The Houston City Council met for its regular meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, October 10, 2017, at Houston City Hall. In attendance were City Administrator Peterson, Deputy Clerk Hegland, Mayor Olson and council members Krage, Sanden, Schutte and Knutson. Following the Pledge of Allegiance, the council opened a public hearing regarding an annexation by ordinance. Administrator Peterson stated “An area on the south end of Sheridan and Sherman, that had always thought to be in the city, but after doing some research we couldn’t find the proper documents.” The proposed annexation was completely surrounded by land currently belonging to the city, allowing the city to annex it by ordinance. There were no public comments, and Mayor Olson closed the public hearing to then focus on the annexation itself. City Attorney Hammell was in attendance to go over the details of the annexation, stating that this was part of a larger process to finalize city property. “We have been completing annexation in the city of Houston… for over 10 years,” Hammell said, “through that process we determined that there was a very small island, and it’s kind of amazing how that got left out.”
Hammell also noted that the process included documents from the 1800s and early 1900s that often didn’t match up: “I think it’s appropriate to get all the formal documents in place now to know what the city borders are and what it contains.” Once the annexation is approved by the council, it is filed with the Municipal Boundary Adjustment Board along with the State Auditor, among other offices. The annexation will become effective once signed by a judge in St. Paul. The property in question was already being taxed by the city and its citizens had been allowed to vote, and the auditor’s office had already considered it part of the city, although until now it lacked the documentation. “It is a legal matter that, in my mind, should be cleared up,” Hammell concluded, “and that’s why we’re doing it.” The council voted unanimously to approve the annexation.
Next, the council heard from Mike Bubany of David Drown Associates regarding financing for the Prairie Meadows street and utility repair project. Bubany noted that, by state law, cities must structure debt as either a note or a bond, and detailed several options for the city to take. The city voted to go through the Minnesota Rural Water Association’s loan program for project financing by a unanimous vote. Next, the council heard from Tom Krinkie regarding a property at 133 Grant St. Krinkie wanted to turn the property into a duplex, but doing so required a conditional use permitting process for that to be allowed. As a result, Krinkie said he would not be investing in the building and left the meeting.
The council then discussed an offer from the Dollar General chain of discount stores to purchase a city parcel of land to construct one of their stores. The parcel in question is located directly across from the city softball field on the east side of town. In order to fit their corporate footprint, Dollar General contacted the city about purchasing a city-owned parcel along with a privately owned one next to it. Dollar General has made an offer both to the city’s parcel and to the vacant lot. Peterson noted that at this time Dollar General is looking only for an agreement on the land purchase, asking if there is even the opportunity to buy the land for their purposes. Peterson mentioned that Dollar General was far off from closing on the property or building, and that several more things still have to fall into place before construction would begin.
“I have talked with several business owners in town,” Peterson said, “and I think everyone has come to a pretty good understanding that, you know, this is probably good for the community as a whole. And even though it may create some competition initially… they found that in the long run it doesn’t really hurt the local businesses, because it keeps people in town.”
Attorney Hammell mentioned the city vacating part of a street for the project, saying the city can add a conditional vacation to the deal ensuring the city would not lose out if the deal fell through. Hammell said several aspects were still up in the air on the matter, and the corporation could pull out at any time. The council voted to sign the contract for the sale of the property, and for the conditional street vacation if the process is initiated.
The council also voted to hire Suzie Peterson as a new city accountant, replacing the retiring Larry Jerviss. The meeting adjourned at 7:20. The Houston City Council will meet for its next scheduled meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday, November 13 at city hall.