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City council approves library budget, considers petition for paving

The Grand Marais City Council had a regular meeting on Wednesday, June 30 and for the first time in over a year, most of the councilors and Mayor Jay DeCoux were in the city council chambers at Grand Marais City Hall.

Because there were guests in attendance (in-person and online), a very important resolution was not the first item on the agenda. But the council got to it as quickly as they could, making a declaration to repeal city resolution 2020-03 giving the city authority to do what was necessary during the peacetime emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A unanimous motion passed to repeal the declaration. City Administrator Mike Roth reminded councilors that the repeal means they should now meet in person whenever possible. Roth said remote attendance is still allowed, as long as any citizens desiring to see and hear the discussion can still do so.

City approves library budget request
Grand Marais Library Director Amanda St. John and County Commissioner Dave Mills were at the council meeting to present the Grand Marais Public Library. The library is seeing an increase in its budget of 6.7 percent. The budget reflects a proposed 3 percent increase in salaries; an estimated 10 percent increase in health insurance, as well as anticipated increases in Worker’s Compensation and library building insurance.

Last year’s budget had a 4.99 percent increase, which meant a decrease in the library’s travel expenses and budget for books and other materials.

Under the agreement between the city and the county on the library budget, if the annual increase is greater than 5 percent, the county must also approve the increase. The library’s request will be on a future county board agenda.

Local improvements requested by downtown businesses
Following up on discussion at the last council meeting, six business owners submitted a petition requesting improvements to an alley and parking lot. Signing the petition were Visit Cook County, GunFlint Tavern, Joynes Department Store, Grand Marais Dairy Queen, Cook County News-Herald, Johnson Heritage Post, Buck’s Hardware. The business owners asked that the city pave the property abutting the alley between 2nd Avenue West, 1st Avenue West, and Wisconsin Street.

Administrator Roth said the petition officially sets the process in motion to do the work, assessing the improvement costs to the property owners. There was a discussion of whether the work should be done at the city’s expense or if the owners should be assessed. Roth said the project would be more complicated if special assessments were pursued. If the city wanted, it could take on the cost of the project.

Concerns were also raised about run-off if this area were paved. It was noted that if not done properly, it could cause water to enter the businesses surrounding the parking area. It was agreed to seek advice from the city’s contracted engineering firm, LHB on feasibility of paving the parking area and alley.

In other business:
The City Council approved a request for street and sidewalk use from the North Shore Federal Credit Union for its member appreciation event on July 22, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

There was significant discussion of the Grand Marais Arts Festival, which was held in a different location this year due to construction. The festival was held at School District 166. In response to the Grand Marais Art Colony’s request for support, the city agreed to erect barriers to assist with traffic flow and to provide trash containers. City Administrator Roth said workers would not be available to empty the trash, as they are being kept busy in downtown Grand Marais. Mayor DeCoux and Councilor Kelly Swearingen volunteered to assist the Art Colony with trash removal.

The council reviewed two change orders for the Highway 61 project and approved one which resulted from the discovery of more fuel-contaminated soil in another section of the project. Because of that contamination, it was necessary to use different materials for the waterlines being installed. The cost to the city for the changed material is $27,070.

The council did not accept the other change order from the Minnesota Department of Transportation which would create a “force account” for field revisions. Councilors asked for more information from MnDOT on this.

The city council discussed the pending closure of the U.S. Coast Guard Station. Councilor Anton Moody asked if the city should send comments to the Coast Guard. Councilors agreed to consider this and discuss at the next meeting. Comments on the pending closure are due August 3.

The city council’s next regular meeting will be Wednesday, July 14, starting at 6:30 p.m. On the agenda for that meeting will be a “check-in” with the Grand Marais Lions Club regarding Fisherman’s Picnic activities. There will be a follow-up on a request for alley/parking lot improvements by the Gunflint Tavern and Grand Marais Dairy Queen and on the Tobacco 21 initiative. Councilors will also talk about the pending closure of the Coast Guard Station.