The Taconite Capital of the World

City of Mountain Iron, Minnesota



Meeting Minutes for April 28, 1998

The meeting was called to order at 6:30 p.m. by Mayor Brunfelt with the following members present: Carolyn Olsen, Stephen Skogman, Joe Matanich, Curt Piri, and Mayor Mitchell Brunfelt. Also present were: Craig J. Wainio, City Administrator; Jill M. Forseen, Deputy Clerk; Don Kleinschmidt, Director of Public Works; and Karen Luoma, Librarian.

The following people also attended the meeting: Joe Prebeg, Ozzie Rudlong, Burrell Kubacki, Tom Oberstar, Rod Erchul, Ed Roskoski, Edith Roskoski, Rich Soderberg, Pete Cerkvenik, Florence Schmitz, Olga Cvar, Ann Samppala, Larry Johnson, Tom Autio, Kyrthyna Autio, Ted Newberg, Gertrude Buria, William Buria, Mark Kailanen, Larry Schechinger.

The Mayor informed the audience that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the City Hall issue. He said that the City Hall building has been out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for about five years. He said that this City Council is trying to get the City into compliance with ADA. The City Council is looking for solutions to attain compliance. He reviewed the following options with the public:

To remodel the entire City Hall and utilize the space upstairs and the space on the first floor, which would include constructing an elevator.

To relocate the Recreation Director to the new Community Center and the Director of Public Works to the city garage and eliminate the use of the second floor of the building and make the first floor handicapped accessible.

To add the City Hall on to the Community Center after it has been constructed.

To have a new City Hall constructed along with the Community Center. There are several cost saving measures to complete both projects at the same time.

The Mayor said that before the City Council decides which option to proceed with, they would like to seek as much public input as possible before making this significant policy decision. 

The following people spoke during the public meeting.

Ozzie Rudlong said that she has been involved in the discussions, regarding the ADA compliance, since it has been started. She said that the City has the Civic Center, the City Hall, the Library, the Bank, the Post Office, and the School all in the downtown area now. She said she would like to see the City Council spend funds to remodel the current City Hall. She also said that when people travel to different areas they are always looking for historic sites to tour.

Tom Oberstar said that he sees this as a trend, first a new city hall, next a new library, and then a new high school. He questioned whether the City Council had any plans for the City Hall if a new one is constructed. He said that if a new city hall is constructed, the City Council would be playing into the hands of the mining company and it would devalue the property in the downtown area. He said that when the referendum passed there were rumors that there would be a new city hall constructed. He felt that the City Council should vote to bring the current City Hall into ADA compliance by remodeling it. 

Burrell Kubacki said that the oldest people in Mountain Iron live in the Downtown Area. She said that everything is located in the downtown area and the elderly can walk to all of the services in Mountain Iron. She said that meals are served to the elderly, the library, the churches, the school, the tourist sites, the bank, the sheriff?s office, the fire department, are all located in the downtown area. Residents in the Mountain Manor can walk to all of the services that they need. 

Florence Schmitz said that most of the people in the Downtown Area do not have cars and they can walk to the services, most of the people in other areas of Mountain Iron have cars and can drive to the services.

Pete Cerkvenik said that he would like to know the opinion of the Councilors on what the City should do regarding this issue.

The Mayor asked each of the Councilors to state their opinions regarding the issue.

Councilor Olsen said that she wants to keep the nucleus of Mountain Iron in Downtown Mountain Iron. She said that she wants to see the present facility updated. She said that there is a committee working to make changes to the downtown area to further promote tourism. She said that she wants to see the Community Center completed and see how the building is used before any more funds are spent in that area.

Councilor Piri said that he is leaning towards the idea of moving the Director of Public Works and the Recreation Director and remodeling the first floor of the present City Hall. He said that if City Hall was going to be moved, it will not be in the near future and the current facility would need to be updated.

Councilor Skogman said that the City is currently completing one of the largest, most aggressive building projects in the history of the City with the construction of the Community Center. He said that the City Council needs to work on getting Eighth Street extended to the South Grove area. He said that the nucleus of the City is now on Eighth Street. He said that the Council needs to look at finding other uses for the current buildings. He said that the Council needs to go to the State and apply funds for new buildings. He said that the Council needs to prepare a five to ten year plan. He said that the Downtown Revitalization Committee needs to get tourism to the Downtown Area. He said that the library is not in ADA compliance and any upgrades to the buildings will lose a lot of the working area. 

Councilor Matanich said that he would like to see the City Hall kept in the Downtown Area. He also said that he would like to see the Director of Public Works and the Recreation Director relocated to other buildings and eliminate the use of the second floor and construction of the elevator. 

Mayor Brunfelt said that he thinks he has struggled with this issue the most. He said that he grew up in Downtown Mountain Iron and now lives in a different part of the City. He said that there is a lot of emotion involved in making a decision like this. He said that the Community Center needs to be constructed and then the City Council should consider adding the City Hall in the future when Eighth Street is completed through to the South Grove area. He said for the short term the City Council should relocate the Director of Public Works to the City Garage and the Recreation Director and his Staff to the new Community Center and make the first floor of the City Hall handicapped accessible. He said that as the Community Center is being constructed there would be a certain cost savings if the City Hall were to be constructed at the same time. He said that he could not justify spending a lot of money on the current city hall building.

Joe Prebeg asked what the Deputy Clerk thought about the layout of the building as it is now and how the workability of the current City Hall is. The Deputy Clerk said that the current setup is working, but the work areas are currently filled with equipment and personnel. She said that she has not seen the plans for remodeling of the first floor and moving offices and she did not know how the personnel felt about their offices being relocated to another building. The City Administrator said that having everyone together in the same building is easier to run the City from a management standpoint. The Director of Public Works said that all public buildings must be in ADA compliance and City Hall is just one portion of that compliance and the City Council needs to look at the overall picture. Mr. Prebeg said that a committee should be formed to review the pros and cons of the situation.

William Buria said that he agrees with the handicapped law, but to spend $300,000-$400,000 to upgrade the present City Hall seemed too high. He questioned how much it would cost to just have the first floor remodeled. The Mayor said that those figures were not available. The Director of Public Works said that he does not think that remodeling the first floor is an option because there is such a limited area available for staff to work in. 

Larry Schechinger asked if temporary city offices could be set up in the new Community Center as a cost saving measure prior to constructing a new City Hall.

Ed Roskoski said that he went over to the City of Buhl and asked them how much they spent on their ADA compliance upgrades. He prepared an information sheet regarding the City of Buhl?s upgrades. He suggested the City of Mountain Iron seek an historic designation for the buildings to be eligible for additional funds. 

Larry Johnson said he would favor keeping the City Hall in Downtown Mountain Iron. He suggested obtaining some main floor space at the Mountain Iron Bank. He said that in the past the bank has approached the City regarding donating the bank building to the City or the Mountain Iron Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

Karen Luoma, Librarian, asked the Council if cost estimates were prepared for ADA upgrades to the Library. She said that she has not seen any information and she was wondering what plans have been developed for the Library. 

Rod Erchul said he could not see spending $500,000 to upgrade the present City Hall building. He also felt that using the Mountain Iron Bank building and utilizing the first floor of the City Hall would be better. 

Ted Newberg spoke and said that the library could have access by constructing an outside elevator and bathrooms to attain compliance at the library. 

Tom Oberstar questioned if another referendum would have to be voted on to proceed with the City Hall construction. The Mayor said that the City has $100,000 sitting in reserves for ADA compliance and they could possibly spend funds from the general fund reserves or utility reserves. Mr. Oberstar said that the issue should be put to a vote and let the people in Mountain Iron decide whether they want the City Hall moved or not. The Mayor said that the City Council Members are elected to make those decisions. 

Florence Schmitz asked when the deadline for the ADA compliance was. The Administrator said that it was January 1, 1993.

Pete Cerkvenik said that the City Hall does not have to be in the center of the community. He said that the purpose of the City Hall is to be the function of city government. He said that the city government would not run more efficiently if $500,000 were spent on upgrades. He said that this is a poor use of the taxpayer?s money. He said that the upgrades should cost minimal amounts.

Ed Roskoski suggested having residents look at what the City of Buhl is doing to obtain their ADA compliance. 

Burrell Kubacki said that the Downtown Area is the center of Mountain Iron. 

Councilor Skogman advised Mr. Cerkvenik that all public buildings have to be compliant with the ADA for handicapped employees. 

Joe Prebeg said that a plan needs to be utilized for the present City Hall if a new City Hall is constructed.

Pete Cerkvenik said that everyone in Mountain Iron knows where the City Hall is. He also questioned whether other towns are upgrading their city garages, wastewater plants, and water plants for ADA compliance.

Ozzie Rudlong said that the civic center does not need to be in the business district of the City.

Pete Cerkvenik said that Jerry Kujala, the Zoning Administrator, once said to him that you do not put government buildings on prime commercial property.

Joe Prebeg said that the comment was made that because the community center referendum passed, now the City Council is looking at putting up a new City Hall. He said that the Community Center Committee had planned on adding other buildings to the site for future construction when the Community Center was constructed, but the intention was if something happened to City Hall in the future there would be a place to put a building.

Councilor Skogman said that the City Council needs to develop a plan for the future now, so funding can be obtained so the City is ready. 

Mark Kailanen said that the City Council should be proactive not reactive. He said that a plan needs to be developed for the future. He said that the City Council needs to take care of the building right now and plan for the future.

Larry Schechinger questioned what the square footage of a new City Hall would be. The City Administrator said that he thought it was 3600 square feet.

Larry Johnson said that he disagrees that U. S. Steel is squeezing Mountain Iron out. He said that if the City voluntarily empties buildings in the downtown area, it gives the mine the advantage. He said that he agrees that a long range plan is needed. He said that the City Council should set money aside every year for the City Hall, such as the funds from the mining effects tax. The City Administrator said that the mining effects tax money has to be used for specific items with one-half for infrastructure and one-half for inter-city cooperation.

Pete Cerkvenik said that long range plans are good, but they change with different Councils. He said that if half has to be put into infrastructure, the mining effects funds should be put into Eighth Street until it is constructed to the South Grove area. 

Mayor Brunfelt said that with regard to long range plans, Senator Janezich advised him that you can not be too rigid about it, you have to go with the flow sometimes.

Pete Cerkvenik said that with regard to cooperation with neighboring communities, the Council must keep focus on that. He said that the City Council should not cooperate just for the sake of cooperating. Some of the cooperative efforts are not good ideas, such as combining the fire department. Mountain Iron would be spending more funds to make a cooperative fire department with Virginia and/or Eveleth. 

Ozzie Rudlong said that it would be a lot easier to cooperate if everyone in Mountain Iron had the same ZIP code.

The Mayor thanked everyone for coming in and sharing their thoughts with the City Council. He said that the Council has made no decisions regarding the City Hall issue. He said the City Council would take the ideas that were discussed and analyze them. He said that he would like to hold two more meetings regarding the City Hall issue possibly located at Nichols Town Hall and the Merritt Elementary School. 

At 7:40 p.m., the meeting was adjourned.

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