City may sell small lakefront sites

FAIRMONT – Several patches of city-owned lakefront property might be for sale in the future, following action by the City Council on Monday.

The move stems from a complaint about no trespassing signs reportedly on one such parcel.

Earlier this month, an individual registered a complaint at City Hall about public property with a private dock and no trespassing signs at the dead end of West 10th Street. City staff determined that one of the two boats at the dock was owned by Dan Thiesse of 229 W. 10th St. They notified him that he was in violation of City Code and would have to remove the dock and boats within 21 days.

Thiesse called Mike Humpal, city administrator, and explained that he has been using the property since 1984, when he received permission from city staff. Code requires council approval for this purpose, and the item was put on Monday’s council agenda.

“I’ve used it for 30 years. I’ve maintained it. I hauled in field rock. I improved the steps. I installed a handrail so it’s safe,” Thiesse said.

He told the council nobody has ever been asked to leave and that his neighbor put up the no trespassing signs, which he believed were on his property.

Council members agreed that Thiesse had improved the property.

“I was impressed,” said Mayor Randy Quiring. “You have done a great job with it.”

“It looks really nice, but what are you going to do when your neighbor beats you down there next year?” asked Councilman Chad Askeland.

Thiesse said the end of 10th Street is similar to the ends of adjacent parallel streets, with small city-owned patches of property that often are maintained by adjoining property owners.

“Why don’t we sell some of that? Get it on the books. Get some tax money out of it,” Askeland said.

The council first voted to allow Thiesse to continue utilizing the area through 2015. Then it unanimously supported exploring the sale of other city-owned properties similar to West 10th Street area.

“First we have to identify the properties. We will survey,” said Humpal, adding that he has asked the Department of Natural Resources to research the issue.

City Attorney Elizabeth Bloomquist said all city property must be sold by ordinance. The council can negotiate with buyers or auction property, but Bloomquist said the “most fair” method would be sealed bid.

Other council action Monday centered around a street construction project.

Only one bid was received for the Albion Avenue improvement. Southern Minnesota Construction of Mankato submitted a bid of $1.9 million for the improvements from Lair Road to 200 feet south of Oak Beach Drive.

Troy Nemmers, director of public works/city engineer said the bid is more than 20 percent higher than the engineer’s estimate of $1.6 million.

“Other cities are seeing 10 to 15 percent higher pricing,” he said.

The road will be open to traffic and all homes and businesses will have access during construction, which would be a factor in the higher bid. The wet spring also has contractors running behind schedule, and possibly reluctant to bid on a project scheduled to start in July.

Council members debated the risks of waiting a year for a possibly lower bid, but decided to accept the $1.9 million price tag.