Rockford CC 1-7-21

Ames Florida Stork House in the 1960’s.

The Rockford Area Historical Society proposes to build a stone walkway and stairway to the Ames-Florida-Stork House as part of a plan to make the historic building more visible from Bridge Street and to move the Stork entrance to face the river.

RAHS representatives on Tuesday, Dec. 22 presented the society’s plans to the Rockford City Council and asked for financial assistance. City Administrator Dan Madsen said the city could look at potential fund raisers.

At the meeting, the council also took up other business. Here are meeting highlights.

STORK HOUSE

Kevin Koehler, of RAHS, described the Stork House stairway project.

He said that in the 1830s visitors entered the Stork House via the door facing the river. Moving the entrance from the Bridge Street side to the river side would make the building more historically accurate and give visitors a beautiful view of the river.

Recreating the stairway to the river side using area field stone would add a “wow” factor to the property. The stairway would be the first step in creating an enhanced venue for hosting corporate events. Also, the Stork House can hold only a small number of people. Making the property accessible on the river side would enable more people to attend events by being outside.

Koehler said the Stork House is not visible to people coming from the west on Bridge Street. Clearing brush and adding the walkway would make the house and the outdoor Christmas tree visible from both directions.

The stairway project would include placing sliced boulders as steps leading to the landing, installing iron railings along the stairway, clearing of brush from the area proposed for the stairway, protecting mature hard wood trees near the project area, shaving the top of the hill to minimize the incline from the street to the house, ensuring structural stability of the hill and embedding boulders in the hill to create a wall effect.

Costs for a project of this size usually amount to $24,000 to $25,000, a second RAHS representative said. His goal is to whittle costs down to the $10,000 range by using donated labor, materials and equipment. He did not want to use funds that have been earmarked for painting and other maintenance of the Stork House.

City Councilor Rick Martenson said he liked the project. However, charitable gambling proceeds are down significantly because of the pandemic. Financing the project would be the hard part.

The RAHS representatives said the society would work on costs and financing and get back to the city. The goal is construction in early spring.

AUDRA ETZEL RESIGNS

In personnel matters, the City Council learned that Deputy City Clerk Audra Etzel has resigned in order to accept a City Clerk position with the city of Otsego. The council directed staff to advertise for someone to succeed Etzel.

City Administrator Dan Madsen said Etzel has served Rockford for 12 years. “I am sad to see her go,” he said. “Going to a larger city is a great career move with more responsibility for her. I congratulate her on her path forward.”

SPECIAL BUDGETS

Turning to financial matters, the City Council adopted Rockford’s budgets for special revenue funds, the Rockford Area Historical Society, the Rockford Fire Department, Economic Development Authority, capital projects, park dedication and water and sewer funds.

Finance Director Jennifer Swendsen said that, with the exception of the historical society, none of these funds are part of the General Fund, and the city property tax levy does not pay for any of these funds. They are operated like businesses and require revenues to support their expenses.

OTHER

The City Council also:

DECIDED not to express an opinion on a zoning change that Minnesota Teen Challenge is requesting from Wright County. The change would add “treatment and recovery facility” to approved uses in the Agricultural zoning district. The Minnesota Teen Challenge property is located between Rockford and Hanover in Wright County.

APPROVED the roster of the Rockford Fire Department as of Dec. 7.

ACCEPTED a $1,000 donation from Kwik Trip and rounding up of $5,811 from utility bills paid by Rockford city water and sewer users.

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