Council unsure about new location for Veterans Memorial

This aerial photo identifies three possible locations within Central Park where the Veterans Memorial might be placed.

The North Branch Veterans Memorial, which has been in the works for several years now, is on the move. However, where it will land is for the moment up in the air.

The memorial was originally planned to be placed just outside the North Branch High School stadium, among the oak trees. Due to rising construction expenses and other logistical issues, plus a desire to make it more visible, however, it was decided by the North Branch Beautification Association, along with North Branch VFW, to try and find a more suitable site. The option that was presented to the North Branch City Council during their Sept. 14 meeting was to have it placed in Central Park.

Not every council member, however, was keen on that location.

“I don’t love the Central Park idea,” said Council Member Amanda Darwin. “I feel like we’re gonna stick it there because it can be stuck there. And I think our veterans deserve more than that from us.

“I did some research. I stopped at 27 parks in various communities. I visited several, but for most I looked at Google Maps. Of the 27, in 24 of them, the veterans were the primary focus of the spaces. In the other three, the veterans were still in the center, and the parks were built around it. 

“I feel like (Central Park) is already a crowded park, and not only when we have events,” she added.

“Maybe Central Park is the place,” said Council Member Kelly Neider, who also is the liason for the Parks, Trails and Open Spaces Commission, which voted to recommend Central Park to the council following “a very emotional” meeting. “I’m not sure about that.”

Neider added she would like to see a number of community organizations get together to collaborate on the site selection process, which she believes would encourage more people to get involved and get excited about the park.

“For people who have given and sacrificed so much for us, for our country, if we’re going to honor them, let’s do it right, and let’s do it right the first time,” said Council Member Patrick Meacham. “Maybe it is Central Park, but let’s take the time to do our due diligence.”

“Right now I think they (the Veterans Memorial Committee) is looking for land they don’t have to purchase,” said Council Member Kathy Blomquist, adding attempts have been made to get landowners to donate space, but to no avail. “I concur that Central Park is very crowded.”

Ultimately, Neider made a motion to table the agenda item to Oct. 26, and to form an exploratory committee made up of representatives of various local organizations to gather more ideas of what the proper location may be. That motion passed 4-1, with Blomquist casting the lone nay vote.

Public hearing for body cameras

In accordance with state law, the council held a public hearing regarding the purchase of body cameras for all members of the North Branch Police Department.

During the introduction of the topic, Chief Dan Meyer noted the department had invited the public to take a survey, along with offering to field any phone calls or emails on the subject prior to this meeting. He said only 10 people filled out the survey, and nobody contacted him via phone or email. Additionally, nobody rose to speak during the public hearing at the Sept. 14 meeting.

“I think when the law was written, body cameras were more controversial, and that’s why the law was written to have public comment,” explained Meyer. “I think now the public expects their law enforcement to have them. I don’t think its very controversial to have them.”

Meyer also presented the council with a draft of the department’s policy, which is modeled after the League of Minnesota Cities policy. Finally, Meyer presented the council with a price quote for implementing the system from Motorola, who was the lower of two bids. The cost will be $24,845 for the first year and $23,000 for years two through five. This amount is within the amount estimated to fit into the 2022 budget.

“The price of the cameras is kinda insignificant,” Meyers said. “Its the price of the storage is where you’re looking at alot of money.”

The council unanimously agreed to go forward with the program. The next step will be to present a final draft of the policy, along with an official request for the purchase of the cameras at a future council meeting.

City Hall roof replacement

Public Works Director Shawn Williams presented the council with a proposal for the replacement of the roof on City Hall. According to Williams, the building itself is a former bank building that was purchased by the city and remodeled into the City Hall in 1999. He said the roof’s estimated life has already been met and that there are several leaks now prevalent. He added attempts to simply repair the roof has only resulted in the leaks showing up in different locations.

Williams said of the four price quotes received for the project, North Tech Construction, who is based in North Branch, was the lowest bidder at $52,100. He added this company has also recently done roof replacement at both Cambridge and Pine City City Halls, and both cities were very satisfied with their work.

The motion to accept the bid from North Tech Construction was approved unanimously.

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