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City Council approves downtown bench policy

This steel bench is one of four styles of benches the city has indicated are suitable for downtown sidewalks. (Image from the city of Hudson)1 / 2
This bench with a wooden back and seat is one the city has suggested for the downtown. Alderperson Randy Morrissettee II said the Public Works Committee doesn’t want wooden benches, however.2 / 2

Businesses and groups that want to place benches on public sidewalks in downtown Hudson will have to get approval from the city from now on.

The City Council on Oct. 21 adopted a policy regulating the practice.

It requires a minimum sidewalk width of seven feet for a bench to be installed, and says at least five feet must remain open for pedestrians.

Benches must be adjacent and parallel to buildings, and no more than six feet in length.

Finally, the briefly worded policy says, “Benches shall be of a design and materials approved by the city of Hudson.”

“The Public Works Department shall maintain a list of benches approved by the city of Hudson,” the policy states in conclusion.

It wasn’t clear, from the council discussion, what benches would make the list or who would make the decisions.

The meeting agenda on the city’s website,, had a link to photos of four styles of benches.

One was made of cast iron, another appeared to be steel. Two of the designs had metal frameworks with wooden seats and backs.

But Alderperson Randy Morrissette II, a member of the Public Works Committee that first reviewed the policy, said that he and committee chairperson Lori Bernard agreed that they didn’t want wooden benches on sidewalks.

Bernard and Morrissette are currently the only members of the Public Works Committee. The third seat is open following the resignation of former District 4 alderperson Kurt TeWinkel.

After considerable discussion about what colors and styles of benches should be allowed, the council appeared to leave it up to the city staff for now.

Community Development Director Dennis Darnold said the list of approved benches could be finalized later.

“We tried to keep it as simple and straightforward as possible,” Darnold said of the policy, which he drafted.

Morrissette said he and Bernard had some differences of opinion regarding the policy, and agreed to bring it the full council for the final decisions.

Bernard said she thought there should be some uniformity to the color of the benches.

Alderperson Mary Yacoub expressed a reluctance to restrict colors. She said a business might want the color of a bench to match a franchise color.

Alderperson John Hoggatt suggested that there should be some leeway in style to allow benches that match a building.

“Businesses come and go. We want something that will stand the test of time,” Bernard responded.

“I guess what we are trying to avoid is just anybody putting a bench on our right of way,” commented Mayor Alan Burchill.

Darnold emphasized that the policy doesn’t apply to benches placed on private property in the downtown. There are places where the sidewalk next to the building is private property, he said.

In response to a question from Council President Rich Vanselow, Darnold said any plaques affixed to a bench will have to be approved by the city.

City Attorney Catherine Munkittrick added that plaques will only be used for recognizing groups or individuals that donate benches. Advertising won’t be allowed, she said.

The City Council decided to set standards for downtown benches after Hudson’s Rotary clubs came forward earlier this year with an offer to place donated benches on sidewalks.

The blue Rotary benches have the name of the service organization embedded in large letters on the seat backs. Some alderpersons didn’t want the Rotary benches to become the standard bench for the downtown.

Lift station engineering

The council approved spending an estimated $87,400 on engineering fees for designing improvements to a sanitary sewer lift station and for supervision of the construction.

The lift station is located between Wisconsin and Laurel avenues behind the Christian Community Homes complex.

The council’s Finance Committee questioned Foth Infrastructure & Environment engineer Karen Erickson about the quote, with Mayor Alan Burchill asking her if it didn’t seem high for a project expected to have a total cost in the $300,000 range.

Erickson replied that the price estimate was for the total project, including preliminary and final design work, and construction supervision.

The written offer from Foth lists a number of evaluations that will be conducted to determine what needs to be replaced, and with what equipment.

Erickson said the price for final design could be limited to $29,700, but the preliminary design work (estimated at $42,700) and construction supervision (estimated at $29,700) had to be billed at an hourly rate.

The design work is scheduled to be completed in time for a bid opening in June 2014. The construction is scheduled to start in July 2014.

The money for the lift station project will come from a wastewater utility capital improvement fund.

Other action

In other action, the City Council:

--Approved Mayor Alan Burchill’s reappointment of Joshua Bernhard, 926 First St., to another five-year term on the Hudson Public Utility Commission, which oversees the water utility. Bernhard’s term will run through September 2018.

--Accepted a bid in the amount of $35,600 from Luther Hudson Chevrolet on the purchase of a one-ton truck for the Public Works Department. Hudson Ford submitted a lower bid, but the truck it offered didn’t have an auto-locking rear differential and locking front hubs. “It’s a big deal to us to have those locking wheels,” said Public Works Director Tom Zeuli, explaining that the truck would sometimes be used for snowplowing.

--Disallowed a claim for damages from Gary and Cheryl Edholm, 715 Fourth St. The Edholms say their driveway, garage floor, shop floor and house were damaged by flooding from heavy rain on June 21, 2013. The city has had “actual knowledge” of the continuing problems with flooding on the Edholm property since at least 2011, the Edholms said in their claim. It says the city failed to change the street grade between the alley and Fifth Street to prevent any overflow from Elm Street, as was suggested in a March 2006 feasibility study. The “notice of circumstance” the Edholms filed doesn’t put a dollar figure on the Edholms’ damages. The notice was signed by Gary Edholm and attorney Mark Gherty. Citizens must file a claim against a local government before suing for damages.

--Approved a revised agreement with Walker Parking Consultants and Foth Infrastructure & Environment for a downtown parking ramp study of the North Lot and Williams Lot sites. The price of the study was lowered by $1,000 because the City Council dropped the Phipps Lot as a potential location for a ramp. The new price of the study is $8,500.

--Granted the Hudson Crusaders hockey team temporary Class “B” retailer’s licenses to sell beer at the Hudson Sports & Civic Center, 1820 Hanley Road, on eight evenings in the coming season. Licenses were approved for the MNJHL Oktoberfest Shootout, Oct. 25-26; Crusaders vs. Northern Lights, Nov. 2; 2013 Crusader Christmas Classic, Dec. 20-21; Crusaders vs. Minnesota Owls, Jan. 17; Crusaders vs. Maple Grove Energy, Feb. 8; and Crusaders vs. Rochester Ice Hawks, Feb. 15.

--Established the license fees for multi-rider pedal tour cabs (called quadricycles) at $100 for the first cab and $25 for each additional cab. The fee for a quadricycle driver’s license was set at $10.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

(715) 426-1066