Senior meal fix found, for now

BLUE EARTH – Blue Earth City Council has found a short-term solution to provide meals at the Senior Center while the city continues to explore other options.

The council on Monday voted 6-1 to approve a two-month agreement with Parker Oaks to provide meals at $3.70 each.

The council also approved transferring $4,200 from the city’s liquor store fund to the Senior Center to help with expenses.

Since federal funding for meals was cut at the end of the year, people are bringing in home-cooked meals and heating them up in the center’s kitchen for those who eat there, noted City Administrator Kathy Bailey.

The council has sought a way to keep feeding seniors and replace $8,400 worth of lost revenue.

The ultimate goal, Bailey said, “is to try to keep meal prices as reasonable as possible. Seniors are on a fixed income.”

Bids from current provider Parker Oaks and A’viands included meal prices with and without transportation costs. Bailey would like to find volunteers to transport meals to the Senior Center, to save the cost of transportation.

Parker Oaks, a residential facility for the elderly, is located in Winnebago while A’viands operates from the Faribault County Jail in Blue Earth, where it serves meals for inmates.

In other business, in a work session prior to the council meeting, a group of business people expressed concern about a lack of parking on Main Street, proposed conversion to parallel parking and the addition of more handicap stalls.

Brown explained that when the Main Street corridor undergoes construction in 2015, changes to parking will be made to conform to state standards, since the street is a county/state aid road.

The last average daily traffic count concluded 3,600 cars use the road. The state says if the road has more than 3,000 vehicles, it must have a 14-foot wide lane separation so people exiting vehicles are not endangered by passing traffic. That means some parking that is currently angled will be converted to parallel parking.

Brown was not sure when the traffic count was conducted, so Michele Hard asked if another one can be done to “see if we fall back under” the limit.

“We’re gonna lose so much,” she said of the proposed changed to parallel parking. “If we’re losing even five (stalls) on our block, it’ll be a major difference for us.”

She described how every stall can be taken, and has heard from her sewing customers, some elderly, that they were not able to stop by because they could not find a stall.

Mayor Rick Scholtes said if some people are taking up stalls for too long, parking could be limited to one hour.

Council members also discussed adding handicap stalls, to have four to a block, and whether they can be located in the center of the block, where a crosswalk can be added. There are requirements dealing with width, which would cut down on the number of stalls, Bailey and Brown warned.

Councilman John Huisman mentioned the empty lot where the Avalon Building recently was demolished.

“I’d like to see us take a serious look at making that a parking lot,” he said.

However, Blue Earth Graphics owns the alley, noted City Attorney David Frundt, creating a logistical problem with traffic accessing the empty lot.