Decorative street lights will be ordered and installed in front of Crow Wing County buildings along Laurel Street in the city's downtown with more research on how to pay the bill coming later, the Brainerd City Council decided Tuesday.
The council voted to direct the Public Utilities Commission to install the decorative lights and have staffers research funding options. A report is expected at the next council meeting.
The lights will be a continuation of those installed between South Sixth Street and South Fourth Street. The city installed the lights for those two blocks with none of the costs assessed to property owners. The council's vote extends the decorative lights from the east side of Fourth Street to South Second Street.
Council member Lucy Nesheim said an apparent miscommunication arose between the city and the county regarding the lights. Nesheim said she thought Peter Herlofsky Jr., county administrator, was agreeing to pay the difference between regular street lights and the decorative lights.
Jeff Hulsether, city engineer, and council member Kevin Goedker both recalled Herlofsky saying the county was willing to pay a fair share but wanted to be treated the same as everyone else. The difference in light cost is estimated to be about $44,000. But Hulsether said the city is still clarifying what the actual amount would be and if there is an additional installation charge. Brainerd Public Utilities will temporarily pay for the lights and city will have to reimburse its budget, Nesheim said.
The council vote followed the recommendation of the city's Safety and Public Works Committee. In the committee meeting, Hulsether said one option was to establish a special assessment district to pay for the lights. But the question becomes how to back track and ask businesses to pay for lights after the fact or how to get new property owners to pay when others were not asked to do so.
Last week, Herlofsky said considering the city of Brainerd adopted a downtown master plan and city officials stated it would follow through on the plan, the city should have a policy in place when it comes to installing and paying for the decorative streetlights.
Hulsether said it will take 90 to 120 days to get delivery of the lights that will mean it will be November or December before they could be installed.
Council member Bob Olson suggested the city continue the decorative lights to East River Road as the city's own master plan recommends. He said the infrastructure to support the lights is already in the ground. His motion to extend the light installation failed for a lack of a second.
Nesheim said the council decided to do only part of Laurel Street after state budget cutbacks.
Council member Mark O'Day voted against the motion. O'Day said it looked as if the city was on the way to pay all the decorative lighting for the "end of time." Nesheim reminded the council a benefactor, who was unnamed, said he wanted to help the downtown area. She suggested the lights may be one area where a benefactor was needed.
RENEE RICHARDSON can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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