At Tuesday night's meeting of the Detroit Lakes City Council, its aldermen unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the city to participate in the Minnesota GreenStep Cities program.

"It's a free, voluntary program to help cities make and meet their sustainability goals," said Polly Daggett Andersen of West Central Climate Action, which has been a strong proponent of the program. "Right now there are 124 cities across Minnesota that are using this plan, along with three tribal nations."

Detroit Lakes will be the 128th signatory on the GreenCities website at greenstep.pca.state.mn.us.

Andersen, along with Bill Henke, a member of the local Prairie Woods Chapter of the Izaak Walton League, were at Tuesday's council meeting to voice the support of "the Ikes" for the city's GreenStep plans.

"I think it will offer the city some wonderful opportunities to be innovative," Henke said at the meeting.

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He compared the GreenStep Cities program to the continuous quality improvement programs implemented by health care providers, adding that it could be a valuable tool for the city to assess its ongoing sustainability efforts.

Other area communities that have joined the GreenStep program include Mahnomen, Fergus Falls and Moorhead, Andersen said.

She explained that the program is based upon a menu of 29 optional best practices.

According to the website, each best practice can be implemented, as decided by city elected officials, staff and community members, by completing one or more actions from a list of four to eight actions to a 1-, 2- or 3-star level. The voluntary actions are tailored to all Minnesota cities, focus on cost savings and energy use reduction and encourage civic innovation.

Alderman Bruce Imholte spoke in favor of the GreenStep Cities program at the meeting. "We've already done a lot of the things to qualify as a GreenStep City. This just formalizes that process," he said.

The council also took another "green step" at its Tuesday meeting, by approving the location for the city's first electric vehicle charging station: just west of Lakes Liquor and south of the Jimmy John's sub sandwich shop. The charging station will be equipped with two charging ports, with the capacity to add up to four more.

Urban chickens

The council also took unofficial action to proceed with a somewhat more controversial project: Changing its ordinance with regard to the raising of chickens within city limits.

After hearing a brief presentation in favor of raising urban chickens by Detroit Lakes resident Nina Kleinschmidt, Mayor Matt Brenk took a straw poll of the aldermen to see if there was enough support for the proposal within the council to proceed with plans to amend the ordinance.

Four council members — Jay Schurman, Natalie Bly, Dan Josephson and Imholte — voted in favor of exploring the city's options for amending the ordinance, while Jamie Marks-Erickson and Matt Boeke said they chose to remain neutral on the proposal until they had more information. Both Dan Wenner and Ron Zeman said they were against it.

"I guess there's enough support to move forward," Brenk said, but cautioned those listening in the audience that this didn't really signify that the city would approve the proposal, just a commitment to explore the possibility of doing so.

Fire chief retiring

Also at Tuesday's meeting, Detroit Lakes Fire Chief Scott Flynn announced that he would be retiring from his position with the city on Dec. 31. He has been with the department for 22 years. Assistant Chief Ryan Swanson is slated to succeed him in January, though Flynn said at the meeting that the vote had not yet been taken to make it official.

Two new Detroit Lakes firefighters were sworn in during the meeting as well. Mayor Matt Brenk administered the firefighter's oath of office to Brian Cooksey and Sam Ness. The two joined the volunteer fire department last year and have now completed their year-long training period.