Back to the Mar-Apr 2020 issue

Bits & Briefs

Hydration Stations

A new drinking fountain with a push bar and a water bottlefilling station can run upwards of $1,500, not including installation. That’s more than a drop in the bucket for any public entity watching the bottom line. But the Luverne Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) received a Drinking Fountain Mini-Grant from the Minnesota

Department of Health (MDH) in 2018 to install one of these “hydration stations” in Blue Mound Tower, a housing development that provides apartment units for college students, older adults, and people with disabilities. “It is used all day, every day,” said HRA Executive Director Tammy Johnson. “We actually gave each tenant a new water bottle that year for Christmas.” The fountains filter out contaminants like lead, while retaining beneficial substances like fluoride.

For residents of the building in Luverne, the accessible source of filtered water is handy both for hydration and medical needs, such as C-pap machines, which require filtered water for correct use, according to MDH. “It was difficult for my tenants or their caregivers to purchase and carry bottled water,” said Johnson. “Now they can fill gallon jugs and keep them in their refrigerator.” In addition, the new destination within the building reduced consumption of purchased soft drinks. Sixteen grants were given out in all. Other grant recipients included the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency in Virginia, Brainerd Public Library, Winona Public Library, Bronco Ice Arena in International Falls, and several schools. More grants will be available later this spring.

Sample Permit for Pollinator-Friendly Yards

While a smooth expanse of Kentucky bluegrass might be the classic definition of a yard, more sustainable trends in landscaping — that increase habitat for pollinators and rely on hardier native plants — are gaining popularity. If your city is interested in allowing residents to pursue more habitat-friendly, weather-tolerant lawn plantings through gardens or lawn replacement, it might be time to take a look at your city’s ordinances, too. A new sample Pollinator and Perennial Garden Permit from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources can help your city’s residents plant pollinator gardens and lawns without running afoul of maintenance ordinances. Learn more at https://, and download the sample permit at

Run, Don’t Walk, To Nominate Your City’s Best!

A new deadline in mid-April for submission of your City of Excellence Award nominations means that the time is now to plan your entries. The League of Minnesota Cities awards program is dedicated to recognizing service delivery and local government leadership that raises the bar. For the City of Excellence Awards, cities can submit projects in three different population categories as well as this year’s topical category, “City Fire Department Staffing and Coverage.” Nominations are also open for the C.C. Ludwig Award for elected officials and the James F. Miller Leadership Award for appointed officials. And Minnesota GreenStep Cities participants are eligible for the Sustainable City Award. Please consider submitting your project! Even if it doesn’t win, sharing your experience allows other cities to learn from your good work. Then, we all win! The deadline to submit entries for all awards is April 15. For entry forms and more information, visit

Wisconsin City Offers Child Care During Meetings

The Council of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, is testing out providing child care during city meetings in 2020. The proposal, which puts the service under the Parks and Recreation Department, was part of the budgeting process last fall. The goal is to include more parents in city government, according to a report by the Sun Prairie News. The service would be available for anyone who attends city meetings.

LMCIT Celebrates 40th Anniversary

Get out the party hats, because the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT) is turning 40! The first cities enrolled in the risk pool’s workers’ compensation and property/casualty programs in 1980. What they faced: a lot of uncertainty. What they got: a chance to create coverage for cities by cities, and a dynamic institution that’s still going strong. Check out the hashtag #LMCIT40 on Facebook and Twitter in June for fun facts about the Trust. Not familiar with your city’s coverage or loss control options? Talk with your city staff or insurance agent, or give us a ring to learn more.

Private Septic System and Well Classes for Homeowners

City officials know that safe sanitation goes hand in hand with clean water and healthy communities. But where privately owned septic systems are common, it can be tough to ensure best practices are being followed. To help, the University of Minnesota Onsite Sewage Treatment Program and the Minnesota Department of Health are offering free septic system and private well homeowner education classes throughout the state, with plenty of dates in April and one in June that your city can promote to residents. The partnership has also developed a handy fact sheet, video, and slide deck to get the word out about what’s going down with septic systems. Learn more at

Plan for Heat With Cool Maps

A web-based “Heat Vulnerability in Minnesota Assessment Tool” is designed to help communities prepare for and protect public health in extreme heat events. The tool was created by the Minnesota Climate & Health Program in collaboration with the University of Minnesota U-Spatial. You can

calculate your community’s vulnerability to heat using pre-loaded data about sensitivity risk factors. Then use that information to learn, plan, and prioritize any work that needs to be done. Access the assessment tool at