Council highlights ‘coming attractions’

The Oct. 22 North Branch city council meeting wound up being more like a series of movie trailers that overshadowed any sort of main feature. And like movie trailers, the council is hoping the residents of North Branch will be interested in what’s coming in the near future, if not getting excited about the coming attractions.

The first preview was presented by city administrator Renae Fry regarding the city’s efforts to rebrand itself, specifically in terms of a new city logo. Fry said that the voting among participants in the project that was born out of the Minnesota Design Team’s visit to the city in the fall of 2018 has almost concluded, with people choosing between two options.

“The last round of two options went out last week,” Fry said. “And we do have a clear consensus between one of the two designs.”

Fry asked the council how they wanted to go forward with the final decision on the new logo. She said the council had previously indicated they would go along with whatever the popular vote results would be; however, she said they still could be shown the two finalists and then vote on whether they would go with the winning design or opt for the other one.

If they went with the popular vote, Fry proposed they have a “reveal party” for the logo prior to an upcoming council meeting, with the actual council vote simply part of the consent agenda.

Fry indicated she would invite many of the Minnesota Design Team members to the reveal party, along with the people who actively took part in the logo design process. 

“We would make this a celebration event,” Fry said. “This was a multi-meeting, multi-input process that dates back to last spring.”

“I want to be as surprised as everyone else,” said council member Kelly Neider, who sat in on the logo design meetings and therefore was able to vote for her choice. “I would honor the residents’ choice, whether they chose the one I wanted or not. But let’s have fun with this.”

Fry said that there isn’t an exact date set as it will depend on a number of peoples’ schedules. However, she said she hoped it could happen sometime in mid-November.

Snow removal

The second preview most likely won’t get too many people excited, but it could generate a lot of interest and discussion. 

Public Works director Shawn Williams gave his yearly information regarding the city’s snow removal practices from city sidewalks. Williams said the streets that the city will automatically clear are along “high use” areas of the city. He said that they will clear them off no matter how little snow the city receives. If it is just a dusting, they will utilize a sweeper, but if it reaches over a quarter-inch, they will use a snowblower.

“It’s a matter of a slip issue,” Williams said. “North Branch is a very walkable area, so we want to keep everyone safe.”

Williams added that snow removal from streets and parking lots takes first priority, so it can be some time before their single person can get to the sidewalks. Once he does, Williams said it takes him about eight hours to clear all of the designated streets.

To go along with that, Williams reminded the council that residents are responsible for clearing off snow from sidewalks the city doesn’t do within a 48-hour time frame after the snow stops.

“We do get quite a few complaints (about sidewalks not being cleared by residents,” Williams said.

Fry told the council that last winter seemed to be particularly bad for residents refusing to clear their sidewalks.

“One of the questions that may be posed to council in the coming weeks is, ‘What is our practice from an enforcement perspective,’” Fry said. “One of the things staff has been toying with is if it’s not done within the requisite time, we (the city) just go in and do it and bill the homeowner. I’m not prepared to make a recommendation at this time – we are looking at code enforcement for this issue, because it is a complicated issue. But we certainly did have a number of residents who simply didn’t care.”

As with the reveal party, Fry said there wasn’t a specific date where this might be a part of an agenda, outside of when they have a “clearer scope of the issue.”

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