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City Council briefs: Economic development plan, city administrator finalists and Tobacco 21

Economic Development Strategic Plan

City Council discussed and adopted an Economic Development Strategic Plan presented by economic development coordinator Rusty Fifield.

The plan outlines the assets that Hastings has in regard to economic growth, as well as some of the road blocks the city has faced in growth over the past years.

The plan includes an action plan that lists ongoing and immediate actions for the city to take to help foster economic development.

One immediate action the plan lays out, is the need for an evaluation of current housing needs in the city. Another is to enhance the city's environment for locating and operating businesses, such as work toward the completion of Great River Landing in the old Hudson Manufacturing Building. The plan also focuses on figuring out how the city can make use of redevelopment opportunities, as well as updating the "Business" page of the city website.

City administrator finalist approval

The Administrative Committee, designated as the ad hoc committee for semi-finalist interviews, interviewed six candidates on June 19 and 24. The committee recommended four to be finalists for the city administrator position.

Finalists will be invited for a city tour with department leaders on Friday, July 26, where there will also be a public open house at City Hall. The interviews for the final four candidates will be held Saturday July 27.

Tobacco 21

Council heard a presentation from Police Chief Bryan Schafer on the topic of adopting a Tobacco 21 ordinance that would prohibit the sale and use of tobacco products by individuals under the age of 21. They unanimously voted to move discussion to the Public Safety Committee of the council, which is made of council members Lisa Leifield (chair), Lori Braucks and Tina Folch.

The Public Safety Advisory Commission was tasked with researching the viability of enacting an ordinance late last year. The commission looked at documents regarding the effects of nicotine on individuals under the age of 18, the increase in use across the state, and e-cigarettes, as well as heard presentations from the school district, City Attorney Dan Fluegel and Schafer.

After their research, the commission unanimously recommended that the city adopt an ordinance that would prohibit the sale of tobacco and vaping products to individuals under the age of 21. In a 4-1 vote, the commission voted that the city should adopt an ordinance that prohibits individuals under the age of 21 from using or possessing tobacco and vaping products.

During discussion, council members Leifield, Braucks and Trevor Lund agreed that they weren't sure that it was the city's place to make the decision, citing that a similar bill was introduced at the state level and almost passed.

Leifeld expressed concerns over how the ordinance would be policed, when other areas around Hastings would still allow tobacco at 18 years old. Braucks stated that "a state-wide approach would be more coordinated and effective."

All three agreed, however, that the issue should go to the committee for further discussion and research.

2018 Comprehensive Financial Report

The council accepted the 2018 Comprehensive Financial Report given by Nancy Schulzetenberg of BerganKDV. The annual audit looks at the city's financial statements and provides the city with an analysis of the fiscal year.

The 2018 audit gave an unmodified opinion — the best opinion that can be given by the auditor.

The audit found the city's general fund increased roughly 6% in 2018. The fiscal year also saw an increase of about 11% in revenue in the general fund.

Site plan for 710 Commerce Drive

Council voted to approve the site plan for the construction of a 3,200-square-foot vehicle garage on a storage lot at 710 Commerce Drive. The proposed building meets city architecture and parking standards.

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