By Celeste Rapp
The Starbuck City Council held an emergency meeting on Thursday, June 25 to discuss chemical treatments in the Starbuck Marina, the bike path project along Hwy. 29 near the Starbuck Airport, the council response to community correspondence, and the city’s emergency order regarding COVID-19.
The Starbuck Community Center was full of concerned community members at the meeting as the council held their first in-person meeting in months. All those in attendance were spaced six feet apart to accommodate COVID-19 pandemic safety measures.
Starbuck Mayor Gary Swenson said that the council has been having meetings with the Lakes Association and Pope County Land and Resource Management department about the Starbuck Marina. Corrosion had been found on boats that sat in the marina last year and some boat owners are concerned that the corrosion is due to a chemical treatment applied by the Lakes Association for the invasive species starry stonewort.
Councilman Ted Razink had placed pontoon grade aluminum in the city marina to see if there’s corrosion to the aluminum over time. He said that the last time he checked the aluminum, there was no damage and that there hasn’t been any damage since December.
The city agreed with the Lakes Association last year to apply for a permit for invasive species treatment. A maximum of four treatments for starry stonewort could be done this year. A pre- and post-treatment survey is required for any chemical application. It was stated that the city would notify marina slip renters at least two weeks before treatment to allow them to move their boats if they desire.
Razink said that a pipe to keep the water flowing in the marina has been plugged up and that the water in the marina is stagnant. Stagnant water could prevent the chemicals from moving around in the water and cause them to be more concentrated in certain areas, he said.
The council then discussed the paved bike trail and crosswalk project on Hwy. 29. Swenson informed those in attendance that the city had been working on getting a crosswalk across the highway for over three years. The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MDOT) wouldn’t place an official crosswalk there unless there was a bike path on the west side of the highway. Swenson said that having an official crosswalk from the west side of the highway to the east side, near the city beach, is a matter of public safety and accessibility for community members and visitors alike.
One of the community members, Kris Goracke, asked where exactly the bike path would be and asked where the golf carts are allowed to drive on the bike path with the current ordinance. The bike path will start south of Airport Road and end across the entrance of the beach parking lot and will be constructed in two parts. As for where the golf carts are allowed to drive, City Clerk Calvin Benson said that golf carts are limited to where they can drive and Goracke asked if that could be marked better.
The main reason the item was brought to the emergency meeting was because only one bid was submitted for the project and the city approved that bid. There are other potential bidders who didn’t see the email in time to submit their bid before the deadline and would like to do so, it was stated.
The council approved to call for the rebidding of the project which will give bidders a little more time to submit their bids.
Council responds to community
The council allowed community members to speak during the meeting about any concerns they may have.
Sadie Schlief, from Lowry, was the first to speak about the corrosion problem in the Starbuck Marina. She said that she has been continuing to talk to a researcher the city had asked to look into the corrosion issue for them and that she would like the city to give the researcher everything they have for any applications the city approved.
Benson informed Schlief that he had sent the information and samples of damage to the researcher 24 hours after the meeting on June 8. Schlief then said that the researcher didn’t know when the samples were taken and where they were from. She said that all the data given to the researcher needs to be sent by the applicator, the entity that paid for the applications, and not herself.
Another concerned community member was Karen Holte. She asked why an emergency meeting was called for. Razink said that the bike path matter, specifically rebidding the project, was the main reason to call the emergency meeting.
Holte said that she would like more transparency about everything and would like to see a diagram of the bike path project. She then asked why there were still two pontoons in a marina off of the skateboard park and city beach parking lot.
Swenson said that Razink had been told to pull the new marina out while they take all the steps to properly get a new marina placed. He then said that it is not the city’s jurisdiction and that the Sheriff’s Office and the DNR had been contacted about the two boats.
Goracke then said that she had talked to the DNR and Sheriff and both had said that for boats to stay in the water overnight, they need a permit and they need to have proper lighting at night for safety reasons.
Beachside RV Park co-owner Amanda Bluhm asked why people have a problem with the issue and said that a sailboat off of Water’s Edge doesn’t have proper lighting.
Goracke responded by saying that moored boats need to have some sort of light on at night and that the problem is that the owners of the two boats were asked to move and they didn’t.
Razink added that he had been worried when the RV park came to town because he thought there would be many boats that would be moored on the lakeshore since they had nowhere to go.
Justin Koenig of Canby was at the meeting and spoke about the corrosion problem in the marina. He said that he’s had a boat in the Starbuck Marina for a few years now. He didn’t know about the corrosion issue until a letter was sent out in March and said that when he checked his boat, there was damage. He was able to powerwash the aluminum and get most of the spots on his boat to go away.
Koenig said he had put his boat in the water three weeks prior and that when he took it out the Sunday prior to the meeting, he initially didn’t notice any damage. After having it out of the water for a few hours though, he said the spots on his boat reappeared and that there’s pretty extensive damage to it. “I would have pulled it out in the fall if I had known about it,” he stated.
Roger Aaberg spoke to the character of the members of the council. He said he lives outside of Starbuck with his wife, and is related through marriage to Swenson. He’s been on some councils and committees and stated, “It’s hard to find people that are honest and want to work and run a city for nothing.” He then said that the council had handled the night’s meeting well and that they’re just trying to find solutions. “It’s hard to find a way to please everyone.” He then said that everything should be looked at from a bigger picture.
Holte then asked if there would be a public hearing in the future. She stated that it’s partly her own fault for not keeping up with what has been happening in town but that everyone’s lives are busy and it’s hard to think of anything else during the pandemic. Holte said that she appreciates there being more transparency and would like to see community input taken into consideration. “There has to be some respect for the people of Starbuck, it’s not just about what the council wants,” she said.
Razink said that there had been a public meeting planned before the COVID-19 pandemic. He then said that he didn’t want it to come to this with people concerned about transparency.