Blue Earth plans to widen Second Street

BLUE EARTH – Blue Earth City Council has set a public hearing for 5 p.m. March 3 to discuss a $2 million construction project on Second Street, on the north side of the Faribault County Courthouse.

Currently, the street is 52 feet wide and has 37 angled parking stalls on both the north and south side – but there’s a problem.

“It’s really too narrow for two lanes of traffic,” said City Engineer Wes Brown.

He presented three options to the council:

o Widen the street to 60 feet to maintain angled parking on both sides, resulting in 33 stalls. The additional 8 feet would be added on the north side, which is residential. That would mean taking out several trees.

o Maintain the 52-foot width and keep angled parking on the south side, but have parallel parking on the north side, reducing the number of stalls to 27.

o Change the angled parking to 30 degrees. The steep angle would allow for 25 parking stalls.

“What I’d recommend is angled on the south and parallel on the north,” Brown said.

“That was the recommendation of the Street Committee too,” said Kathy Bailey, city administrator.

The council discussed other possibilities, including making the block a one-way. Brown said that option is not feasible.

Councilman John Huisman asked Faribault County Commissioner John Roper about truck traffic on the street. Roper said there is no truck traffic, but there is prisoner unloading for court dates. However that’s usually done on Nicollet Street.

Roper said there are about 60 employees at the courthouse who need parking.

“I’m in favor of expanding that street 8 feet,” said Councilman John Gartzke, arguing that the city has to look to the future. “Going down that street now, it’s tough.”

Mayor Rick Scholtes suggested putting in a parking lot on some land the county owns across Main Street from the courthouse. The lot is about 60 feet on one side. It could be designated parking for courthouse employees, Roper added.

The council approved the option of widening the street and set the March 3 hearing at the Public Safety Building.

In a work session, the council discussed funding for the city fire department, and how much the townships should contribute toward equipment since the Blue Earth helps outside the city.

Bailey said the city recently spent $99,989 for a tanker truck, radios, handheld radios, installation and other related expenses. Blue Earth paid $33,326, while the townships paid portions: Jo Daviess, $20,652; Blue Earth, $18,759; Pilot Grove, $10,326; Prescott, $10,039; and Verona, $6,884.

Bailey said there are numerous ways of splitting costs and other cities have different formulas, some rather complicated.

When the Blue Earth Fire Department rolls out to a field fire, it does not hold back certain pieces of equipment, Bailey said. Rather, it brings whatever it thinks it will need to do the job.

Huisman said the townships should contribute.

“You need our equipment, and we need your help to buy it,” he said.

“I certainly agree with John on that,” said Councilman Glenn Gaylord.

A member of the ambulance crew, Gaylord mentioned extrication equipment and the Jaws of Life are used as well as tanker trucks.

“Is part of this paying for the building where we house our equipment?” Gaylord asked.

“No, that’s separate,” Bailey answered.

Scholtes wanted to meet with the townships for more discussion.

“We can come up with an idea, but if the townships aren’t on board …” he said. “I think we can work together and come to a fair and equitable solution.”

Councilman Dan Brod suggested presenting an idea to the townships, so they and the city have somewhere to start.

Scholtes wanted to make a proposal to the joint advisory board that has representatives from each township.

Bailey said the townships will want to meet before they have to approve their budgets in March.

“We don’t have a lot of time,” she noted.