by Mike Knaak
A proposal to improve the look of downtown St. Joseph moved ahead when the City Council approved the final plan and bidding for the streetscape project.
The improvements include repairs to the existing street-scape on the south side of Minnesota Street from Chapel Lane to First Avenue NE. The work includes replacing pavers, tree planters, benches and garbage receptacles and reconstruction of existing pedestrian ramps to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.
The council voted to go ahead after no one rose to speak at a public hearing on the project at the Sept. 1 meeting.
Some work will begin this fall. Public Works Director Terry Thene said trees will be removed and the holes filled. The rest of the work would begin in the spring. The streetscape should be done one week prior to July 3, 2021, in time for the traditional Fourth of July festivities.
In answer to a question from council member Bob Loso, Thene said 34 trees will be removed and replaced with 24 trees.
The search for a new city administrator to replace Kris Ambuehl is down to one candidate. After receiving 16 applications, the search was narrowed to four candidates for interviews with the City Council and discussions with city staff. The field was cut to two finalists, Jessica Beise, administrative services director for the city of Corcoran, and Margaret McCallum, city administrator for the city of Mayer. MaCallum has withdrawn her application.
In other action at the Sept. 1 meeting, the council approved hiring an additional police officer. With the approval of the 2020 Cops Grant, St. Joseph opened up police officer applications and received 25 applications. The top eight candidates were interviewed by Interim Administrator Therese Haffner, Police Sgts. Dan Magaard and Matt Johnson and Chief Dwight Pfannenstein. The committee unanimously selected Eric Brutger. Brutger will be sworn in at the Sept. 8 City Council meeting.
Finance Director Lori Bartlett advised the council that now would be a good time to refinance two outstanding bonds to save interest costs. The two bonds were issued in 2013 and 2014. Bartlett said interest savings would total approximately $225,000 over the remaining life of the bonds. The 2013 bonds would see about a 7-8 percent savings and the 2014 bonds about a 6 percent savings.
Council members agreed to take up the issue at the Sept. 21 meeting when a wider bond discussion is planned.