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Kaden Hart

Bemidji State’s Kaden Hart passes the ball in a game against Martin Luther on Nov. 16, 2019, at the BSU Gymnasium. (Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer)

Commission to examine options for Native American memorial

In 1895, a community member named Mrs. William Lynch drew, from memory, a map of where Native Americans lived in Faribault following the Dakota Conflict of 1862.

The map, which the Rice County Historical Society acquired in 1941, tells a unique story of Native Americans’ settlement on Alexander Faribault’s land following the largest mass execution in U.S. history. The approximate location captured in the map drawing is believed to be near the River Bend Nature Center and along Dairy Lane.

Misty Schwab 

This map, hand-drawn from memory by a community member in 1895, is an artifact the Rice County Historical Society has owned since 1941. The map captures where Native Americans lived in relation to Alexander Faribault’s house after the 1862 Dakota Conflict. (Courtesy of Rice County Historical Society)

After learning about the historic significance of the area near the Dairy Lane telecommunication towers, the Heritage Preservation Commission developed the idea to install a Native American memorial or marker near the site. The commission has invited Sue Garwood, executive director of RCHS, to share her input at the next HPC meeting, which is 6 p.m. Monday, July 20.

“The map and narrative caught the attention of the HPC and we thought it would be a good idea to recognize the history of that area,” said Kim Clausen, the city’s community development coordinator.

The project is in the preliminary stages, said Clausen. The commission wants to gather input from various stakeholders, including Native Americans with history in Faribault, to determine the form of the memorial. Landowners would also need to approve the project. Clausen said the HPC may apply for state Legacy funding and find other ways to raise money for the memorial, which would likely be installed in 2021 at the earliest.

The commission doesn’t normally review projects outside the downtown district, said Clausen, but the planned Native American memorial is an exception due to its connection to Faribault history.

“I think it’s a really neat idea,” said Garwood of the memorial proposal. “It’s part of the story we at the Rice County Historical Society tell, but it would be really wonderful to be marked in an official capacity … It would be neat to be able to find another way to continue that sharing of history.”

While many Minnesota settlers wanted the Dakota to leave the state after the Dakota Conflict, Garwood said Faribault’s Bishop Henry Whipple wanted to protect the Native Americans who worked hard to save and protect settlers. City founder Faribault then donated his land, where many Native Americans built log cabins for homes and worked in Faribault’s mills. Faribault helped pay for the Native Americans’ education and clothing.

Native Americans lived in Faribault for a number of years, said Garwood, but over time the numbers dwindled. Even though these Native Americans on Faribault’s land weren’t banished from the state, they left to be with their families. They sold their property, which they came to own, and collectively bought land that is now the Lower Sioux Agency in Morton, Minnesota.

According to Garwood, many at the Lower Sioux Agency refer to themselves as “Faribault Indians.”

Mural in the making

One project the HPC already approved is a three-sided mural local artist Jeff Jarvis will soon begin painting on the Upper East Side building at 213 Central Avenue.

Jarvis presented an updated design idea to the commission Monday. He initially shared three design options with it June 15. The design the HPC approved features a painting of a giant zipper that appears to expose a hidden layer of a purple skyline against a yellow background.

Misty Schwab 

Faribault artist Jeff Jarvis will get started on this three-sided mural on the back, north and south walls of the Upper East Side building this summer. He expects an August completion date. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Jarvis)

In his updated design, Jarvis added zipper details to run vertically along the corners of the building. He also added Italianate style windows to paint on the north and south walls.

After Jarvis receives a public art permit from the City Council, he plans to start working on the mural in July. Until then, cleaning the building and preparing it for paint will become his priority. He expects to complete the project by August.

Road, parking lot project going full steam ahead

After seeking feedback from adjacent property owners, Faribault’s City Council has signed off on detailed plans for a comprehensive road reconstruction project downtown.

The $1.5 million project will be funded with just under $700,000 from Faribault’s state aid account. Annually, the city receives about $1 million in state aid annually, but the expensive Hwy 60 reconstruction project, completed last year, plunged its account into the red. As a result, the downtown improvement project will go forward as one of the few major street improvement projects the city is able to fund this year. Bids will be solicited over the next month, with construction to start by Aug. 15.

Aside from state aid, the project will be funded by five separate city accounts as well as TIF District 13, which was created to support the construction of the Hillside Apartments. Just $89,300 will be derived from special assessments on adjacent property owners.

City Engineer Mark Duchene eschewed the traditional informational meeting, citing the COVID-19 pandemic and the limited number of adjacent property owners (the largest being the city itself). He offered to meet individually with property owners, but none requested a meeting.

The first phase of the project will be the reconstruction and expansion of the library’s parking lot. The lot will be expanded north and east into what is now Park Place, the street that currently divides the library from Peace Park. The new parking lot is the latest and largest investment the city has made in its library. Councilors have also approved funding for a roof replacement, new carpeting and paint.

Once it’s complete, the lot will have 119 stalls, compared to just 104 currently. Increasing downtown parking has long been a major issue for the city, with an ad hoc Parking Commission finding a significant shortage at critical times.

The parking situation has been exacerbated since Hillside Apartments opened earlier this month. Hillside may help to ease the city’s rental shortage, but its presence has both increased the number of downtown residents and reduced the amount of off-street parking as part of the structure sits on a former city lot.

The parking lot expansion is not only the first phase of the project, it’s also the only phase which set to be done this year. The city is willing to consider bids that would delay the rest of the project until next year, so long as it’s done by Aug. 1, 2021.

The rest of the project will include a full reconstruction of the two blocks of Division Street adjacent to the library and Buckham West, as well as the adjacent block of Central Avenue located in front of the Community Co-op.

All three city blocks are in need of reconstruction. According to a PowerPoint presentation prepared by DuChene, the east block of Division was last reconstructed in 1925, the west block in 1972 and the Central Avenue block in 1946. In addition to sidewalk reconstruction, the project will also include replacement of water and sewer pipes under both streets.

According to DuChene, the 10-inch sewer pipes date back a century or more, while the oldest of the 6-inch water pipes date back to 1883. Remarkably, there’s no record of major leakage, even though the city doesn’t even know what material they’re made out of.

DuChene’s projections show that the reconstruction project could have a lifespan of 50 to 60 years. In order to ensure maximum lifespan, the city would need to invest in five seal coats and a pair of overlays over that period.

Council puts chicken ordinance back on menu

At the behest of Councilor Elizabeth Cap, a narrow majority of Faribault’s City Council voted to give a local family an additional 30 days to get chickens off of their property and to put the city’s chicken ordinance back on the menu for future discussion.

Two weeks ago, 11-year-old Zach Klecker visited the council with his mother Kathy and asked councilors to consider changing city ordinance to allow pet chickens within city limits. The Kleckers had previously sent councilors a letter asking for their support.

Allowing city residents to keep pet chickens, with some restrictions and regulations, would have placed Faribault in line with cities from Rochester to St. Peter to Northfield, which have all passed similar ordinances to accommodate rising interest in urban farming.

Kathy Klecker has lived in Faribault for 25 years, and says she’s raised chickens for most of that time. Over that time, the Kleckers built and rebuilt their coop with great care, and have gone to great lengths to keep their chickens safe, happy and healthy. But after a city inspector recently discovered the flock, the Kleckers were told that they needed to get them off the property within 30 days. A family friend who lives out on a hobby farm is planning on taking the chickens.

Still, the Kleckers expressed hope that the chickens would be able to stay at their house. Kathy Klecker said that if the chickens do have to go, their transition to country life could be fraught with additional risks.

At last week’s meeting, a majority of the council said no to further discussion of the chicken ordinance. Councilor Peter van Sluis had previously shown interest in revisiting the topic, but instead joined Councilors Royal Ross, Tom Spooner and Janna Viscomi in opposition.

van Sluis said he had been on the fence with regard to its wisdom and subsequently received a large volume of negative feedback. van Sluis said that many residents were particularly concerned about the smell produced by pet chickens. Others worried about noise, and some were uncertain if an effective, efficient regulatory code could be developed. The councilor also highlighted the risk that poorly kept pet chickens could contribute to the spread of bird flu.

In 2016, the avian, or bird flu, had affected 108 farm operations in 23 Minnesota counties and prompting the killing of over 9 million turkeys. More than 225 workers at Faribault’s Jennie-O were furloughed, and county and state fairs disallowed birds from celebrations that year.

The council last considered allowing chickens in city limits one year later. At the time, the bird flu issue was deeply concerning to Jennie-O, one of the city’s largest employers. Along with regulatory and other concerns, Jennie-O’s opposition played a crucial role in sinking the proposal.

Despite those concerns, a majority of the City Council initially rejected the Planning Commission’s recommendation that chickens not be allowed within city limits and directed city staff to develop a potential ordinance for chicken legalization. That proposed ordinance, authored by City Planner Dave Wanberg, would have placed strict regulations on chickens to limit the spread of disease and avoid bothering neighbors. While it never made it into the city code, it provides an “oven ready” template if the council decides to act.

After the last week’s rejection, the council wasn’t planning on discussing the matter further. However, Cap had the opportunity to visit the Klecker residence over the week, and what she saw affirmed her support for allowing chickens in the city limits.

“They’re entirely enclosed, they don’t make a noise, they’re not a nuisance, there’s no smell,” she said. “This decision is impacting a lot of people, and if there’s anything we can do to brighten someone’s day, let’s take a look at that.”

As she has at previous council meetings, Cap repeated her claim that under some interpretations, the Kleckers’s chickens could actually be legal under current ordinance, so long as they are kept continuously enclosed.

Cap also asked City Administrator Tim Murray to investigate the possibility of holding a referendum. Under Section 5 of the city’s charter, a referendum can be held if 20% of those who voted for mayor in the most recent election sign a petition asking for one.

Though he opposed further discussion on the chicken ordinance last week, Ross said he would be willing to extend the eviction period for the Kleckers’ chickens by 30 days to give councilors additional time to discuss Murray’s findings.

That was opposed by Spooner and Viscomi, who said they had no interest in revisiting the topic. After waffling, van Sluis came down in favor of the extension, giving it the crucial fourth vote needed to proceed.

Murray said he plans on getting his memo to the Council this week so it can be discussed at next week’s work session.