Q: I'm wondering if the city will be auctioning off the street pole banners with the Vikings logo on them. They could be collectors items.
A: Anna Thill, the president of Visit Mankato (the local convention and visitors bureau), agrees the banners are likely to have real value to fans of the Minnesota Vikings — which is why she had them locked in the trunk of her car when Ask Us Guy called to inquire about them.
Now, now. Don't jump to nasty, cynical conclusions. Thill was NOT planning to make a killing on eBay.
"They are in excellent shape," Thill said. "They were taken down and I went and picked them up from the city."
A bit soggy following wet weather, she dried them out in her driveway — admittedly a bit nervous that some Vikings fan would spot them and do some characteristic sacking and pillaging.
"I was worried somebody would come by and knock me over," Thill said.
But Thill has no plans to peddle them to the city of Eagan, where the NFL team is building a new headquarters complete with facilities for all future Vikings training camps, or to anyone else.
Four of the cleanest banners went to Minnesota State University just before the final Mankato training camp ended with a request that the team autograph them.
Those and the 47 other Vikings banners are likely to end up as contributions to entities that make Mankato an attractive place to visit. For instance, organizations such as the Blue Earth County Historical Society do silent auctions as fundraisers, so one of the banners would likely be donated to that auction and end up in the hands of the most generous bidder.
"It's all meant to continue to do goodwill in the community," she said of plans for the banners.
The 51 Vikings head banners were purchased ahead of the 50th anniversary Mankato training camp, so they spent three summers hanging from light poles along Riverfront Drive and Stoltzman Road.
"I was so impressed with how they held up over the three-year period," Thill said.
Which is something that will probably make them even more attractive to people. Made of a durable vinyl and 6 feet tall, they could be hung indoors or outdoors by Vikings fans.
The 51 banners — along with 13 "Now Playing" banners and eight "Welcome Fans" banners that don't include the NFL team's logo — cost $1,000 when purchased in 2015.
"They're very, very cool," Thill said, somewhat surprised that dishonest Vikings fans with extension ladders didn't try to help themselves to the banners the past three years. "... I've heard previously when banners were hung, they disappeared."
Q: Dear Ask Us Guy,
We would like you to ask the city or the county, whoever paid for black-topping Carney Avenue a few years ago, if they had to pay the contractor the full price. The street is just like a roller coaster, and two spots already had to be replaced. I hope they took the contractor off their list.
A: After checking out the street, Ask Us Guy agreed it was pretty lumpy, and it wasn't just him and the reader who felt that way.
"I drove it and would have similar concerns," said City Manager Pat Hentges.
The contractor on the $2.1 million project — Civil Ag Group — was fined $50,000 in 2012 because of delays in the work. And the St. James contractor was required to make several repairs in 2013, at its own expense, before the final layer of pavement was placed.
The geology in the area in west Mankato was challenging, with large rocks below the surface, according to Free Press stories about the project's travails. Voids between the rocks were believed to have caused some of the settling that forced the repairs and resulted in the less than pool-table-like surface.
As for taking Civil Ag Group off the city's list of potential street contractors, it's more complicated than that. State law requires the city to publicly bid projects and to award the contract to "the lowest responsible bidder," Hentges said. So the city could refuse to award a bid to a contractor who previously performed poorly, but the city's complaints would have to be very clearly documented.
For whatever reason, the contractor and the city seem to have been avoiding each other in the four construction seasons following completion of the Carney project.
"I'm not aware that that particular contractor has done any work for us since then," Hentges said.
Contact Ask Us at The Free Press, P.O Box 3287, Mankato, MN 56002. Call Mark Fischenich at 344-6321 or email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org; put Ask Us in the subject line.