The Taconite Capital of the World

City of Mountain Iron, Minnesota



Meeting Minutes for June 09, 1998

The meeting was called to order at 6:00 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; Larry Nanti, Recreation Director; and Mark Wirtanen, City Architect.

The following Community Center Committee members were present: Larry P. Johnson, Mark Kailanen, Renee Kailanen, Joe Prebeg, John Meglen, and Jim Johnson.

Audience members present were: Pete Cerkvenik and Ed Roskoski.

The Mayor said that the purpose of this meeting was to discuss the relocation of the city government offices to the site of the Community Center. This would be completed with the construction of the Community Center. The Mayor said that this may be the direction that the Council is taking and the Council wanted to meet with the Community Center Committee to seek input on the proposal before the next regular City Council meeting when further action may be taken. The Mayor asked the Architect if he had any information to share with the committee.

Mr. Wirtanen said that the proposed plan of relocating the government offices to the site of the Community Center is feasible. He said there are several advantages to constructing the City Hall together with the Community Center. He said the site is appropriate, there is sufficient room for the structures, and the plans for the Community Center are adaptable to add the City Hall to them. He said that this certainly is an option to consider.

The Mayor asked if the Community Center Committee had any comments to make. The following Committee members made comments: 

Larry Johnson asked the Council what happened to the City considering the use of the Mountain Iron 1st State Bank building as an option for City offices. The Mayor said that the Council decided that this would only be a temporary solution and it would increase the overall cost of attaining compliance for the City. Mr. Johnson was concerned with all the work and effort done by the Downtown Revitalization Committee to keep Downtown Mountain Iron alive. Mr. Johnson said that with the City Hall leaving the Downtown area a lot of the businesses would have a hard time continuing. The Mayor said that the Council is not completely abandoning downtown, but will aggressively seek someone to occupy the City Hall building. The Mayor said that the Council feels that the time is right now and they want to move forward very aggressively to construct a new city hall. Mr. Johnson asked if there was an alternative use for the present City Hall building right now. The Mayor said that the U. S. Steel Career Development Program and the Steelworkers Union are looking for office space. 

Mark Kailanen asked the Council if this was a done deal because of the article in the Mesabi Daily News. The Mayor said that this is not a done deal because the City Council has not voted on the issue. Mr. Kailanen asked why the City Hall issue came up so fast and why an election did not have to take place for this structure. The Mayor said the Community Center Project is $1 million project and bonding was necessary because the City did not have the funds available for this project. The Mayor further explained that for a new City Hall to be constructed bonding would not be necessary and a vote of the people would not be taken.

Jim Johnson asked when the idea came to add the City Hall onto the proposed community center building. He also asked if this would be part of the Community Center or if a separate structure would be built in the same area. The Mayor said that the City Hall would be a separate structure connected to the Community Center with some sharing of space with the Community Center. 

Joe Prebeg asked if this would jeopardize the size or accommodations for the Community Center. Mr. Wirtanen explained that the City Hall would enlarge the building overall. The Mayor said that there would be a possible sharing of restrooms or meeting rooms. The Mayor said that the same area would be used for the Community Center. The Mayor said that there will be a meeting room/council chambers in the City Hall complex. 

Mr. Wirtanen explained that if the City Council moves forward with the new City Hall, the Council would have to go through a programming process to achieve the results that they need for office space, record storage, reception area, conference rooms, etc. He said that there are some areas that would be dual use for both buildings and they would be accessible. 

Larry Johnson asked how long the Community Center Project would be delayed. The Mayor said that it would not be delayed. The Director of Public Works said that the Community Center and the City Hall are two separate issues, but can be combined. Mr. Johnson asked if the two buildings would be built separately or together. The Director of Public Works said that if the City Hall were approved the two buildings would be bid together. 

Joe Prebeg asked if the site would be prepared this year and if the bid would be opened next spring. 

Jim Johnson said that the Committee Center Committee is feeling frustrated by all of the City Council action regarding the City Hall addition to the Community Center. He asked if the City Council wants the Community Center Committee to step back and let the City Council take over the project. 

Mark Kailanen said that he feels bad because the people of Mountain Iron were not told this information when the vote on the referendum was taken. He said that he feels like he is deceiving some of the people of Mountain Iron because of the Councils’ direction to add the City Hall onto the complex after the vote has been taken.

Mark Wirtanen said that the timeline for the project has not been approved by the Council. Mr. Wirtanen recommends having a late January or early February bid because of the winter hearing issue. He felt that the project would be less expensive with a Spring bid opening.

The Mayor asked the Architect, if the City Council voted Monday for the City Hall to be added to the Community Center Project, could this be done and kept within the timeline. The Architect said that this would be sufficient time to complete the designs for the project.

John Meglen said that he spoke with some contractors and they said that they welcome projects in the Fall to keep their employees working for the winter. Mr. Meglen asked the Mayor if he was acting on behalf of the residents of Mountain Iron. The Mayor said that they are elected by a majority of the people in Mountain Iron. The Mayor said that he has talked to many of the residents of the community and he felt that the public is in favor of a new City Hall by a margin of two to one. Mr. Meglen said that he thought the City Council should be more up front with the City Hall project. The Mayor outlined how the City Council came to the decision to add the City Hall onto the Community Center Project. The Mayor said that it was a business decision to proceed, rather than put $300,000 to $500,000 in the present City Hall, to invest $500,000 into a new city hall.

Larry Johnson asked where the figures come from for the new City Hall construction. Mr. Wirtanen said that they were hired a few months ago to complete a survey of the city building and the costs to upgrade the buildings. Mr. Wirtanen reviewed the process that he went through to have estimates completed for upgrading the present City Hall. Mr. Johnson asked if Mr. Wirtanen had made an estimate for the new construction. Mr. Wirtanen said that he did not make the estimate for the new construction, he completed an estimate by the total square feet needed. The Mayor informed the audience that the information that they reviewed was from architects and surveys of similar construction done in area cities.

John Meglen asked if the City Council has contacted an expert on ADA compliance. Mr. Meglen also asked what the Council was going to do about the Library. Mr. Meglen said he found it hard to believe that a federal law could make all of the city halls in the country out of compliance. The Mayor said that the law did in fact do that and the City of Mountain Iron is currently out of compliance. The Mayor said that the City Council is focusing first on the City Hall and then the Library. 

Jim Johnson questioned whether people would want to use the Community Center when it looks like a City Hall. The Mayor reminded Mr. Johnson that the committee had planned for the City Hall to be eventually added to the Community Center.

John Meglen asked if the City Council has a drawing with the City Hall and the Community Center together. Councilor Piri said that the architectural drawings that the City Council has seen have the City Hall along side the Community Center. Mr. Meglen asked if the City Council was still considering the same plans. The Mayor said that the Council was still considering the same plans.

Larry Johnson asked how the City suddenly has funding for the City Hall when there were no funds available for the Community Center. The Mayor said that it was a matter of priorities. 

Councilor Olsen spoke and said that she resents the Mayor saying “we” instead of “I” during his discussions about building a new City Hall. She said that until a vote is taken this issue is still being discussed. The Mayor apologized for using the term “we”. Councilor Olsen said that she wants to clear some things up. She asked the Committee what the projected costs for the Community Center were to be. Chairman Prebeg said that the projected cost was $1.2 million with $1,000,000 coming from the bonds and the remaining amount of $200,000 to be in-kind services and donations. Councilor Olsen said that she did not want to see funds from the Electric Department to fund City Hall. She said that funds need to be allocated for new streets and the purchase of additional service areas for utilities. She said that if the City Council starts spending the reserves on a new City Hall, how will the Eighth Street Project get completed to South Grove. She said that the newspaper article made the City of Mountain Iron look like a rich city and this will make it hard to go to IRRRB and ask for emergency funds in the future. She said that she would not vote in favor of moving the City Hall. She said that the downtown has the school, the library, the post office, the churches, Mountain Manor, and many businesses. She said that if the City Hall is moved there will be more abandoned buildings in the Downtown Area. Councilor Olsen said that she would like to see the Sheriff’s Department move from the City hall and move into the Mountain Iron bank building and have the City Offices use the Sheriff’s Office. 

Ed Roskoski spoke and said that he wanted to share some information with the Community Center Committee. He said that he received some information from the Buhl City Administrator regarding upgrades to the buildings in their City. He said that the City of Buhl applied for a historic designation to obtain state and federal funds to improve their facilities. The upgrades completed to the Buhl Library were completed for $200,000 with $180,000 received from grants. Mr. Roskoski said that the City of Mountain Iron could get similar grants to fund upgrades to the City facilities. The City Administrator said that it would be possible to obtain IRRRB funding, but CDBG funds could not be received because of the low and moderate income guidelines for funding, and some of the funding the City of Buhl received was only designated for libraries.

Councilor Skogman spoke about the newspaper article and the comments made by the Mayor regarding the push for a new City Hall, he reiterated what Councilor Olsen said, that it is not “we” yet. He said that the City Council needs to weigh the financial burden and listen to the residents of the town. He said that the agenda all along was to have the City Hall moved to a building that is more accessible, but not right away. Councilor Skogman said that he agrees with the Community Center Committee, that the decision for a new City Hall has come along quickly. He said that the Community Center needs to be completed, then the City Council can look into legislation for funding in future years.

Councilor Skogman said that the Community Center is the biggest project that has been done in Mountain Iron in a long time. He said that the Council needs to complete some of the major projects they are currently proposing with new housing that is in need of funding, re-addressing the City, and opening the crossing by Merritt School. He said that the best approach is to get the Community Center done, then seek legislative funding down the road for the City Hall.

At 6:58 p.m., it was moved by Skogman and supported by Olsen that the meeting be adjourned. The motion carried.

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