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Bench project set for Larry Forrest Park

Somerset is about to get benched.

Representatives from "The Bench Project" - a regional community art project coordinated by the Phipps Center for the Arts in partnership with the St. Croix Valley Community Foundation - addressed the Village of Somerset Board during its June 17 meeting.

"The concept is to make it represent the Apple River Valley," explained Bruce Martell, one of the project volunteers. "The pillars would represent the bluffs, and the K-high school kids would participate by pressing the tile in."

The seat would be composed of stone and would be flanked by two tile-covered concrete pillars. Lakefront Park in Hudson, Gaylord Nelson Riverwalk in St. Croix Falls, Wis., and Croixdale's senior living facility in Bayport, Minn. had benches constructed in 2006 through this program.

The group said they considered three sites for the bench, but ultimately settled on Larry Forrest Park.

"It's all about kids," Martell said. "In Village Park (the proposed site) would be so isolated. Larry Forrest is easily accessible to kids."

The project is wholly funded by a grant, so there is no cost to the community of Somerset. The group was seeking approval to proceed with the construction in Larry Forrest Park.

"It's a great community improvement and is getting more noteriety," said Jeff Johnson, Village President.

The Board referred them to the Public Works committee to install the concrete pillars this summer. The goal is to involve the kids with the tiling once school starts and have the project completed by Oct. 31.

In other business, Dave Carufel, Somerset resident, asked the Board two questions during the Public Comments portion of the meeting.

The first referred to the Board's approval of the liquor license extension granted to Float Rite Inc. last month.

"If it 'felt good for the Village,' who did you ask?" Carufel questioned.

Johnson explained that having a business instead of a vacant lot was more beneficial to the Village in the long run.

"In my opinion, yes it is good for the Village because there are more tax dollars being obtained off the property than in the past," Johnson said. "He is utilizing his license to the fullest degree capable - that is the only location that is open 12 months a year."

Johnson also addressed the additional liquor store issue.

"I've discussed this with the Chief (Briggs) and he said the complaints are generated more actively by the traffic at the downtown corner," Johnson said.

Carufel's second question asked out of the seven board members, how many people work for John Montpetit, owner of Float-Rite, and would that be a conflict of interest that they should have abstained from the vote.

Johnson said he works for a security company that Float-Rite hires; no one else responded to the question.

In other news:

• Rob Jones from Cedar Corporation said they are wrapping up 2007 projects, such as getting installation quotes for the Village generator.

• The Board approved reducing River Hills Commons letter of credit from $87,500 to $43,750.

• St. Anne's had applied for a picnic beer license, but the Board did not have enough information to consider it. It was tabled until the next meeting.

• The Board discussed the possibility of having a car show at Village Park in early August. Ed Fazekas will be back at next month's meeting to apply for permits.

• The Board approved Dave Bracht's proposed park and sell lot at the corner of Highway 35 and 190th Street. The lot will be for operable vehicles; recreational vehicles must be on a trailer. Bracht said he would rent spaces to people for $30 per month until he figures out a better use for the 1.4 acres that are zoned commercial.

• The Board approved a $500 credit card for the court's use.

• The Board discussed a policy to allow the donating sick leave to other Village employees. It was tabled until next month.

• Carol Burger and Randy Rosburg were appointed to the Library Board.

• The Village's insurance company will cover court expenses regarding the claim filed by Preferred Builders.

• The Village of Somerset meets every third Tuesday at the Village Hall at 7 p.m. The public is welcome to attend.