SLEEPY EYE - By a 2-1 vote Tuesday, the Sleepy Eye City Council approved a request to install a 3.51 kilowatt photovoltaic solar panel system on a downtown building.
Councilor Nathan Stevermer cast a dissenting vote on Tim Zinniel's request to install 15 solar modules above apartment windows on the front of the former Sellner Variety & Crafts store, 128 East Main St.
"I'm afraid about setting a precedent," Stevermer said.
Councilor Richard Zinniel abstained from voting, citing a possible conflict of interest, but appeared hesitant.
"I'm concerned about downtown buildings," Richard Zinniel said.
Councilor Judy Beech was not at the meeting.
Councilor Joe Schieffert said he favored the project because he liked seeing good things happen on Main Street.
Tim Zinniel said the solar panels would have minimal visual impact on the building, which already has a metal canopy extending over the sidewalk. The solar panels would be installed above apartment windows at a 45-degree angle, extending from near the top of apartment windows to slightly above the top of the building wall cap.
Zinniel said the solar panel would not work on the building roof because there was too much shade from an adjacent building.
In a letter to Sleepy Eye City Manager Mark Kober dated Jan. 4, Tim Zinniel stated that the solar panels would "form an awning look" for the building's second-floor apartments. They would generate about 4,557 annual kilowatt hours of electricity to offset about half of power for apartments.
Zinniel said he planned to order the panels on Wednesday. He also said he is considering installing future electric car-charging stations in front of the downtown building.
He would not confirm or deny future plans about moving his electrical business into the former variety and crafts store.
In other action, councilors ordered improvements and preparations for final plans and specifications for the $5.82 million 2012 Street & Utility project. It includes 267 property owner assessments, mostly on the south end of town, along much of Water Street.
Councilors agreed with Schieffert's suggestion of including two alternate project plans including work in the southwest corner of the city, to avoid having to rebid if bids came in too high.
If project bids come in under the engineer's estimate, the project will be paid for using bonds and would not cause higher taxes next year.
Project bids are set to be opened by the city council on Tuesday, March 20. Project contracts would be awarded on Thursday, March 22.
Property owners will be assessed all costs for curb and gutter, sidewalks, driveway approaches and sanitary service. Sleepy Eye Public Utilities pays for all water improvements.
Kober said the 2012 Corn Day parade route will have to be rerouted due to the project set to take place from May 15 to Oct. 31.
Several property owners spoke during a preliminary hearing.
Retired councilor Harold Windschitl said the sanitary sewer work on Maple Street is "long overdue."
Jim Sellner said he planned to do his own driveway approach with steel rods. Steel-reinforced concrete is not part of city specifications, City Engineer Dave Palm said. He said such plans were fine as long as people who wanted to do their own work told him within a week.
In another matter, councilors listened to Maggie Deree's parking concerns for a wheelchair-bound, five-year-old child who lives on the 100 block of Burnside S.E.
Police Chief John Schueller recommended loading and unloading the child at the street corner if vehicles are parked in front of the home instead of designating a handicapped parking area as Deree requested.
The council approved:
Giving full-time city employees a 75-cent per hour 2012 raise and 3 percent hike to part-time workers.
Buying a new three-wheel Elgin Pelican street sweeper from Mac Queen Equipment, Inc., St. Paul, for $153,636.50 including a $3,165 trade-in allowance.
Allocating $1,050,000 in construction costs for sewer main lift station, force main and control structure improvements at the sewage lagoons south of town.
A $3,000 subsidy to the Sleepy Eye Area Historical Society for 2012.
(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at email@example.com).