At the February 4 Preston City Council meeting, public works director Jim Bakken presented a list of possible street projects for 2019.
The budget for street work this year is limited to about $326,000. Mill and overlay of Chatfield Ave. is at the top of the list to extend its life. Others listed included portions of Park Lane, Cottage Grove Ave., Washington St., and the fire hall parking lot.
There seemed to be agreement that these improvements are needed. A motion was approved to get quotes limiting spending to this year’s budget.
Preston Oil Products cleanup
City Administrator Joe Hoffman explained the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency does not currently list the POP site as contaminated, so it is not eligible for clean-up funding at this time. The tanks will need to be removed; part of that process is taking/testing soil samples. The process must be supervised by a certified/licensed petroleum company. If contamination is found, the MPCA must be notified. Once the site is declared to be contaminated, it will be eligible for Petrofund money which will pay 90% of the clean-up expense.
Three options were presented to deal with the blighted/tax forfeited property, which included doing nothing, letting the site be cleaned up in tax forfeiture, or letting the county declare the site as blighted and allowing the city to acquire it for $1. Hoffman suggested the least risk option is the second option, site cleaned up in tax forfeiture.
This would require the use of some local funds. The city may pay about $6,000 to remove tanks from a property it doesn’t own. In this case clean-up will be paid 100% by the state. It could take two to three years. Eventually, it could be sold as clean by the county.
If the city acquires the tax forfeited property for $1 because it is declared blighted. It would cost the city the $6,000 to remove the tanks and 10% of any clean-up expenses. Once it is declared clean, the city would be free to sell it.
Councilman David Collett asked how much it will cost to tear down and remove the building. Hoffman noted in the second option the city would not be obligated to tear the building down.
Councilwoman Holly Zuck suggested the second option could set a precedent for other like properties to get cleaned up. It was decided to discuss this further at the upcoming EDA meeting. A motion was approved to propose option 2 to the EDA for their discussion. Collett voted no. The issue will likely again be presented at the next council meeting. If a proposal is presented and the city council approves the proposal, the county will also have to approve the proposal.
Other business in brief
• The appointment of Dave Keene as fire chief and Ramon Hernandez as assistant fire chief was approved as recommended by the fire department.
• The hire of Melinda Swartzentruber and Peter Swartzentruber as EMTs was approved as recommended by Ambulance Director Ryan Throckmorton.
• Ilene Edwards requested and received approval for Preston Pop Up Markets to be held on the second Saturday of the month May through October. The markets will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• Gabby Kinneberg explained the old city banners are 15 years old and in need of replacement. The goal of the banners is to welcome people to Preston. She suggested ordering 50 smaller banners for in town and five larger banners to be placed along Highway 52. The Preston Community Fund will donate $3,000 and the fire department will donate $500. The total cost for the banners is $5,198. The council approved paying the balance of $1,698 to participate in the project.
• A resolution was adopted establishing an ordinance for a physically disabled parking zone in the 400 block of Preston St. NW. This will create the requested physically disabled parking spots in front of St. Columban’s Church.
• Ambulance write-offs for 2018 in the amount of $79,883.65 and in the amount of $5,557.83 for 2017 were approved. The write-offs represent the funding gap between the ambulance rates and what private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid will reimburse for a call.
The 2017 unpaid balance write-offs in the amount of $14,885.99 were approved. These are mostly uncollected accounts, but the write-off does not forgive the debt. It represents the outstanding balance of 2017 accounts.
• Fire Department write-offs in the amount of $350 were approved. Like for the ambulance, the amount represents uncollected accounts which doesn’t forgive the debt, but there is acknowledgement that it is unlikely to be collected.
• A donation of $100 was again approved to the post prom committee. This donation has been made in each of the last 10 years.
• The state has not yet completed a survey of the proposed veterans home site. The city’s option to purchase the property expires at the end of February. A motion was approved authorizing staff to extend the option in the purchase agreement for an additional 30 days.
• A common complaint during Trout Days has been the excessive noise from multiple generators. An option to solve the noise problem is to ask the county to allow the city to add outlets on the north side of the courthouse, attaching to the courthouse service. The estimated cost is $9,000. Trout Days committee could contribute $1,000. The council approved up to $4,000 from the city to establish the electrical outlets. There will be a request for the city’s utility to also contribute at least $4,000.
• A liquor license for Dale and Becky Koch/Branding Iron was approved pending a background check.