The Preston City Council approved more ambulance equipment to be purchased with CARES Act funding at their September 9 meeting. The city’s CARES Act distribution totals $100,127.
Ambulance Director Ryan Throckmorton noted that the purchase of a Powerload System for the A-rig was approved at the last meeting at a cost of $22,526.55. He requested approval to make additional expenditures with CARES funding to purchase Firecom Wireless Headset System for each ambulance at a total cost of $10,777.40 and a Powercot and Powerload System for the B-rig at a cost of $39,131.07. A motion to approve these purchases using CARES funding was approved.
Throckmorton also requested the extension of the ambulance on-call stipend in the amount of $4 per hour for hours over the 60-hour requirement. The stipend had been approved in April and the request was to extend the stipend through the end of 2020. The stipend increase will be paid for with additional grant funding from the Minnesota Department of Health and CARES funding. The stipend extension was approved as presented.
City Administrator Joe Hoffman updated the council on the proposed 2021 budget. As presented this day there may be a 4.24% levy increase, or an increase of $41,812 over 2020. The increase was significantly lower than presented weeks earlier, in part, due to a lower increase in health insurance premiums than originally estimated. Instead of a 15% increase, the increase in health insurance premiums will be 4.8%, a savings for both the city and the utility. Also, at the council’s direction the Street Improvement line item was decreased from $220,000 to $197,000 (a reduction of $23,000).
Hoffman suggested that the council may want to consider approving a 5% levy increase when they approve the preliminary budget at their next council meeting. He said there is uncertainty with the economy at this time and 5% would allow for some room. It could still be cut back when the final budget and levy is approved in December.
Other business in brief
•A driveway access requested by Eric and Tara Corson was approved. They purchased the former Curt’s Standard site which currently has no access. MnDOT will not allow an access to Highway 52. The access requested was recommended by City Engineer Brett Grabau; it would be on the north end of Washington St. near the Country Trails Inn. Corson said they will install an all concrete driveway and add a second floor to the building. The access was approved as requested.
•A conditional use application from Emily Luze to operate a hair salon in her home at 401 Spring St. NW was approved on a 3-2 vote. City code allows for an in-home occupation in the R-2 district (one and two family residential) as a conditional use. Planning and Zoning held a public hearing and recommended approval. Several conditions were attached to the CUP including only one chair, customers park in driveway, limited operation from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., only signage on her door, and must comply with all requirements of Minnesota Board of Cosmetology.
•Approval was given, as recommended by staff, to adopt a Critical Water Deficiency Ordinance. This is a condition of renewal of the city’s 10-year water supply plan. If the governor declares a critical water deficiency, the ordinance basically prohibits activities like lawn watering, car washing, and filling swimming pools.
•MiBroadband (owned by MiEnergy and the Mabel and Spring Grove telephone coops) requested the city lease to them a small area near the north substation for an equipment shelter as a no cost in-kind contribution. The in-kind contribution will be part of MiBroadband’s grant application for a state broadband grant. MiBroadband, if awarded the grant, plans to bring fiber optic service to Preston’s industrial park and parts of rural Preston. City Attorney Dwight Luhmann and Hoffman provided some possible terms for a lease agreement to protect the city’s interest. The lease cost of $300 per month would be waived as long as MiBroadband remained owned by the current telephone co-ops. It is to be a 50-year lease with the necessary easements across the city’s property for underground lines. MiBroadband will provide a complimentary connection to the city’s adjacent facilities (substation and wellhouse). A motion to approve the terms for a future lease waiving lease fees was approved on a 3-2 vote.
•Approval was given to adjust the PTO/Holiday time accrual for Gabby Kinneberg, Tourism Director. The increase in PTO and paid holiday will not require any adjustments to the Tourism budget. The PTO and holiday adjustments were made retroactive to April 15.
•Approval was given to place a “Watch for Children” sign at the entrance to the Corn Cob Acres neighborhood.
•Approval was given to hire Isaac Rain as an EMT as recommended by Ambulance Director Throckmorton.
•The Election Canvas Council Meeting for the General Election will be on Friday, November 6 at 9 a.m.
•The next council meeting will be on September 21, at 6 p.m.