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Main Street reconstruction assessments approved; Brown reports from Nuclear Waste Strategy Coalition: City Council briefs

After two meetings without a resolution, the final assessments for the Main Street Reconstruction Project were approved April 10. Previously, Bob Exner of Goodyear Tire Service complained that he was not made aware of the cost increase of upgrading to a 6-inch water main, and asked council to reduce his assessment. City staff provided documentation that Exner had asked for the 6-inch main.

"I understand the city's position," council member John Becker said. "But this is a classic little guy against the city, and he's just looking for a break. I think we can fix this."

Council member Peggy Rehder warned against changing one assessment. "I don't think it's our job to make exceptions to policy," she said. "If we make an exception in this case, we'll have to make exceptions for everyone."

Most council members agreed with Rehder, but recommended staff make changes to assessment documentation in the future. Ultimately, the assessments passed 6-1, Becker dissenting. City staff agreed to improve the assessment forms.

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Brown reports from Nuclear Waste Strategy Coalition

Despite changes at the federal level, it does not appear spent nuclear fuel cells will be moved to permanent storage any time soon. Red Wing City Council member Evan Brown recently attended the Nuclear Waste Strategy Coalition in Washington, D.C., and provided an update to council Monday night.

"This coalition exists to make sure the federal government takes seriously its obligation to find a solution for the spent nuclear waste from nuclear facilities," Brown said. Although the president has indicated support for restarting the Yucca Mountain licensing process, congressional leaders are more cautious and a unified Nevada delegation remains opposed to the project.

"If the Yucca Mountain application was approved tomorrow, it would still be 15 years before the first spent fuel cell was moved," Brown said. "This is a long-term process."

Still, there is legislation in many state capitols, including Minnesota, demanding the federal government find a long-term solution for nuclear waste. State Sen. Mike Goggin, R-Red Wing, and Rep. Barb Haley, R-Red Wing, have both introduced bills in St. Paul that call for the federal government to fulfill its promise to move the nuclear waste.

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What makes Red Wing beautiful? Its people

Mayor Sean Dowse introduced Mr. Wiegui (Victor) Yu, the teacher from Quzhou, China, who is visiting Red Wing through the Sister Cities Commission exchange program. Mr. Yu expressed gratitude to residents for their hospitality throughout his stay.

"My host families have treated me, not like an exchange teacher but like a member of their family," Yu said. "I have seen many beautiful places in Red Wing, it is a beautiful city. However, I believe the most beautiful thing about Red Wing is its people."

He has visited different schools in Red Wing, including Minnesota State College Southeast. He will be in Red Wing until May 7.

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Jefferson Center to lead local democracy initiative

Kyle Bozentko, executive director of the Jefferson Center, gave a brief presentation on the Citizen's Assembly Project, an initiative his organization is leading in Red Wing this spring. The Jefferson Center is a St. Paul-based nonprofit that aims to bring community members together to strengthen democracy. The Citizen's Assembly Project will convene a group of Red Wing citizens to talk about their priorities, thoughts and ideas on local government, while bringing in outside experts on topics the group identifies as important to Red Wing.

Anyone can apply to participate, and the final group will be randomly selected from the applicant pool. The group will be demographically representative of Red Wing's population, and participants will be paid for their time.

Red Wing residents should receive information this week in the mail about the project. To apply, fill out the mailer or go online to mncitizens.org/apply.

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In other news:

• The Cannon Valley Trail has completed its comprehensive plan. There will be an open house 6-8 p.m. today, April 12, in the Red Wing Public Library Foot Room. The plan will be presented at 6:30 p.m.

• Public Works Deputy Director Bob Stark outlined the first phase of proposed storm water tunnel repairs. This year, 13 tunnel sections will be replaced including all the sections in the worst condition. While this work was authorized in 2015, the project was delayed due to the Main Street Reconstruction Project.

• A hearing was held to discuss assessments for the 2016 Briarwood Drive improvement project. No citizens spoke. Staff will assess 13 parcels and 100 percent of the project costs will be paid by the collected assessments.

• Community Development Director Dan Rogness gave an update from the April 4 Port Authority meeting. The new community development structure was reviewed, and the Port Board approved a $25,000 working capital loan for JPN Ventures, a company interested in opening its headquarters in Lake City. The Port Authority also met with the Airport Board to coordinate marketing efforts in conjunction with the upcoming Super Bowl events throughout the state.

• Meeting watch: The meeting lasted one hour and 45 minutes. All council members were present.

— compiled by James Clinton, contributor

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