MARSHALL - New members of the Marshall City Council got right into the thick of things Tuesday, with both a regular council meeting and a work session on the upcoming amateur sports and MERIT Center projects on their first night in office. Council members Ellayne Conyers and Glenn Bayerkohler, along with returning council member Larry Doom and Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes, were sworn in with a brief ceremony Tuesday night.
The council's work session sparked the most discussion that night, with council members asking questions and voicing concerns about how construction of an amateur sports center and expansions at the Minnesota Emergency Response and Industrial Training (MERIT) Center should proceed. Local sales taxes that would fund both projects were approved by Marshall voters in November.
Marshall City Administrator Ben Martig outlined a possible planning process for the construction of an 80,000 square-foot sports center, and a driving track and classrooms at the MERIT Center. Both the Southwest Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission and the MERIT Center Board have formed committees to help with the planning One of the first actions the council would take on the projects would come Dec. 18, in a vote that would implement ordinances in support of the local taxes. The taxes would take effect on April 1, Martig said.
Photo by Deb Gau
Marshall City Clerk Tom Meulebroeck swears in council member Ellayne Conyers, Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes and council members Glenn Bayerkohler and Larry Doom at Tuesday’s council meeting
Financial analysis and planning for the projects would take place in February, Martig said. At the same time, requests would be made to the Minnesota Legislature for additional funding: $2 million for the MERIT Center expansions, and $4 million for the sports center, respectively. The MERIT Center was already awarded $1 million in state funding in 2010. Meanwhile, the sports center project has been made the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission's No. 1 priority for funding requests, he said.
Next, Martig said, requests for qualifications or requests for proposals would be sent out for architects, construction managers and driving course consultants. The sports and MERIT Center projects would be concurrent but separate, he said. Once the actual design and construction process begins, the city will follow its usual procedures for approving designs, bidding and awarding contracts.
Martig cautioned that there would likely be some tough decisions ahead in the design process and said the council would need to stay flexible as the projects moved forward.
"Why are we going to the Legislature when we already have the money for it?" Bayerkohler asked. Taxpayers were told the sports center would cost $12.9 million and the driving track $7 million, he said. Did the projects actually cost more than promised?
Martig and SMASC chairman Roger Madison said additional funding would allow for more options and better features in the sports facility.
"It just enhances the ability to draw people in," Madison said.
Council member Mike Boedigheimer said he was concerned that the city would rely too much on its own staff for the projects.
"We can't all of a sudden start twiddling our thumbs and push all this on city staff," he said. "We can't short other projects."
During the regular council meeting, council members approved measures to help cover a staffing shortfall in city police. The Marshall Police Department has had two officers resign within the past 30 days, and one more resignation was coming in the near future, said human resources coordinator Sheila Dubs. Two of the resignations were to relocate closer to family, and one was to pursue a position with the Minnesota State Patrol, Dubs said.
Marshall Police would need help to cover patrol hours while new full-time officers could be hired and trained, she said. City staff recommended that a current part-time officer be scheduled to work an average of 30 hours a week for about four to six months. The increase in working hours would not affect the officer's benefits status, Dubs said.
Council members approved a bid from Southwest Sanitation to remove garbage from several municipal locations in 2013 and 2014. The proposed bid was for about $15,000 - a 76 percent increase, Martig said.
Dan Ritter of Southwest Sanitation said the jump in price for the trash hauling bid represented rising costs over several years. Ritter said Southwest Sanitation had been doing the work for "way under cost" while he was a member of the city council.