City council discusses new sports bar

By Charlie Warner
Argus News Editor

After discussing a few concerns, the consensus of the Caledonia City Council was to support Nick Kowalewski’s plans to convert Curt and Candy’s Hardware Hank store into a sports bar. Kowalewski did not make a formal request for a liquor license, but will be returning to the council with that request at a later date.

Kowalewski, who owns and operates Little Miami in Freeburg, is purchasing the downtown Caledonia building from Curt and Candy Peterson, who have operated a hardware store at that location for many years.

While he hasn’t finalized all of his plans, Kowalewski told the council he plans to start up a bar that would offer some food (sandwiches and snacks) with a sports bar theme. Besides the on-sale liquor license, he also wanted an off-sale license. It was pointed out to Kowalewski that because the city has a municipal off-sale liquor store, city ordinance will only allow for 3.2 off-sale licenses to other businesses in Caledonia.

Kowalewski also said he would be requesting a 2 a.m. closing time license, which must be approved by both the city and the state.

Councilwoman Randi Vick asked about parking. “Is there anything in our ordinance about off-street parking?” she asked City Zoning Coordinator Mike Gerardy. He replied that there isn’t anything in the ordinance dealing with this, since the building is located in the downtown business district.

Kowalewski said he is planning on a 3 or 4 p.m. opening, which shouldn’t interfere with most downtown businesses. He felt the bulk of his business would be conducted after most downtown businesses would be closed for the day.

Kowalewski also told the council he hopes to employ up to five people, is considering both live music and DJs and will be taking the building over on May. 1.

“I’d like to get in there right away to begin converting it from a hardware store to a bar,” Kowalewski said. “It could take up to six months to get everything ready. Right now I’m just here to see if the council will support this as far as getting the proper licenses.”

Councilmembers indicated that they were happy to see a new business moving into the downtown area and didn’t feel there would be any problems with Kowalewski being granted the licenses.

In other council action:

A proper foundation

Discussion ensued about plans to have a modular home located in Pine Estates on Gjere Avenue on the west edge of Caledonia  set on frost pillars. Gerardy reminded the council that there had been discussions to require all homes be placed on a permanent foundation. Are frost pillars considered a permanent foundation?

City Clerk/Administrator Jennifer Feely felt there was a lot of grey area with this issue and consulted with both the city attorney and the League of Minnesota Cities.

While it appears as if the current language might allow frost pillars, councilmembers indicated they plan to change the language to not allow frost pillars or cement blocks in the future.

Gerardy and Feely will continue to investigate this issue. No action was taken by the council.

W/WW operator

The council spent some time trying to figure out how to replace Tony Klug, who recently retired from his position as the manager of the city’s water and wastewater treatment systems.

While the city does have an assistant operator in place, Ryan Skillings does not have the proper certification to operate the wastewater treatment plant without someone with a Class A license above him.

The council and city staff have conducted interviews, but have not found anyone yet who could start right away. Originally the city thought there was a 90-day grace period, but they later found out that wasn’t true. The city is required to have someone with the proper license to be at the plant at least six hours a week, but it must be spread out over two days.

Feely said Klug would consider serving in that position on a temporary basis, but due to PERA rules, must not be employed by the city for 30 days.

So the city is still trying to find an operator with a Class A license willing to work two three-hour shifts per week in Caledonia.

No action was taken on this issue.

Animal ordinance discussed

The council spent some time trying to come up with a more workable ordinance dealing with property owners securing their dogs.

Mayor Bob Burns felt that the ordinance should require that all dogs must be restrained so they cannot come within five feet of any public sidewalk or right-of-way.

Councilman Paul Fisch agreed with Burns’ line of thinking, but asked what someone with an underground electric fence would do if that system was within the five-foot limit.

Burns agreed that could be a difficult and expensive situation to remedy and proposed the five-foot limit be taken out of the proposed change.

But if a protective dog was allowed to be on a chain that came right up to a public sidewalk or right-of-way, couldn’t that be a threatening situation, several councilmembers asked? Other councilmembers agreed that could be a bad situation as well.

City staff will review the issue and report back to the council.

Ambulance cot

By a 4-1 vote, the council approved the purchase of a powered ambulance cot for the Caledonia Area Ambulance Service. The price of the cot is $11,976. The new cot was included in the 2012 ambulance budget and will be used in the new ambulance, which will be delivered later this year.

Burns cast the dissenting vote, saying he felt the council should wait until the new ambulance arrived.

CJC issues

The council will address several issues Bob and Jan Klug brought up, concerning the Houston County Justice Center and the close proximity to their home at the April 23 meeting.

Suggestions for additional screening and fencing will be discussed.