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ROCHESTER CITY COUNCIL NOTEBOOK - Liquor licenses increased

The Rochester City Council voted 6-1 Monday to offer six new liquor licenses, including four that may be used exclusively in the downtown area.

The increase changes a 31-year-old city ordinance limiting available liquor licenses to a number based on population. Under that formula, the city had 11 licenses. It now offers 17.

The licenses permit establishments to serve alcohol without also having to derive a minimum amount of revenue from food sales.

Council member Jean McConnell voted against the measure, saying the increase was too large.

"I think the public reaction would be unfavorable," he said.

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Other council members said additional licenses will help attract more nightlife to Rochester, particularly downtown.

"I think we need these," said council member Walter Stobaugh.

Along with the increase, the council approved plans to revoke licenses inactive for more than a year. Three of the city's 11 current licenses are unused.

Rage dance gets green light

Last month, city officials rejected two teen dances proposed by a local promoter, but on Monday, the city council voted unanimously in favor of a teen "rage" dance scheduled for June 1.

Dance promoter Curtis Harmon, of Coon Rapids, Minn., appeared at the meeting to answer questions. The dance is for teens ages 14 to 18.

"This gentleman would like to bring a teen dance to Rochester, and it's just that -- a teen dance," said council member Dennis Hanson. The dance will be at the Rochester Community and Technical College gym.

The council adopted several guidelines proposed by the police department. Among them: The dance will end by 11:30 p.m.; students must carry identification; no adults other than parents, police and private security will be allowed; and bags and purses will be searched.

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The council rejected plans for two dances last month, citing fears of illicit drug use and other misbehavior.

Hot-dog stand shelved

Council members tabled a 20-year-old college student's plans for a summer hot dog stand at the Peace Plaza, saying the city first must develop comprehensive regulations for street vending.

Erik Mell of Oronoco proposed opening a "Chicago-style" hot dog stand at the downtown plaza to earn money.

Council members said they liked Mell's plan, but City Attorney Terry Adkins said regulations are needed. Adkins plans to draft an ordinance for council review on June 3.

Fireworks sales OK'd

Local fireworks fans will be able to buy sparklers, snakes and party poppers in Rochester this summer, according to a plan authorized Monday by the council.

The council voted 6-1 to approve a method for issuing permits to sell the relatively tame fireworks recently legalized by the Minnesota Legislature.

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Council member Jean McConnell voted against the measure, prompting Council President John Hunziker to say, half-seriously, "You Grinch."

"I can't support this," McConnell said. "Kids get burned by them."

"How else are they going to learn responsibility?" Hunziker said.

IBM Mid-America addition approved

The council unanimously approved a preliminary plat in northwest Rochester for IBM Mid-America. The commercial development, on 24.55 acres along West Circle Drive, has six lots, including one for credit union offices.

Freeway plan endorsed

The council voted 7-0 Monday to endorse a Minnesota Department of Transportation plan to describe U.S. 52 as an "eventual freeway."

According to the agency, developing U.S. 52 as a fully access-controlled freeway will help combat traffic congestion and a proliferation of traffic signals along the highway.

In particular, the highway department will focus on improving U.S. 52 traffic flow through Goodhue and Dakota counties. The U.S. 52 corridor through Rochester doesn't have traffic lights, and the department is preparing to embark on a $239 million project that will add lanes and improve interchanges along the highway through Rochester.

Parking ramp restoration

The council accepted a $339,627 bid to restore two city parking ramps this summer.

Brent Anderson Associates Inc. of Fridley, Minn., was the lowest of three bidders for the project. The firm will do routine restoration work on the Third Street and Civic Center ramps. The firm has done the last two parking ramp renovations in the city.

The firm's bid was nearly $200,000 less than the city's $529,000 estimate.

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