Just before the August 27 Preston City Council meeting, Cristina and Anton Welke and family, Plainview, announced that they had organized a baseball tournament to raise money for the veterans home. The deadline for receiving the 2:1 match from the federal government was August 24. However, that deadline has now been extended to September 28.
The Welke family took it upon themselves to organize a fundraising event. Cristina said they hoped to raise $1,000 and were happy to announce they had raised $4,500. This was a way to celebrate both America’s pastime/baseball and patriotism. A color guard opened the tournament that was specifically for raising awareness of the veterans home fund raising efforts. Three teams competed.
Ron Scheevel, co-chair of the Preston Veterans Home committee thanked the Welkes on behalf of the committee, “We appreciate your efforts.” Mayor Kurt Reicks said, “On behalf of the city of Preston we thank you so much.” Anton responded that everyone loved it.
A draft of the 2019 budget was presented and discussed. City Administrator Joe Hoffman reported the budget as proposed would require a 2.41% property tax levy increase. Reicks questioned whether there will be more expenses for the veterans home that we don’t foresee. We have to look ahead. He suggested that it may be preferable to have a 4 to 5% levy increase in 2019 rather than possibly being forced into a larger 10% increase the following year to help fund a 2020 street project. Councilman Charles Sparks agreed.
Reicks said we can always lower the proposed levy increase after hearing public comment, but can’t raise it after the preliminary levy is approved. The draft presented included a $38,000 increase in the street improvement fund. Every $9,000 in the proposed levy is approximately 1%.
Hoffman reported that health insurance increased by 7.1%, nearly $6,000. Salaries are to be increased 2.5%. Street lighting will cost $15,000 less due to savings from the conversion to LED lighting.
Local Government Aid is essentially flat, up $189 to $497,442. This represents about a $13,000 increase since 2012. Police contract revenue will see an increase of $5,552 due to payments from Fountain and Lanesboro.
The next meeting of the Preston City Council will be held on September 17. The preliminary levy will likely be adopted at that meeting. The preliminary levy must be approved no later than September 30.
Other business in brief
• A letter of support was approved for a grant application to be submitted by the fire department to the State Fire Marshal’s office to fund 90% of the cost for a washer/dryer to clean turnout gear. The machines costing $18,000 to clean the gear are part of a national effort to reduce exposure to carcinogens. If the grant is awarded, the 10% match will come from the fire department’s budget.
• A variance was approved for Jeff Meigs to build a 36-foot by 45-foot accessory building at 513 Lincoln St. SE. With 12-foot sidewalls, the average height will be 14 feet. City code allows for a maximum average height of 12 feet. Planning and Zoning recommended approval of the two-foot variance. The property is zoned R-1. There is no dwelling on the property.
There was a lengthy discussion during the public hearing. Planning and Zoning required one condition; the building must be moved back 57 feet from the property line (82 feet from the center of the road) to compromise with concerns raised by neighboring property owners. Meigs wants to use the shed for storage and wants it to have a high enough ceiling to allow a motor home to be stored in it. Councilman Robert Maust voted against the variance.
• A variance was approved for Vicky Lynch, 105 St. Paul St. NW, to build a 17-foot by 17-foot attached car port on the west side of her house, as recommended by Planning and Zoning. She is requesting an 11-foot setback to the west and a 10-foot setback to the north. The property is zoned B-3. The city code setbacks would require 20 foot and 50 foot. There was no comment from the public or objection from neighbors.
• There was a long discussion on the city’s weed ordinance. Hoffman said there have been several complaints. He wanted clarification and clear direction from the council on what degree of overgrowth and weeds should trigger enforcement. What is “rank vegetation” and excess growth. The ordinance was revised in 2003. Over grown vegetation and noxious weeds can affect ones enjoyment of ones property if a neighboring property is not maintained.
Sparks said there has to be a balance when the overgrowth is in one’s own back yard with the owner’s property rights. Overgrowth in an alley way and noxious weeds are different. Police chief Matt Schultz commented that the ordinance is enforceable to the limit the council wants it enforced. Hoffman said nuisance ordinances are enforced based on complaints.
There is a specific process that begins with a written and signed complaint. Maust noted a lot of the problem properties are owned by absentee owners and rented out. A letter is sent out to the property owner and the process is set into motion when there is no response. Hoffman will bring some complaints to the council on September 17 for the council’s consideration, as to whether to issue formal destruction orders. Just sending letters out to property owners has not been effective.
• Two seats will be open on the city council at the end of the year. Charles Sparks and Robert Maust have filed for the city council. The general election is November 6.