of Prignitz would overlook German Park, which he designed in his original plat. The portrait will be lit with solar panels at night and will likely incorporate a security camera to monitor the park. Warta said he is applying for an arts grant to cover the cost of the portrait and installation. Maintenance to the portrait should be limited to changing the solar light.

Utility Director Kris Manderfeld said PUC staff is willing to allow the portrait on the tower, but want to perform a structural analysis to ensure public safety. In addition, staff wanted this brought before the Park and Recreation Commission.

There were concerns about how the portrait would hold up with vapor coming off the cooling towers. Commissioner William Swan said materials do come off the tower, but believed the portrait could be coated to prevent damage.

Warta said he brought this before the PUC first since the portrait will be attached to their building, but he will bring this before the Park and Recreation Commission next.

Commissioner Sean Fingland asked if Prignitz had a clean background. In a world wear Confederate statues are being pulled down, Fingland wanted to be sure Prignitz had a good moral character.

Warta said the Brown County Historical Society and Courthouse had documented Prignitz past.

Fingland made the motion to approve the request subject to structural analysis and approval of the Park and Recreation Department.

The motion passed unanimously.

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The Long Term Power Committee will likely be dissolved based on a recommendation from the staff.

The Long Term Power Committee was first formed in 2005 as a Generation Plant Project Committee with the purpose of providing oversight and direction to research the viability of coal-fired electric baseload generation plant. The committee was tabled in 2006 but was resurrected in 2015 to research long term transmission issues.

Manderfeld felt all the PUC commissioners should be aware of the issues being discussed at Long Term Power meetings and wanted to change it to a work session format.

Swan said the Long Term Power committee has lost its way and already had a narrow focus. He said committees were starting to plan the future of public utilities, but he believed this belonged in the hands of all the PUC commissioners.

“I think [Long Term Power] has served its usefulness,” Swan said and supported Manderfeld’s decision to change the committee to a work session format.

The commissioners passed a motion to consider approving the dissolution of the Long Term Power Committee.

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The commission authorized the City Manager to accept the proposal of $14,000 for the high-level assessment of New Ulm’s viability of becoming a Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO).

Manderfeld said the PUC is currently paying people for transmission, but if New Ulm develops its own transmission the PUC will see cost savings. This viability assessment is the first step to determining if this becoming a MISO is feasible.

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