With nary a dissent, the Duluth City Council on Monday gave one of the city's larger employers permission to route the Skywalk out of its building.
As a result of the council's 8-0 vote, Minnesota Power will have permission to channel the Skywalk, which currently crosses through its building, to a staircase that will lead to the outside. The utility company's employees still will have access to the building through the Skywalk. The Skywalk on the lower side of Superior Street already ends at Minnesota Power, so for pedestrians it will only mean exiting to the street steps away from where they already exit (or enter).
No one spoke against the proposal during a council meeting that barely touched the 15-minute mark in its entirety. Kristi Stokes, president of the Greater Downtown Council, spoke in favor of it.
"Minnesota Power's modernization of its general office building should be applauded," Stokes said. "Their requests are reasonable and appropriate, especially given how times have changed. There's no longer a retail presence in that property, and there are additional security members required for major energy providers."
Councilor Joel Sipress called the request reasonable. He added that a second request from the utility, to take about 20 percent of the adjacent Lake Superior Plaza so that a buffer zone could be placed outside the building, was not on Monday's agenda. That likely will be heard at an upcoming council meeting, he said.
All nine council members were present at Monday's meeting. Arik Forsman, who works for Minnesota Power, abstained from the vote.
Also on Monday, the council approved a resolution creating the title of senior transportation planner as a new civil service classification. Councilor Gary Anderson said the planner could be hired in conjunction with the half-percent sales tax that the Minnesota Legislature approved this year.
"It'll be great to see a qualified and skilled and passionate transportation advocate coming to work for the city of Duluth," he said.
Local voters approved the sales tax, to be dedicated for street improvements, in November 2017. But the increase required state approval, and that didn't occur in the 2018 session. The council already passed a resolution accepting the Legislature's decision. It still has to pass an ordinance to actually put the sales tax into effect. The first reading of that ordinance took place on Monday.