At the October 16 meeting of the Preston City Council, the clean-up of the Preston Oil (POP) site was again addressed. Over several years, steps have been taken to improve the site.
In 2018 the property went into tax forfeiture. In 2019 the city had the underground tanks removed. The following year the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) began monitoring the site. A mitigation plan has now been reviewed by the MPCA. The mitigation plan does not include the removal of the structure.
City Administrator Ryan Throckmorton noted they have met with the county and have come up with three options, including buying the site at market rate to develop, buying the site for below market rate with conditions for public use, or buying the site as a blighted property at less than market rate to mitigate the blight and to sell for redevelopment.
While the site is in the flood fringe, it is a buildable site. Demolition of the structure is likely to cost about $30,000. This will include asbestos testing (Asbestrol Inc. $600 to $900), asbestos mitigation ($2,000 to $5,000) if there is any, and removal of the structure (Scheevel & Sons $24,970). With the funds already expended to remove the tanks this would bring the total investment from the city to somewhere between $33,500 and $38,500.
City Attorney Dwight Luhmann said the county wants the site cleaned up. The county holds the property in trust for the state. The Minnesota Petrofund will reimburse clean-up costs for soil mitigation, likely including any clean-up necessary under the current structure. If the city expends funds to remove the structure, the city will negotiate the option to purchase the property for $1. The council unanimously voted to direct city staff to negotiate an option agreement with Fillmore County (going forward with the third option to buy the blighted property with the intention to sell for redevelopment).
This will be forwarded to the EDA. The council approved up to $30,000 to be paid out of the EDA Development Fund for demolition of the structure, contingent on an agreement with Fillmore County and EDA approval.
Other Business in Brief
• Two options for use of the VA Home Trail were again discussed, non-motorized use or motorized use. If it is allowed to be used as a motorized trail, it will be necessary to put a new ordinance into place that governs the use of ATVs and golf carts on the trail as well as on city streets. Issues discussed included enforcement, noise and safety.
Mayor Kurt Reicks said the use of motorized vehicles on the trail will be a convenience for people living up near the veterans home. Bruce Hoff said he is retired and has a golf cart. He suggested that he could bring a resident of the home to downtown Preston using the trail on a nice day.
Once an ordinance is drafted it will be appropriate to have a public hearing to get the public’s input. A motion was unanimously approved to plan for a motorized trail. Staff is directed to work on drafting an ordinance that will detail a permitting process, vehicle requirements, hours of use, speed limits, lighting/signage, age requirements and seasonal restrictions.
• Dustin Arndt explained the Fire Relief Association’s request to have a retirement increase of $200 per year. After 10 years of service, a firefighter is vested 50% and each additional year a firefighter is vested an additional 5% up to 20 years when one is fully vested. The current benefit is $1,900 per year and at this rate the account is 143% funded. The increase will keep the account 131% funded. The increase was approved as requested. There is a risk to the city if it becomes underfunded, where the city has to make up needed funds.
• A resolution was adopted for a Fire Relief Association premise permit for conducting lawful gambling at Trout City Brewing.
• The temporary closure of Fillmore St. E parking lot was approved for “Trunk or Treat” on October 31 from 2:30-5 p.m.
• The city council meets next on November 6.