City pulls back on hiring park engineer
Park committee to meet and look at big picture before getting help
Sometimes moving forward requires a step back.
The city of Medford is stepping back from a plan to hire an engineer to help develop park space in the downtown, at least for now and will form a committee to have a more focused scope for the project.
At Tuesday’s city council meeting, aldermen voted to table spending $25,000 to hire Graef-USA, Inc. of Minneapolis to provide a park planning and design proposal for the site of the former laundromat building that was torn down as part of the State Street bridge replacement project. The request to table the action came at the request of Mayor Mike Wellner and city coordinator Joe Harris after receiving questions from residents about the need for the project.
“There were a few concerns raised,” Harris said.
According to Wellner, the intent was to not just look at the .21 acre former laundromat site, but to develop a plan for the downtown area as well. “It is more than just a little piece of property,” Wellner said.
Wellner called on the council to table hiring the company and instead move forward with the creation of the committee made up of a council member, city staff, a Friends of the Downtown member and a downtown resident.
“We want to take a step back and have the committee get together,” Wellner said.
Alderman Greg Knight questioned why the city would not want to hire the expert to work with the committee from the beginning. Wellner suggested having the committee come up with some ideas on their own. Alderman Dave Roiger noted that if it was something simple like planting some trees and putting up a gazebo, that they would not need outside help, but if there was something with a bigger scope they would need outside help.
“I think we are still looking bigger picture,” Wellner said, noting he felt the city needed to do a better job in getting it out to the public what they intend to do there.
“I think we need to do a little better job of explaining to the community what we want to do,” Wellner said.
Alderman Mike Bub praised the idea to have the committee meet before committing to hire the engineering firm so that there was a local vision for what the space could be.
Knight supported hiring the engineer right away so that the individual could work with the committee in developing that vision. Alderman Chrsitine Weix agreed on the need for hiring outside help right away saying that she thought the intent was to look at the entire area from Hwy 64 south to Perkins Street and how that can be developed.
“We are not saying we don’t want to do that. All we are asking is to table until after the committee meets,” Wellner said.
The motion to table hiring Graef-USA passed 6-2 with Weix and Knight opposed.
A vote to form a committee to explore options for the space and the downtown area was approved on a unanimous vote. Members of the park project working committee will include Wellner, public works committee chair Laura Holmes, Harris, Friends of the Downtown president Jackie Jentzsch and downtown resident Brenda Hedlund.
In other business, aldermen:
_ Approved installing fine air diffusers for the aeration basin at the wastewater treatment plant at a cost of $56,000. The equipment will aid in the processing of the waste as air is forced into the wastewater.
_ Approved purchasing a replacement for the utility’s Jetter truck from MacQueen Equipment at a cost of $429,305. The City will receive $55,000 for trading in the current 2006 Jetter truck bringing the net cost to $374,305.
_ Approved purchasing a 3/4-ton truck and plow from Medford Motors for $34,991. The city had also received a quote for the vehicle from Medford Chrysler at $39,955 but went with the lower bid amount. The vehicle replaces an existing 2015 truck which will be sold at auction.
_ Approved an easement agreement between the city and Todd and Colleen Waldhart and Charles and Linda Gelhaus. The easement would allow a private driveway to be installed off of the intersection of Impala and Malibu Drives in the Rogers Addition to provide access to three residential lots. Dave Brandner abstained from the vote.
_ Approved a leave of absence request for medical reasons for a city police officer from December 19, 2020 and ending February 26, 2021.
_ Received an update that security improvements to the city hall lobby will take place in mid-February. The work was delayed to not interfere with people coming to city hall to pay their taxes during the month of January.