Isanti library service continues strong despite COVID

Despite the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the library service offered in the City of Isanti had another successful year, prompting the Isanti City Council to approve continuing the partnership with East Central Regional Library (ECRL) for another year.

“As I’m sure I don’t have to tell all of you, 2020 was not the year we were expecting last January,” said East Central Regional Assistant Director Rachel Howell during her presentation before the Isanti City Council on Feb. 2. “The pandemic threw everybody for a loop, but I think we rebounded and managed to provide service none the less.”

She explained that all ECRL locations were closed beginning in March due to the pandemic, but by the end of that month ECRL was offering remote home service to library patrons.

“We were helping with folks who were calling saying, ‘Is city hall in such-and-such a place open; what about the restaurants; what about the hospitals; what’s going on,’” Howell said, noting library staff was answering questions like that all day. “We were also answering things like, ‘Is it safe to eat a can of tomatoes that’s dated 2015?’ Because people needed that information.”

As time went on, the library “beefed-up” online resources to provide things like tutoring assistance, job search assistance, and e-books and audio books. Finally in April, ECRL started allowing curbside pickup at its permanent locations, and started offering that service in Isanti in June. When buildings started opening back up, ECRL followed the protocols set forth in each city for safely re-opening. 

“I think this really exemplifies the very best of the community and intergovernmental partnerships that we have between the libraries and the cities, because we’ve all worked together to make sure the residents of Isanti get the library services they need,” Howell said. “Even with all of that craziness last year, our statistics show that library usage was consistent with what we were seeing the previous year.”

ECRL provided services in Isanti 38 days in 2020, down only 11 days from 2019. “So, that’s not horrible. Would we have liked to have been here every week? You bet, but I’ll take it given the craziness last year,” Howell commented, noting ECRL served approximately 900 people from Isanti who were able to make use of curbside and in-the-building services in 2020.

“All-in-all, I think from the library’s perspective, this remains a very successful partnership, and I want to say thank you to the city for working with us for more than 10 years to help us bring library service to the city of Isanti,” Howell concluded.

Mayor Jeff Johnson thanked Howell, noting residents had asked about a puzzle swap, and that has been instituted as part of the library services in Isanti. 

Questions from food truck vendor reduces background check fee

Chris Page of PJ’s Grill Food Truck approached the council during public comment to address the vendor and background check fees charged to food trucks that want to do business in Isanti.

Page informed the council that he was asked to provide his food truck at an event at Thunder Brothers Brewery, and was surprised at the cost to get a permit to operate a food truck in the city, specifically noting the $75 fee for a background check and $200 for a six-month permit.

Due to the council wanting to discuss the topic at length, it was added to the council’s agenda for the meeting. During the discussion, it was noted that most background check fees are around $30, and the council agreed that this fee should be reduced to be more in line with typical background check fees.

The fee for a mobile food unit is $25 for one day, $75 for a month, or $200 for six months. Page explained that other cities, such as Ham Lake and Forest Lake, do not charge a fee for food trucks. Therefore, the fee is only hurting the City of Isanti by discouraging food trucks from operating in Isanti.

While this topic was discussed at length, the council gave City Administrator Josi Wood instruction to investigate the fees of surrounding cities, and the topic would be revisited at a Committee of the Whole meeting.

Specifics of metal detecting policy hammered out

Another lengthy discussion at the council meeting revolved around the metal detecting policy. After hearing input from local residents who participate in the activity, as well as hearing an email from another, the council agreed that the policy should resemble the code of ethics followed by metal detectors.

It was conceded that the majority of participants in the hobby do so for the excitement that comes with finding something – whether it be something of value or a pop can tab. The most rewarding experience of most metal detectors is helping someone find something they had lost.

As far as finding objects of value on city-owned land, the policy will include a provision that gives the city first right of refusal. If it is something valuable that a resident or visitor to the city may have lost and reported to law enforcement, the policy regarding lost and found property would be followed.

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