At their regular September 11 council meeting, the Houston Minn. City Council adopted their preliminary levy totaling $582,300. This levy calls for a 3% increase. According to City Administrator Michelle Quinn, the levy will meet the city debt obligations and will allow the city to put away some money to replace vehicles as well as grow an infrastructure fund for future needs.
“It’s a nice place to be,” Quinn stated, “Hopefully this situates us to be in a good financial place. It’s not a lot of fluff. We are meeting our needs and can pay cash for some things.” The levy will allow for $40,000 worth of seal coating.
Council member Emily Krage agreed, commenting, “The last two years haven’t been playing catch up for us.”
WWTP and Street Projects
Matt Mohs, city engineer, updated the council on various projects in the city. The wastewater treatment plant is finished now; final pay application will be made at the October council meeting.
The contractor is preparing a schedule for the Cedar Street CIPP (cured in place pipe) lining project. Timing for the project will be shared with the council once his schedule is prepared.
The Spruce Street (CSAH 13) utility improvements project will be a collaboration with Houston County with construction planned for 2025. A physical walk through of the project will be done this fall. After the design of the project is completed, the city will sign a cooperative agreement with the county to pay a percentage of the cost. Plans will be submitted to the state next fall for certification.
The city intends to apply to PFA (Public Facilities Authority) for utility financing. This would be an assessment project; Mohs would present information about it to the council and there would be a series of public hearings regarding it.
Another potential street project would be the Westgate Drive LRIP (Local Road Improvement Program). Currently, there is about $103 million available through the program with a limit of $1.5 million per project.
The next funding cycle for the program opened September 12 with an application deadline of December 8. A couple years ago, Houston applied for but did not receive the grant. At that time, they had requested a little over $800,000. The estimate is that the city would need to pay about $250,000 on the project.
The county would need to be solicited to sponsor the city; the council would need to pass a resolution to continue with the application, and businesses in town would need to be solicited for letters of support.
There is a component of economic development to the funding. This project would upgrade Westgate Drive from gravel to a paved road to provide better access for the area businesses.
Mayor Scott Wallace wanted to discuss the project more before moving forward. Because of the relatively short time frame, Wallace and Steve Westby will discuss the project further with Quinn and Mohs before the next council meeting.
In other business, the council:
• Set the TNT (Truth in Taxation) hearing for December 11 at 7 p.m.;
• Approved the hiring of Dale Moga as summer rec director;
• Heard that Ken Carrier will no longer care for the city flower baskets next year; the council decided to advertise the position now, wanting to procure a replacement before ordering the flowers for next summer;
• Appointed Trent Edwards to the fire department;
• Chose to sign a contract with Catalis for a four-year, $8,344, contract for the city’s website;
• Granted an exempt permit for the Houston Volunteer Firemen’s Relief Association gun raffle;
• Heard Marlene Schultz read her letter of concern about the OHV Exit Committee; Schultz noted that when she sold her home to Mayor Wallace, he was not opposed to the trail. Schultz questioned why two of the exit committee members were not city residents; she also asked why the city wasn’t doing more to bring economic development to the city. Karla Bloem responded that while she is not a resident, she does manage a business in Houston; she shared that the Save Our Bluffs group was formed by itself and only asked for her help later.
The next Houston City Council meeting will be held Tuesday, October 10 at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at city hall. The public is welcome to attend; a public comment period is held at the beginning of the meeting.