Wakefield City Council meets

Wakefield's city council met to discus rezoning, street projects and more on Feb. 12.

A public hearing was held for rezoning City-owned real estate, specifically lots 1, 2 and 3 in the Industrial Tract, from I1 Industrial to C2-General Commercial. The change to C2 would allow both residential housing and commercial properties on those lots.

"Since we can't find any other ground and there seems to be a need for apartments, we'll vote to change that," Wakefield mayor Paul Eaton said.

One of those lots is in discussion for a small apartment complex that would alleviate some of the town's housing shortage. There was some discussion from council members about whether it was worth green-lighting two apartment buildings instead of one in the area.

"We're having trouble finding property in City Limits. I think that's our only place to put an apartment out there, and since we're doing one lot out there we might as well," council member Larry Soderberg said.

Council member Ross Hansen was in favor of waiting to see how one apartment project would go. After discussion, the council voted to pass an ordinance to rezone and waived the three readings.

Steve Harris Construction, out of Homer, was awarded a $426,669.28 bid for the Michener Street Paving Project. The bids came in well under estimates. Harris Construction will add sidewalks to the east side between Michener and 7th and 8th Streets. While there had been no pre-construction meeting at the time of the city council meeting, a representative said an April start date was expected.

The council voted unanimously to approve the hiring of a manager at Wakefield's Civic Center. Currently, the plan is to hire a manager to work roughly 10 hours per week at a rate around $15 per hour. Their responsibility would be to help with booking, upkeep and organization.

"We as a (Civic Center) board feel like we need to have someone in charge of the Civic Center," council member Val Bard said.

After long discussion, ordinances to amend the number of CRA and Park Board members was tabled. Eaton also voiced a desire to appoint different members of the Park Board and change the board's responsibilities, in addition to updating city ordinances involving boards and committees. Those topics will be discussed at a later date.

A non-binding agreement with Rural Housing 360, an organization that helps workforces in rural America find affordable housing where they work, was discussed. Megan Weaver, economic developer at Wakefield Progressive, Inc. said while the agreement would be non-binding, the city would need to have it in place to continue to work with Rural Housing 360. The council was waiting on a list of services or contributions they could pledge before they signed the agreement, and the signing was tabled until then.

Also tabled for 30 days, was approval for a hotel study agreement. City administrator Jim Litchfield told the council that in order to attract potential hotel developers the city needed to have a hotel study. The Sales Tax Committee and CRA both support the study, with the former agreeing to fund the study. Eaton and Soderberg were vocal about their preference to avoid a study and find an individual developer for a hotel. Eaton said he would try to speak to someone who had expressed interest in opening a hotel in the town several years ago and revisit the issue 30 days later.

Elijah Kastner was approved for membership on Wakefield's Volunteer Fire Department. Bids for the 6th Street Paving Project will be opened on March 10. Inlets at 6th and Winter Streets are in bad shape and will be repaved and get new curbs.

The next Wakefield City Council meeting will be held on Wednesday, March 11 at 5:30 p.m. at the Wakefield City Offices.

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