The Peterson Council buckled down on a number of recent issues at the Wednesday, September 11 meeting, as well as a handful of new concerns. Topics included ordinances and zoning, recent water concerns, budgets, and projects, including the newly approved road work.
At the August meeting, the council unanimously approved putting a hold on replacing Park and River Street. The move came following review of four estimates, which had significant variations from type of work done to combinations of streets and areas. Mayor Tim Hallum cautioned the council that the city wasn’t financially set at the time to do any of the proposed work. Councilor Loren Rue echoed the mayor’s comments, suggesting the city wait on doing any work in 2019 and consult with engineers and do a water flow study to understand impacts.
Then, last week, the council convened a special meeting to further discuss the matter. The basis of the discussion was a quote from Dunn Blacktop Company. Dunn Project Manager Fred Kruckow and City Engineer Scott Huenke, of WHKS, were on hand to clarify details. The proposed contract included a full reclamation of the streets, including grading of the base, at a cost of $85,729. Further clarification of other bids indicated the Dunn quote was significantly less cost to the city.
This brought concerns from Councilor Loren Rue at the September 11 meeting, including assessments for affected properties. “After our last meeting, the main thing I want to communicate is that we have an opportunity to make a decision on what kind of community that we’re gonna be. Are we going to be a community that picks and chooses who is assessed or assess everybody?” asked Rue. Referring to the 2015 County Road 25 project, Rue noted affected properties were assessed. The projects do differ significantly, however, as the county paid 100% for pavement, curb and gutter, and a portion of sidewalks in that project, while this project is strictly pavement and no property improvements of curb, gutter, or sidewalks.
Zoning Commission member Carlin Symons also added that municipalities assess, as one source of revenue for projects of improvements happen, having proved the property is receiving certain improvements. “If policy or precedent are there, it should be considered,” said Symons. With work on the road scheduled to begin September 12, it was unclear how the process could occur and what percentage of the cost would be on the property owners, if assessments were to occur.
While it was noted the city does set aside money for street work, Rue questioned when there would be sufficient funds through regular taxation.
“I think you’re just trying to get blood out of the stone,” responded Councilor Dave Colbenson. “There’s only so much we can do. We have a water issue screaming at us, the water tank on hill… we have other issues to consider.”
“If we can’t afford these other issues, we will have to consider raising taxes,” state Rue. While he made a motion to stop the scheduled work, discuss the matter with legal counsel, and review the assessment procedure in 2015, the motion died for lack of second.
Another motion, to not delay the project and to move forward as planned was made and seconded. The council approved the decision with Rue opposed. The council also voted to rescind the motion made in August to put a hold on the project, as it conflicted with the vote at the special meeting to move forward with paving.
Public Works Director Rick Lee brought forth concerns and plans for the problematic pump in the city’s wellhouse. The city experienced a massive water issue, August 31, alerting citizens to refrain from using water for anything other than sanitary flushing, as a pump had burst and emptied the water tower, filling the water tower with sand and dirt. The next day, following contact with the Minnesota Department of Health, the city advised residents that testing would occur and water was not potable. The water was declared safe September 4.
Under recommendation from McCarthy Well Company, the pump will first be looked over by Norman’s Electric Service. Once the electric has been inspected, the city will work with McCarthy on options to address issues, if they persist. The pump was estimated to be quite old, but having been rebuilt 15 years prior. There is no spare pump owned by the city.
In other news, City Attorney Greg Schieber, of Nethercut Schieber Law Office, is reviewing updates to Minnesota Basic Code, as it pertains to the city’s standing ordinances. It’s expected Schieber will have a summary and possible recommendation for the council by the October meeting.
The council passed the preliminary budget for 2020 at a 6% increase. Initially, City Clerk Chris Grindland had factored an 8% increase, similar to recent years, but the reduced six percent figure was later agreed upon. While the number can be further reduced before a final tax levy is certified in December, it cannot be raised.
Also approved was a request by the Friends of Peterson to begin fundraising for an annex to be built at the Peterson Museum. The group must receive approval before beginning to seek funds for the city-owned facility. The goal for the project is $60,000. “We would like to start right away with fundraising,” said Councilor and Friends of Peterson member Gail Boyum. “It’s possible. We know we can do it.”
A reimbursement payment by the Friends of Peterson, for ugrades to city hall and city park electrical, was also approved. Initially, the group estimated it would repay the $4,184 over the course of five years. However, the accepted reimbursement was half, or $2092.
Resident Gage Volkman requested discussion of the city’s vehicle ordinance. Gage and his father, Jeremy Volkman, noted concerns over being targeted for vehicles on the property, for which they have since been cited several hundred dollars worth in fines. The city’s vehicle ordinance, geared specifically for inoperable and/or unlicensed vehicles, was approved last November and went into effect this past January. Volkmann is seeking to have the fines waived.
“This borders on harassment,” said Jeremy Volkman. He maintained several other properties are not receiving citations, but gave no names.
“Did you get a letter last year about vehicle ordinances? Was this ordinance a surprise?” countered Hallum. The council opted to put the matter on the October agenda for a discussion and a decision. Councilors Dave Colbenson and Gail Boyum volunteered to serve on a committee to review Volkmans’ complaints.
Former Rushford-Peterson Middle School building owner Jon Helland was also present to discuss the option of rezoning the site into a dual classification; residential/commercial. While Helland has the site back up for sale, he’s weighing the option of using the site as rental space, but stated he has parties interested in making it residential property. It was recommended Helland bring plans for the site to the Zoning Board for review.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Wednesday, October 9, at 6 p.m., at city hall. The public is encouraged to attend.