In a regular meeting on Monday, November 15, Blue Earth City Council assessed the community’s feedback and its impact on various construction projects around the city.
One project that has been adapted amid a flurry of opinions is the reconstruction of the Blue Earth tennis court, currently located in Putnam Park.
The latest feasibility studies by City Engineer Wes Brown, of Bolton & Menk, examined the possibilities of land owned by the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) at the corner of 14th and Moore streets.
A preferred development option presented to council at its Monday, November 1 meeting included six tennis courts located where the existing Putnam Park facility is located. In addition, two tennis courts, three pickleball courts and a basketball court would be located on the court across the street.
The board agreed that the idea of using both Putnam Park and the adjacent land should be discussed with the Blue Earth Area School District and the HRA before any decisions are made.
Conflicting comments from the two entities were presented to the board at their November 15 meeting.
“The HRA discussed the city’s investigation into this Moore Street property,” city administrator Mary Kennedy shared. “They are not interested in using this for this project.”
Kennedy clarified the HRA’s reasoning in a report to the board, saying: “The HRA acquired the property in 2017 for almost $ 50,000 and since that time has aggressively acquired the properties to the east of the plot to alleviate the scourge by continuing to demolish or rehabilitate homes at purposes of future development. “
The report added, “This plot is a future land potentially generating taxes if it is used for housing.”
Board member Glenn Gaylord reviewed the reasoning of the HRA. “If they had half of this block, it would be a very good development”,he said, “even if we would trade this property we need for this.”
Meanwhile, the Blue Earth Area School District has agreed to maintain its role in the deal, while admitting that it would prefer the courts to remain on the school grounds, as indicated in previous plans for the project.
Kennedy’s report communicated a statement from Superintendent Mandy Fletcher: “The school prefers on-campus courts, but will always participate in the financial partnership regardless of the location.”
If the courts are to be built at Putnam Park, however, Fletcher and the other members of the tennis courts subcommittee have prioritized maintaining the current footprint of the tennis courts in the park.
“The committee recommended to city council that Bolton and Menk continue their exploratory work at Putnam Park … to better understand whether eight tennis courts would fit the current six-court footprint,”Kennedy’s report explained.
“I’m afraid that if we have eight courts in this space, we won’t have room for the basketball court and the pickleball courts,”Gaylord noted.
Council member John Huisman replied: “In terms of priority, I think these are the tennis courts that we are settling in. “
However, Gaylord also viewed the addition of a basketball court at Putnam Park as a top priority.
Brown suggested there might be room for a basketball court where the old Putnam Park playground equipment is currently located.
The board responded favorably to Brown’s suggestion.
“People want a basketball court in Putnam Park”,Gaylord maintained. “Dig a little deeper and see if there’s a place for a basketball court over there.”
The council also took into account recent comments from a different source: the residents of Blue Earth.
Brown and council wanted to respond to community concerns expressed during the public hearing on street improvement on November 1.
Several residents had opposed plans to build sidewalks, questioning the need to remove the sidewalk in some areas of the city, as well as the method used to determine where the sidewalk will be laid.
“We do not necessarily have a policy on this subject”Kennedy explained. “If there was a policy in place, that would make it easier. “
Although the council did not come to a conclusion regarding a future sidewalk planning policy, Brown shared that he was considering how to take current community feedback into account.
“I will come to the next meeting with more information on the sidewalk options. “Brown said.
The City Council also addressed the following items on the agenda:
• The Blue Earth Fire Department’s donation of rescue equipment purchased with funds from the Firemen’s Relief Association. The equipment includes an ASR 155 lifeboat, two Ice Commander rescue suits, as well as safety items such as flashlights, battery keys, window punches and belt cutters. The board voted unanimously to accept the donation.
• Implications of the OSHA Vaccine Mandate, which is due January 4, 2022 for employers with 100 or more employees.
“The plan requires employers to implement regular testing or vaccination requirements for employees,”Kennedy explained. “We (the city employees) are part of that category of 100 employees. “
Kennedy shared that the Minnesota OSHA will need to adopt a plan that is at least as restrictive as the federal requirements, so the city should start thinking about what kind of policy will need to be in place to collect employee immunization statuses and Comply with COVID-19 testing requirements for unvaccinated employees.
• A report summarizing the 2021 season of the Blue Earth campsite.
Campground host Denise Karau said the campground has a very high rating and reputation, and provided examples of many positive online reviews for board review.
“Denise (Karau) goes beyond everything she does”,Kennedy noted. “The end of the year has been really excellent.
• Approve an agreement with Flaherty & Hood, PA for job classification and compensation services, with a total cost not exceeding $ 15,050.
• Hearing on the truth in tax matters for December 6, 2021 at 6 p.m.