MARSHALL - Marshall residents' requests were featured in discussion of a city improvement project at the Marshall City Council meeting Tuesday night. Members of the council briefly debated whether or not those requests - to leave out a portion of sidewalk planned along Kossuth Avenue - should affect construction bids for the street improvements.
The improvement project would rebuild streets and replace sewer and water mains along Kossuth Street and a portion of 5th Street, as well as realigning the street between North 4th Street and North 7th Street. The project also included construction of sidewalks along Kossuth, but residents on the north side of the street between 5th Street and Justice Park had voiced concerns about it.
Marshall Public Works Director Glenn Olson presented council members with the bids received for the street project. "The bids came in slightly under" a project estimate of about $2 million, Olson said, with a low bid of about $1.7 million from Kuechle Underground of Willmar.
Council member Charlie Sanow moved to award the bid but to remove the portion of sidewalk as residents requested.
Council member Mike Boedigheimer said the sidewalk issue shouldn't be a part of awarding a bid for the street project.
"That's a separate decision," he said.
"I think it would be better to do it now," Sanow said.
Olson said it would be possible to remove the portion of sidewalk from the project later, with a change order. Marshall City Attorney Dennis Simpson also recommended that the city award the contract as it was solicited. A vote to award the construction bid to Kuechle Underground, with a change order to remove the segment of sidewalk passed unanimously.
Later in the meeting, proposed plans for part of Marshall's downtown area were the subject of more discussion. Marshall City Administrator Ben Martig and Marshall Economic Development Director Cal Brink both spoke in favor of the city applying for a redevelopment grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development for improvements around West Lyon Street and near the Varsity Pub.
Martig said the city only recently had the opportunity to apply for the grant. If an application was accepted, it could be used for construction in 2014. Martig said the grant could help the city pay for water, sewer and street reconstruction along West Lyon Street, as well as resurfacing the public parking lot on West Lyon Street, and creating an additional public parking lot on the same block as the Varsity Pub. The improvements would also allow for the expansion of the patio area at the Varsity Pub and help prepare for possible development on that block, he said.
The total cost of the project would be about $1.9 million, Martig said. About $925,000 of that total would be covered by the DEED redevelopment grant, with the city paying $925,000 and the Varsity Pub paying about $101,000.
Martig stressed that council members would only be deciding whether to apply for the DEED grant. More would need to be done to actually make the proposed improvements happen.
Council members voted in favor of applying for the grant.
Council members also addressed the question of whether or not to raise the mayor and city council's salaries. The city charter calls for discussion of council salaries each year in July. Martig said mayor and council salaries could only be set in an election year because raises can't take effect in the middle of a council term.
The mayor and council's salaries have not been raised for about six years, Boedigheimer said - current rates are at about $8,000 a year for the mayor and $5,000 a year for council members. Council member Larry Doom said in past years, the council had tied its own pay increases to the same percentage rate as non-union city employees.
The salary issue had been placed on the council agenda as a discussion item, but council members cast a 4-1 vote in favor of salary increases at the same rate as non-union city employees for the next two years. Council member John DeCramer cast the vote against. Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes and council member Dan Ritter were both absent from Tuesday's meeting.