Jeff Broberg, geologist, environmental consultant, and NTC board member, spoke to the Preston City Council about the center’s activities at the council’s April 3 meeting.
Broberg, an avid fisherman, named other NTC board members that come together giving their time and energy to make the center work. Board member George Spangler was in the audience. The center was started about seven years ago with a grand vision for a big center, a very expensive proposition.
To bring that vision closer to a reality will take more community support. Some positive direction the center is taking includes the hire of Annie Lewis, Mabel, for one day per week and the hire of Kelsey Hoffmann, a young biologist, as a seasonal program director. Lewis will work year round, has experience in non-profit fund raising, and will put her energy into promoting the NTC. She is also an avid fisherman. Hoffmann directs students at Winona State and will work for the center in season, Wednesday through Saturday. The intention is to have a program every other week.
Broberg suggested the center could grow toward a community center for outdoor activities.
The habitat improvement project within Preston has been fully permitted and should begin soon. It will take two seasons to complete and will improve public access to the river. There should be 12 access spots, half of which will be handicapped accessible.
Broberg asked for the continued support of the city council. Mayor Kurt Reicks sits on the NTC board.
Broberg supports a move forward to another site. He asked the council to think bigger and also include a community center. Promote Preston as a place where people focus on outdoor activities. Fishing season will start soon, “a labor of love.”
Broberg admitted that the number of visitors to the center has been declining. They need to develop something that people want to come back to. The board has also budgeted for two student interns. The board is making grant requests from the Department of Interior. The center’s budget is approximately the same as last year. The budget includes $15,000 annually for the Riverside Center.
Councilman David Collett remarked that he hears complaints about using taxpayer dollars for the center. Councilwoman Holly Zuck suggested they let people know what the NTC goals are. If the center is more visible, if people can see the direction they want to go, there will be a more positive response.
Other business in brief
• Jim Bakken, Public Works, presented two options to light the south entrance sign. There were two quotes for a solar system and another from MiEnergy for permanent electric service. In addition to the cost of $6,979.48 to install a permanent service, it would cost $400 per year for power. The lowest of the two quotes for a solar system was from Morem Electric at a cost of $6,575. The Morem quote for a solar system was approved.
• Approval was given to transfer $4,500 from the Development Fund to the Revolving Loan Fund, as recommended by the EDA. A revolving loan, conditional on adequate collateral, in the amount of $10,500 was approved for the Mathisons to aid with a purchase and remodel. Councilman Robert Maust voted no, saying there are a lot of unknowns, insisting the old building will need a lot of work.
• An application for $6,000 from the Small Cities Development Fund (commercial) was approved. Maust voted no and Collett abstained. A total of $8,000 (residential) from Greater Minnesota Housing was approved for rehabbing the roof.
• EDA Director Cathy Enerson said it is difficult to purchase and rehab an old building without grant funds. The Mathisons have an existing business and the debt service ratio suggests the ability to repay is strong.
• Approval was given to modify the Preston Housing Incentive. The new construction program will be continued, but existing purchases and housing improvement components will be eliminated.
• City Administrator Joe Hoffman said the EFIS work on city hall will start this week. Roof work will begin in mid April. A quote in the amount of $26,590 has been provided by Smidt Construction for a 48 foot by 9 foot steel framed metal canopy. The quote includes $8,000 for footings. There is also a quote from Rochester Sign in the amount of $3,589 to mount the mural. Another quote for dealing with asbestos was listed in the amount of $1,500. The quotes for the canopy, mounting of the mural, and asbestos were approved. Maust voted no.
Other remaining work includes lighting, sidewalks, landscaping, and a sign.
• Approval was given to display teal ribbons on the lamp posts throughout Preston to recognize April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Every two minutes someone in the United States is sexually assaulted and 44% of those victims are under the age of 18.
• A special meeting will be held at 8 a.m. on April 7 to approve the hire of a tourism director.