Ordinance 402 discussed, Marquette council debates what is best for community

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By Rachel Mergen

 

On June 12, the Marquette city council met to hold a public hearing related to Ordinance 402 and the Canadian Pacific Railroad, along with other topics. 

During the council meeting, a public hearing discussed the second and last readings of Ordinance 402, which would change the Canadian Pacific Railroad’s current property’s zoning district clarification from A1 - limited agriculture to C1 - highway commercial, if the railroad company is able to receive the correct permits. The property in consideration is located south of the railroad tracks, north of Bloody Run, near the Driftless Area Wetlands Centre. The company is interested in building a new structure, which would help turn Marquette into a central hub.

Former Mayor Larry Breuer expressed his thoughts, that the  ordinance has a lot of good points and bad points, during the public hearing. He stated that more trains would lead to more congestion in the area. Overtime, Breuer believes the ordinance may kill economic development. 

However, he suggested the ordinance could benefit the city if the council required the railroad company to add a passenger line and depot in order to change the zoning district clarification. He believes a passenger line would allow the city to put a sales tax on the tickets sold for it, along with earn money from charging for parking for those who leave their vehicles behind when they use the line.

Councilwoman Cindy Halvorson also gave her thoughts on the ordinance, “Right now, it sounds good, but what about the next generation?” 

She insisted on the need for a guarantee on the company’s plans, because she recognizes the council has a positive relationship with the current railroad representatives, but she worries about what new employees may change, possibly bringing harm to the city. She agreed with her fellow council members that the current railroad employees have worked to decrease the frequency of blockages, have avoided doing their work on busy traffic days and have been responsive to citizens. 

Community members stated their wish for a “quiet zone” as the honking brings regular irritation to their daily lives. The council explained there was no way to regulate the honking, as it is federally controlled. 

Following, Mayor Steve Weipert mentioned the ordinance would bring new people into the town, as employees of the railroad company would have to move into the area.

Breuer insisted the company also caused problems by building within the flood zone. The filler added, he said, would cause higher waters, possibly up to a foot, and that the community would then worry about great floods. 

Weipert noted, he didn’t believe one building in the flood zone would cause a foot increase in water levels.

Snapping back, Breuer said that one building wouldn’t, but the building was just adding to the problem that would cause such an extreme increase. 

The public hearing was closed soon after. The council decided to table the issue until they could ask a representative of the Canadian Pacific Railroad more questions. 

RailCrew Xpress lease 

RailCrew Xpress desires to terminate it lease for the parking lot it rents each month at $250. Originally, the company chose this location as staff was told they were not allowed to park under the bridge, as it was state property. Weipert, going against this original statement, decided that they would be allowed to park there. 

RailCrew Xpress became concerned about its lease at the parking lot when Alpine began parking there, even though RailCrew Xpress could not legally allow anyone to park there. Representatives of RailCrew Xpress noted they didn’t mind paying monthly rent on the lot, even though they didn’t park there anymore, because they recognized they were still using the city’s parking and were not required to pay any property or sales tax. But they could not tolerate Alpine being allowed to park there and not having any space in the lot to park themselves if they wanted to. 

Weipert and public works personnel hope to work with Alpine so they will pay for the past two months rent on the property. The council hopes to help RailCrew Xpress find a better parking location, where they will not be disturbed. 

Wiepert decided to allow the lease to expire later this summer, and then, if a better place is found for parking, a lease will be renewed with RailCrew Xpress.

Fireworks/barge fund

Complications occurred when trying to find a barge for the Marquette fireworks show. The normal barge used will not be available for the next four years. 

The barge the council is currently looking into renting instead will cost between $3,000 to $5,000. The council worries it will be forced to bite the bullet for this year and is prepared to examine options for the future. 

Building a barge was recommended by one company, which would cost the city approximately $10,000. The council determined more research is necessary to decide if this would be the best option for the future. 

The barge the city would need for its regular-sized fireworks show must be at least 930 square feet. It is an option to have a smaller show instead, opening the door to different, smaller barges that could be used. 

Currently, city hall is working to raise money for the fireworks show, with over a thousand dollars already collected.

Ball diamond lights

With breaker errors common at the ball diamond, a lift has been used, leading to less wattage on the breakers. The removed bulbs would be saved in case of burned out bulbs in the future. A switch would still be needed to turn the lights on and off.

City attorney Dan Key stated his idea to install separate switches for different sections of the lights, enabling ballpark users to determine what lights they need to have on and which they do not. 

Both ways would save the city electricity funds. 

The issue was tabled, until the parks and recreation department could meet and discuss it. 

Other business

•The deputy clerk position’s job advertisement was reviewed and edited by the council. The council members agreed to leave the application open until they found the right person.

•The 5C Coalition discussed its goal of lowering the rate of underage drinking in the area by focusing on the community as a whole, not just those who are doing the underage drinking. A representative of the organization noted how they worked with the police department to enforce compliance checks on local alcohol distributing businesses, managed social media and advertisements to get their ideas across, offered ID scanners for events and brought activities to communities to help better educate people on the issue. The representative also explained the 5C Coalition’s constant examination of data and studies to better understand the changing society and how its messages are coming across.

•City hall reported the water taxes would be completed in a different way and residents should expect to start paying 1 percent less per bill in the future. 

•For the bench evacuation route, the Delta 3 Engineering and Bacon Concrete pay requests were approved. The council discussed the desire to have an open house in the future, where the route will be tested by the community. This idea was turned over to the safety committee.

•The Depot Expansion Phase III approval, which was on the meeting’s agenda, was tabled due to the council not having final plans in its possession, as expected. 

•The DOT agreement was discussed for tree clearing. The city of Marquette would only be required to pay $700 for its small portion to be cleared, approximately two-tenths of a mile. 

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