Trail to be named for Joe Burns

FAIRMONT — It was standing-room only at the Fairmont City Council meeting Monday, but the council chambers were not filled with residents attending the truth-in-taxation hearing. Instead, it was the friends and family of Joe Burns who were present to witness a section of the city’s trail system named in his honor.

A few of Burns’ friends recently had attended a Fairmont Park Board meeting to submit a request to name a portion of the trail system after him. Burns has been a stalwart supporter during the inception, development and ongoing expansion of the trail system. After considering various options, the Park Board suggested naming one of the most heavily-used portions of the trail system, a segment from the Aquatic Park to Interlaken Road, as “Joe Burns Trail.”

“It goes past Joe’s house, and there’s two benches along that route have been donated by Joe’s family,” said Troy Nemmers, city engineer/public works director, in making the recommendation to the council.

Future plans include proclaiming a “Joe Burns Day” in the spring and installing identifying signs on the trail segment as part of that day.

After the council’s unanimous vote of support, Mayor Debbie Foster addressed Burns, who had been unaware of the proposal.

“This is a big surprise for you I found out from your wife, Pat, today,” Foster said. “We’re grateful, Joe, so thank you.”

Burns, who rarely is short on words when it comes to the trail system, offered a brief comment with a not-so-subtle reference to his long-time desire to see a completed system circling around the city.

“The only thing I ask of everybody here is don’t let it be a dead end,” he said.

Turning to another matter, the council set a public hearing, as required by City Code, for 5:30 p.m. Jan. 8 on a proposed ordinance to sell an empty lot at 1218 N. Elm St. to Joseph and Christina Thate, who own the adjacent property at 1218 N. Elm St. The city acquired the property as a tax-forfeiture, razed the house on the lot and has been mowing and maintaining the sidewalks for several years. The Thates have offered to buy the 47-by-150-foot lot for $1,000, which city staff estimates is less than the yearly maintenance costs.

During the time for staff and council comments, City Administrator Mike Humpal addressed recent citizen complaints about snowplows, as they clear the streets, depositing snow at the end of residential driveways.

“We’re going to look at it in depth,” he said.

A presentation will be made to the council in January.

Councilman Jim Zarling commented on the city’s efforts in past years to keep snow from the end of driveways.

“It doubles the amount of time to clear it,” he said. “If they’re willing to hire a bigger crew, we can sure do that.”

Years ago, only one of the plows had a blade attachment that could be implemented to prevent driveway accumulation.

“It was hard on equipment. It wasn’t very efficient,” Zarling said.

The city has 75 miles of streets that need clearing after each significant snowfall.

In other business, the council:

o Heard the mayor’s proclamation declaring Jan. 3 as “Joe Schmit Silent Impact Day” in Fairmont. The broadcaster and author will be keynote speaker that day at a free family event at 6:30 p.m. at the Fairmont High School Performing Arts Center. The event is sponsored by the Martin County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition through a grant provided by the Traverse des Sioux Library System and funded with money from the state’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

o Approved an three-year employment labor agreement with the Law Enforcement Labor Services. The city agreed to 60 calendar days for injury on duty pay and for wage increases of 3 percent in 2018, 3.25 percent in 2019 and 3.5 percent in 2020.

o Adopted an updated personnel policy governing city employees. The city’s management staff has been working with HR Advisors for 18 months to update the policy, which had been unchanged for more than 30 years.