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Grand Marais sets priorities, considers redevelopment of city hall

The Grand Marais City Council held its last February meeting on Wednesday, February 27 and tackled a full agenda.

The council considered proposals from the Minnesota Department of Transportation for land acquistion for the upcoming Highway 61 road reconstruction through the city. The council passed motions to accept the right-of-way acquisition offers for two of three parcels. Councilors had questions on the remaining site and will follow up on that.

Grand Marais Fire Department Chief Ben Silence and Assistant Chief Aaron Mielke were at the council meeting to answer questions about the new operations manual for the volunteer fire department. The council approved the changes, which formalize much of the work the firefighters are already doing. Mayor Arrowsmith DeCoux said the adoption of the manual could mean a reduction on city property owner's home insurance. The mayor gave kudos to the fire department for the work they do.

The city and fire department officials also talked about the current and future condition of fire hydrants in the city. The importance of clearing snow from fire hydrants was stressed.

The fire department is also working with the city public works department to flush fire hydrants this spring. It could mean some disruption to water service for Grand Marais PUC customers, but it needs to be done periodically to keep fire hydrants in good working order.

The council shared information on the work session held to set city priorities, which the mayor shared on his blog 
as follows:
1. City code update and enforcement - Review, update, create enforcement strategy
2. Update city/county agreements - Start conversations to renegotiate and update agreements
3. Redevelop city hall/liquor store site - Explore all options of development, including private development, considering cost and ongoing impact to the community
4. Highway 61 - Advocate for community needs before and during construction. Work with MnDOT to establish maintenance agreements
5. Housing - Evaluate city programs/regulations and potential changes to address housing. Identify a strategy to invest in housing
6. Capital Improvement Plan - Continue to maintain a capital improvement plan to fund upcoming, scheduled projects and to begin planning for upcoming projects that are not yet scheduled.

The council had some discussion of priority number 2 – the possible redevelopment of the city hall/liquor store building. The council agreed to issue a request for proposals for development of the building. The mayor stressed that the building is not for sale at this time. He said the city wants to gather ideas for future use of the site.

The city also made its selection to fill the vacancy on the Grand Marais Planning Commission. Two citizens expressed interest – Michael McHugh and Phil Oswald. The council said both candidates would be great additions to the commission, but ultimately selected McHugh for the seat. Mayor Arrowsmith DeCoux asked Oswald to put his name in for the next vacancy that arises.

The council also asked interested citizens to consider applying for a vacancy on the Grand Marais Park Board.

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence checked in with the mayor after the meeting to learn more about all of these topics.