After 14 months of battling the COVID-19 pandemic on a local level, Owatonna has officially ended its state of emergency for the city.

At the regular city council meeting Tuesday night, the board unanimously – albeit unceremoniously – voted to terminate the state of emergency that was first enacted on March 16, 2020. Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director Mike Johnson said in his letter to the council that there is no longer a need to implement emergency operations plans to address the pandemic in Owatonna.

During the meeting, the council returned to their normal seats without social distancing at the dais for the first time since the beginning of March last year. Councilor Jeff Okerberg was not present.

In other council news, the council unanimously approved two resolutions Tuesday night that will impact the downtown development projects. The first was the execution of deed to finalize the sale of city property for the development of the Marriott Courtyard hotel on the 200 block of North Cedar. The purchase agreement includes the old theater lot and a public parking lot off of East Pearl Street for the total price of $268,000 to Owatonna Hospitality 1 LLC. The company is requesting tax increment financing to pay for the two parcels over a 25-year period.

The second resolution was to approve the final plat of the Pearl Courtyard Addition, a five-lot, commercial and high density residential plat. The applicant, also Owatonna Hospitality 1 LLC, is proposing to construct a 43-unit apartment building north of Pearl Street and a private parking lot.

The two projects, which will be constructed simultaneously, beginning in June, are being developed by Hamilton Real Estate Group. CEO Mac Hamilton has been a longtime supporter of Owatonna and has been involved in various local development projects over recent years.

The Council approved a statement of intent with Suez WTS Systems USA Inc. for development of plans and specifications for the wastewater treatment plant expansions. With the project, the city will be converting the facility to a membrane bio-reactor process with modified enhanced biological phosphorus. The cost for development of the shop drawings is $125,000.

The statement of intent states that the membrane bio-reactor equipment will be included in the design and named in the final construction bidding documents. Because the expansion is designed around the equipment, City Engineer and Public Works Director Kyle Skov said the supplier needed to be selected early in the project development.

The Council also formally adopted Tuesday night the Owatonna 2040 Transportation Plan. Prior to this adoption, the city did not have a formal transportation plan. Skov said the plan identifies issues and opportunities into specific and actionable strategies. Elements of the plant were created in coordination with other city and county efforts and those of other key study partners, cities, townships, and the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Reach Reporter Annie Granlund at 507-444-2378 or follow her on Twitter @AnnieGranlund. ©Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota.

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