Council hears update from SOPO
The Northfield city council toured the community last night checking out city sites and projects before their work session. One stop was where the post office intends on moving their retail operation after they sell the downtown location. The Save Our Post Office, or SOPO group gave Council an update and looked for some direction from them. According to federal law, the USPS has to go through a Section 106 process before they can sell the historic building. That means they must take into account the effects of their undertakings on historic properties, and afford the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation a reasonable opportunity to comment. Michelle Merxbauer says they’ve not heard from the USPS since March when they sent a letter saying there was no negative impact on the city. The State Heritage Preservation Office’s Mary Ann Heideman outlined several adverse effects. SOPO followed that up with a negative impact statement. All parties are at an impasse as they move through the Section 106 process. Council considered buying the building. That was a divided discussion. Right now the building is being appraised and results should be known in a few weeks.
Council heard a presentation by the HRA of the draft of their 2013/14 work plan. Their pilot program to help those with street assessments went over well and they plan on continuing it into 2013. Michelle Merxbauer explained that the HRA sent out a letter with the engineering departments notice of the street assessments informing those residents affected that this money might be available. Qualifiers income had to be at or below 80% of Rice County’s median income. The whole idea is to help low to moderate income families afford to stay in their homes. The HRA is also considering a program to help those families with energy efficient units to lower their monthly energy bills.
HRA’s pilot program will continue and manufactured homes are on their list of to-do’s
There was plenty of discussion concerning issues surrounding the manufactured home parks. Most of the units in Viking Terrace are owned. Many have additions built onto them. Merxbauer says this is a code violation. However, as a city, Merxbauer says that to go in and start tearing them down due to code violations brings other repercussions such as where do you put the families that were living in them. Another problem these homes have is that, because they’re not up to code, they can’t get repairs done by professionals. If a local licensed professional finds code violations they are required to repair them or they are held liable should something happen. Often these people can’t afford paying to have them brought up to code. Councilor Ganey questioned the city’s responsibility. Although the codes are violated, the city would not be held responsible should there be an issue, such as a fire. Many of those owning the manufactured homes don’t want help. Merxbauer says there’s fear of having the city in their homes, documentation issues and if the home is so bad that it has to be torn down, then, again, there’s no place to put theses displaced families. The HRA is dedicated to expanding their options. Listen to the podcast of the news to hear Tim Madigans suggestion.
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