City council has changing of the guard

By Carol Walker

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On Monday night, Ward II alderwoman Pam Fowler was treated to a Polynesian-style bon voyage complete with leis, refreshments and a plaque honoring her eight years of service on the Hill City Council.  Sworn in by Mayor Julie Wickware-Klein as Fowler’s successor was Kathy Skorzewski, a newcomer to the council. In addition, the mayor appointed and administered the oath of office to Frank Bettmann, city attorney; Kale McNaboe, city engineer; and Brett McMacken, city administrator. John Johnson was elected president of the council and Jason Gillaspie, vice president.

With the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally about a month away, the council again approved the closure of Main Street to all traffic except motorcycles. McMacken said, as before, it would be a soft closure for a short portion of the north and south end of Main St. with a hard closure enforced from the Heart of the Hills Exxon station to the high school. Vehicles will still be allowed to cross Main Street to get to Pine Avenue or Railroad Avenue.

Johnson asked about the possibility of a temporary light being installed at the junction of Old Hill City Road and East Main Street, considering the added motel on the road. McMacken said a Department of Transportation (DOT) study would have to show the necessity of such a decision. He suggested a good rule of thumb is to complete errands before 10 a.m. or wait until after 5 p.m. to be out and about.

“I talked to Rick Zacher about the light and he said the time the motels are busy is at check-in and check-out. Because the times traffic is moving to and from motels, it hasn’t added that much pressure on that corner,” said Vic Alexander.

McNaboe said when it comes to the Main Street sidewalks, the city is still waiting for four or five pages of drawings from electrical engineers, detailing the change in location of light poles. Once those are complete, the plan will be reviewed by only one electrical engineer with the state, unlike McNaboe’s overall plan, which was reviewed by 17 engineers.

“Once it is approved it can be put out on bids. That process will likely take a couple months, so we are looking at closer to Christmas for the project to begin. I don’t think it is more than two months worth of work there. They will pour it, cure it, put blankets on it. They do it in the winter all the time,” said McNaboe.

He also spoke briefly about the Federal Emergency Management Adminstration (FEMA) study, stating that as he has looked at the streams and sub-basins around the area, there are about 112 square miles that drain into Hill City. How much of that runs off and how much soaks into the ground moves around, particularly with a storm event. He wants more time to play ith the model and see what they are dealing with. It was suggested that he also confer with the people who have done the study for the 1880 Train, which he said he would do.

When it comes to the Major Lake Bridge replacement project, an 80/20 grant from the state, McMacken said the water is undercutting the bridge and concrete underneath is breaking up. He said the biggest hiccup now is the spillway, which the Forest Service will need to fund. Brose Engineering will bill the state and the city will in turn be billed for 20 percent of the cost.

Johnson, city liaison to the Hill City Public Library Board of Trustees, commended Cindy Girard, outgoing librarian, for the way she has ordered the paperwork, potentially streamlining the transition to a new librarian. Maddy Hansen will serve as interim head librarian until a new person is hired.

“We looked at the job description for librarian, something we have not done since Cindy was hired, and I took out references to the school. The wage will be set at somewhere between $16.50 and $18 per hour,” said McMacken.

Skorzewski commented that with technology being such a big part of the library, hiring should be done with an eye toward that. McMacken agreed.

In other business, the council approved the final application for a lot split at 289 Main Street and a zoning change request from A3 (agriculture) to R2 (residential) on a parcel of land across from the Visitor Information Center.

The next council meeting is scheduled for Monday, July 24, at 5:30 p.m. at city hall.

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