City Attorney Greg Schieber from Nethercut Schieber Attorneys in Harmony attended last Wednesday’s City Council meeting in Mabel to talk to the council about helping the city create a renewable energy ordinance.

Schieber said it takes time to put an ordinance together, but it’s nice to have on hand when someone wants solar energy for their house in town.

The city of Harmony is also creating a similar ordinance. The closest city with a renewable energy ordinance already in place is Lanesboro, he added. Lanesboro has three different permit types for renewable energy, depending on situation and location.

There are a few things the city has to consider when creating the ordinance, Schieber said.

First, the city has to decide if the energy options are a right or if residents should apply for a conditional use permit.

“Are people inherently able to put them on the roof or do you have to ask the council?” Schieber said. “Another thing is where are they permitted?”

The second consideration is location of the panels. Schieber asked the council members to consider if they want panels on grounds, roofs or either. If the panels can be put on roofs, how steep can the roof pitch be and how high can the panels stand on it?

“You also have to consider the neighbors around that,” Schieber said. “What can neighbors do to access light? If the panels block sunlight from the neighbor’s house, what do you do?”

Another consideration is the use of the panels as just an accessory or if they are the principal use of a lot.

Schieber gave an example of one city where someone wanted to build a solar farm on an empty lot. He asked the council members if they would allow that or just use the panels to power someone’s home.

He also told them they should have a policy with a timeline in case the panels are abandoned or are no longer in use.

“Most importantly, what are the details of the city requirements for zoning districts regarding solar power?” Schieber said. “The city has to be a gatekeeper to make sure the resident is abiding by the rules.”

It’s also a good idea to require sketches or drawings of where the panels will be and include interconnection agreements, Schieber pointed out. The city could also have the opportunity to assess charges if necessary, such as connection charges.

Schieber said he could give sample ordinances to the council and find one that would best fit their needs and tweak it until it was right for Mabel.

Mayor James Westby agreed and asked him to send sample ordinances to them. The council will discuss it at the next meeting and move forward from there.

Barricades needed

In another matter, Westby told the council that a concrete barricade would be put near the road in the Steam Engine Grounds Park because vehicles and recreational vehicles travel too fast through that area, especially around a corner.

“We’re trying to get more visibility by that building,” Westby said.

He added that shutting down the road would be inconvenient because people use the park for picnics and events.

“The barricade should keep people away from the blind spot by the building,” Westby said. “If it doesn’t work, we can visit it again and find another remedy.”

Public Works report

Public Works director Bob Mierau introduced new Public Works assistant Jeff Rein in his Public Works department report. At the time of the meeting, he had been on the job for about a week and a half.

Mierau said he sent in the permit to the state for the culvert crossing on Highway 44. He hoped to have price estimates by the next council meeting and information for the state requirements.

He also met with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently and said the department is updating floodplain management maps. The process of creating new maps will include an open comment period.

The city has six months to re-establish its flood ordinance, which has not been done since 1992.

Mierau said the department was still working on the sump pump issue and sewer backup. The claims adjuster is talking to residents, he added.

There is damage at the sewer plant and the well house, where two wells were affected. Mierau added the monitor and control panel are unusable at this point and there is no mechanism to report how much water is in the tower, but there is a pressure gauge, which gives them some idea. He said the department is going to update the panel and add an alarm system.

Mierau also gave an update on Cherrywood Drive and County Road 34. He met with the county engineers and got their thoughts on the road. The county will handle the County Road 34 construction, while the city is looking into paving Cherrywood Drive.

He has received one bid for the road project, which was a little higher than expected and hoped the project would be dealt with soon.

Westby agreed and said a lot of people use that road to get to ball games, especially young drivers.

“Kids are driving out there to games and hitting soft spots and going into the ditch,” Westby said.

A surveyor said the road should be widened and if that were to happen, the road would need to be shut done for nearly a year.

The spring road bans expire next week, which means tractors and semis are allowed to travel on the road. If the road starts breaking up, the road will be closed to through traffic and only open to residents who live on that road, Westby said.

He also mentioned the city could receive $14,000 in funding from the state if the transportation bill is passed this year.

Animal ordinance

Larson reminded the council and residents of the city’s animal ordinance. Each residence is allowed a total of two pets.

She said there are a number of unlicensed pets in the city and there was an issue with an unlicensed animal having attacked a child.

“We didn’t have any records, no vaccination records on the animal,” Larson said. “The city is going to start cracking down on it.”

Westby said he talked to the sheriff about unlicensed pets. By May 1, all pets will need a license. If they do not have one, the owner will get a ticket.

Larson said vet records can be turned into the city any time, especially if they have been updated.

Westby said he also received an email from a farmer who is willing to take feral cats or stray cats.

Other business

Westby reminded the council and Mabel residents that Clean-Up Day is May 13, from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Wastewater Treatment Plant. He hoped people with refrigerators, stoves, tires and other property nuisances would bring their stuff to Clean-Up Day and dispose of it.

Clerk Karen Larson reported the city was awarded $1,000 from the Rockwell Collins Grant. In the past, the city has been awarded up to $2,500 from that grant. The city will use that money to change streetlights to LEDs on the east side of Mabel.

The council approved a motion to opt in to the MiEnergy Cooperative Load Management Program, which is a program that allows MiEnergy to cut power to the Wastewater Treatment Plant during peak times to save energy and keep costs down. Mierau said the city has opted in to the program since its beginning.

In the EDA report, Westby said the city is still moving forward on the daycare center.

Councilmember Terry Torkelson asked about the banners that hang on the street light posts. The banners are tattered and nearly 20 years old. “Some towns have it where businesses can sponsor a banner and get their name on it and maintain it,” he said. Westby said he would bring that idea to the next Mabel Business Association meeting.

The Mabel City Council approved a fundraiser at the request of the Mabel-Canton sophomore class to use the Steam Engine Grounds and necessary streets for a 5K race. Class President Blake Henry and Treasurer Madison Michels said the fundraiser would benefit next year’s prom. The race will take place on May 20 and start and end at the Steam Engine Grounds. The race will follow the same route as the Run from the Sun race held in Mabel, except it will go backwards.