The Faribault City Council continued its weekly review of the proposed 2020 budget and levy Tuesday with a review of the street improvement and equipment upgrade sections of the Capital Improvement Plan.
With the Highway 60/Fourth Street improvement project, the city has not only used up its entire state aid budget but has gone well into the red. The city receives an annual allowance of $1 million from the state aid highway fund, the Highway 60 reconstruction has used $2.2 million in state aid funding.
As a result, the city has been forced to trim its highway improvement plans to address only the most pressing projects, according to City Engineer Mark DuChene. Councilors were broadly supportive of the street improvement plans DuChene presented at Tuesday’s work session, although Mayor Kevin Voracek and others lamented the lack of progress on other roads in need of improvement, such as Eighth Street SW near Faribault High School and South Central College.
DuChene noted that the city’s limited budget had forced difficult decisions regarding project prioritization. Even those plans which were funded were not scheduled as soon as the Engineering Department would like, DuChene said. For example, the plan did include a reconstruction project for 10th Street SW from Ninth Ave SW to Prairie Ave, among the city’s most needed, but not until 2022.
The city’s proposed highway budget for the next two years includes significant improvements to downtown roads including a reconstruction of Division Street from First Avenue NE to First Avenue NW in front of the library, in conjunction with the library’s plans for a parking lot expansion and interior improvements. The city also hopes to extend the adjacent block of Central Avenue (in front of the Cenex co-op).
Other reconstruction plans for 2020 include the portion of Second Street just two blocks to the south, from First Ave NW to Willow Street and the easternmost block of 20th St NW in northern Faribault. In 2021, the city will reconstruct two more blocks of Division Street to the west of the library, as part of its efforts to deal with the short Second Avenue bridge over Division Street.
The city’s street overlay project schedule is significantly more ambitious. In 2020, the focus will be on west Faribault between the train tracks and Lyndale Avenue, including Hulett, Irving, Lincoln, Franklin and Cross avenues. Whipple Way and Littleford Lane near Shattuck-St. Marys School in northeast Faribault. In 2021 the city will overlay Fifth and Sixth Avenue from Highway 60 to Seventh Street NW, and Third Street from Fifth Street NW to Seventh Street NW and an area near Batchelder Park in northeast Faribault, including Cardinal Avnuee, Forest Lane and Woodhurst Drive.
City Administrator Tim Murray offered the city’s capital replacement fund, which primarily pays to replace vehicle for city departments, including police and fire. Murray emphasized that the city is doing what it can to hold onto older vehicles as long as possible and minimize the city’s vehicle needs. He highlighted the efforts of the Community and Economic Development Department to move from three vehicles to two.
“This mindset where every employee has an assigned vehicle, we need to move away from that” Murray noted.
Councilor Royal Ross and others emphasized the importance of holding onto the city’s vehicle fleet for as long as possible. Aside from Police Department vehicles, many of the city’s vehicles are older but have accumulated relatively few miles over the years.
“I’d like to try to make Faribault a better place for citizens and do what we can with the vehicles we have,” said Ross.
Murray also presented the city report on franchise fees. The city estimates that it will receive over $900,000 in fees from gas and electric bills. The city approved a modest increase in franchise fees to help fund park developments. Murray has expressed dissatisfaction that several city parks have remained undeveloped due to lack of funds.
The city also currently receives more than $250,000 in franchise fees from cable television providers. However, city officials fear that this revenue could be significantly cut or eliminated entirely due to a ruling from the Federal Communications Commission.
On Aug. 1, the FCC ruled that fair market value of non-monetary provisions could be calculated in the 5% franchise fee that cities can charge to cable TV providers. This means that the fair market value of the city’s community access TV station will be deducted from the royalties the city receives. The fair market value of the station will be based on the amount the cable companies typically charge customers.
In order to mitigate the loss of revenue, Mayor Voracek suggested that the council consider adding a streetlight fee. While other cities have begun implementing street light fees to offset the significant costs of street light maintenance, Faribault has thus far resisted the trend.”
“I don’t want to add an extra fee to anyone, but if the cable TV fee goes away, I’d like to consider it,” Voracek said.
Ross and Councilor Jana Viscomi argued that that adding franchise fees to currently untaxed entities could be an equitable way to replace the revenue potentially lost to the cable companies.
“I like franchise fees because it generates revenue from entities that would otherwise not be taxed,” said Ross. “That helps keep everything else down.”
The council will meet next week for another work session as it continues to go through the 2020 budget process. The council is expected to have a detailed budget plan by the end of September when it approves the preliminary 2020 levy.
Triple Stitch, a rock band composed of four members, has toured from coast to coast with up to 80 shows in one year. They’ve played internationally, in Germany and Poland, and released songs available through music streaming services.
Who would have guessed that three of the group’s members reside in Lonsdale, Minnesota?
“For me, family keeps me here, but also, I just love living in a small town,” said lead singer Jimmy Riot. “I don’t think I’d rather live in a big city somewhere.”
Riot grew up in New Prague, where he attended school from kindergarten through 12th grade, and moved to Lonsdale several years ago. He didn’t start playing music until after graduating high school, but only a short time after he first picked up a bass guitar, he joined a developing band. That group, which started about 16 years ago, came to be known as Triple Stitch.
The band started out playing at various teen centers throughout Minnesota, including the Garage in Burnsville and Enigma in Shakopee. Switching the lineup, Riot became the group’s lead singer as new members came and went.
Drummer Tony Campion joined Triple Stitch eight years ago. Originally from Forest Lake, Campion lived in Lonsdale for a period and now resides in St. Peter.
“It’s kind of a funny story,” said Riot of meeting Campion. “We had just lost a drummer, and we had a guy roadie-ing for us who was playing drums. [Campion] felt so bad for us that he wanted to come and play drums so we could have a good drummer.”
Current bass guitar player Katie Shaumann joined Triple Stitch a couple years ago, but she established ties with the group six years earlier as a high school student. She contacted the band to play at an event for a school project and developed friendships with the members. Katie became especially close with the band’s current lead guitarist, her now husband Joe Shaumann. After touring with the band and selling its merchandise, Katie eventually joined Triple Stitch herself.
“Even in all the time years ago when I toured with them, I never would have dreamed or thought about being in Triple Stitch,” said Katie. “So it’s crazy, and super cool.”
The Shaumanns live in Lonsdale, a big difference for Katie, who grew up in Anoka and lived briefly in Edina.
“I really struggled with it when first moved here,” Katie admitted. “… But I have built so many strong relationships here. I like having the distance from the big city … It just took a little getting used to.”
It’s fitting that Triple Stitch’s most recent single is called “Small Towns.” What inspired the song wasn’t only the fact that all four band members live in small towns but also a conversation Riot had with a girl he met in Poland.
“It was a crazy conversation,” said Riot. “She told me she wished the communist era would come back, told me the music was better when we had things to fight about. She was too young to understand what that meant.”
In the early years, Riot recalls a different feel to the music of Triple Stitch. Songs from the first two years, which the band no longer plays, fall along the pop spectrum. Now that he’s the lead singer, he blends elements of ‘50s and ‘80s rock together to create the current Triple Stitch sound.
Katie described the band’s music as “modern pop punk with a twist of rock -n- roll” and compared the sound to the music of musicians like AC/DC, My Chemical Romance, Tom Petty and Johnny Cash.
“It’s this little melting pot, but it works,” said Katie.
Riot said everyone in the band has contributed ideas for song lyrics at one point or another. He’s been the main writer for most of the group’s current songs, but the group comes together to tweak the lyrics. It’s life itself and personal experiences, said Riot, that inspire most of the songs.
Triple Stitch doesn’t only reach listeners on a personal level through song but through actual friendships. To the group members, these connections aren’t a means to greater success — these friendships are rewarding on their own.
“We don’t really believe in having fans; we believe in making friends,” said Riot. “We just always try to really get to know people.”
By forming friendships with other bands, Triple Stitch branched out from Minnesota to Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and throughout the U.S. They’ve toured with a number of bands, among them Ascend the Hill, Fight Before Surrender and Five Iron Frenzy.
Katie said she met friends playing with the band in Poland, where they set up a street band during Woodstock, and also in Germany. She continues speaking to them on a regular basis.
Locally, the band has played at past Community Days events and hosted its own Third of July party in its Lonsdale backyard for anyone to attend. Coming up, they play Oct. 12 at the Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault for a New and Emerging Minnesota Music Showcase. In the meantime, they plan to record their next single in the next couple months.
Recently, the band Summertime Dropout cast the Triple Stitch band members as the “bad guys” in a short film made in Owatonna. The film, which also stars members of the band Simple Plan, will premiere in Owatonna at a later date.
Other than that, Riot said the long-term plan is to “keep doing what we’re doing.”
“We just want to invite people to be friends with us,” said Riot. “Really, the heart of what we do is relationships with people and getting to know people, making new friends and people that will turn into family.”
Brenda Johnson has always gravitated toward senior citizens, whether they were older relatives or members of her church.
It’s now been 20 years since Johnson became employed at Buckham West, formerly the Faribault Area Senior Center, and in those years she’s offered caregiver support for countless families and coordinated a wide variety of programs for area seniors.
“It goes by really fast,” said Johnson at her anniversary celebration, held Wednesday at Buckham West. “It feels like not that long ago I was celebrating 10 years.”
Buckham West employees and regulars attended Johnson’s anniversary party to congratulate her on achieving a significant employment milestone.
Anne Pleskonko, former director of the senior center, hired Johnson 20 years ago after seeing her compassion for seniors as a registered nurse at Faribault Manor Nursing Home. Pleskonko now works at Milestone Senior Living, where Johnson offers caregiver support groups for families.
“I’m so thrilled she’s been a part of the Faribault and Rice County communities and giving to senior centers so much,” said Pleskonko, who attended Johnson’s anniversary party.
When she started working at the senior center, Johnson said most programs involved community outreach and going into seniors’ homes. The senior center eventually became more program-focused and also began presenting speakers on health, history and creative expression.
Looking back at her career at the senior center, Johson fondly remembers when Eric Perkins of “Perk at Play” from KARE11 visited the center to offer an exercise group in 2001 and when U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar visited in 2007 to speak with local families.
Johson also considers herself lucky to have worked with the senior center’s first board of directors, which she called “great cheerleaders who had wonderful ideas.”
Mona Kaiser, now executive director of Buckham West, joined the senior center staff after Johnson. After working together for nearly two decades, Kaiser said they now finish each other’s sentences and know what the other is thinking.
“To have a co-worker like her doesn’t happen in everybody’s jobs, so I consider myself fortunate to have her,” said Kaiser. “… She is the balance; she’s so kind, and I think she’s one of the best resources Faribault has for senior citizens.”
One program Johnson helps coordinate is the Senior Friendship Program offered through Catholic Charities. This program has evolved throughout the years but continues to give seniors a social outlet, particularly if they live alone.
“I think Brenda held everything together [with the program],” said Norma Lyons, who attended Johnson’s party.
Lyons, who previously served as a visitor with the Senior Friendship Program, is now the one who receives weekly visits. Her visitor, Cathy Hoban, said she and Lyons have both gotten to know Johnson through their involvement with the program.
“I met Brenda five to six years ago, and she’s just a wonderful, kind person … somebody you want to emulate in your life,” said Hoban, vice president of the Buckham West Board of Directors. “… I think because she’s involved in so many community organizations, she’s really well-rounded in serving senior citizens.”
Mariann Goettsch, another guest, met Johnson about 20 years ago at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church and considers her a great friend. After Goettsch’s husband had a stroke, she said Johnson directed her to the appropriate resources and became “a good sounding board.”
The admiration is mutual — Johnson considers the seniors she knows “a dynamic group of people.”
“You see them sitting in coffee shops, on their devices, taking trips to Europe, doing exercises,” said Johnson of the seniors she serves. “They’re such a great group of role models.”