The Preston City Council met July 6 in person in the apparatus bay of the fire hall to accommodate social distancing guidelines. About 20 residents attended to participate in a public hearing concerning the 2021 Street and Utility Project. Owners of over 100 properties could be affected by the proposed improvements. The public hearing portion of the meeting was streamed over YouTube.
City Engineer Brett Grabau detailed the process used to determine the four areas for the 2021 project. The council had received the feasibility report at their June 1 meeting. The estimated cost of the proposed improvements is a little over $3.75 million. Residents that live in the project areas or adjacent to the areas were invited to the public hearing.
The project is to be partially funded with special assessments to be levied on properties adjacent to the improvements. Improvements include not only roadway reconstruction, but also in some areas portions of the trunk water main, sanitary sewer collection system, and storm water systems. Individual water and sewer services may also be replaced. Construction was projected to start in May 2021 and to be substantially completed in the fall of 2021.
The four areas are the Valley St. area (portions of five streets), Five Points (portions of five streets), a portion of Chatfield Ave., and Park Lane. The estimated cost to be borne by the city is almost $2.8 million. The amount to be assessed is estimated to total about $956,000. The estimated assessment total includes 35 sanitary services estimated to cost $2,127 each. Grabau estimated that affected residents will be assessed about $89 per lineal foot. The city’s current assessment policy was put into place in 2007.
The estimated assessed total is just over 25% of the total project costs of the improvements. Grabau answered several questions from the public. He offered to be available after the public hearing to speak with any residents if they have any specific questions concerning their property.
The city has been planning financially for this. City Administrator Joe Hoffman estimated that the improvements will require a 5% property tax increase.
It was explained that there are different options for paying off the assessments. They can be prepaid or can be paid over the life of the bond, most likely over 10 years.
Councilman Robert Maust suggested that the council should consider two possible additional improvements: one block of Preston St., which would complete work on that street and about 300 feet on the north end of Center St. He argued that the city owns property on the east side of Center St., which could be sold for housing development and pay for the improvement to the street.
Mayor Kurt Reicks explained if we were to add to the project now it would require another public hearing. He added he would like to see a development agreement with a developer. He suggested these limited street sections could be done in the next few years without bonding for them. Center St. needs to be realigned. We should see what is developable and see if a developer is willing to work with us.
A motion was made to adopt the resolution ordering improvements and preparation of plans for the 2021 Street and Utility Improvements (as presented). This is required to be approved with a four-fifths majority. Maust voted no. Reicks said he too would vote no, if not a unanimous decision. He insisted “it has to be unanimous; this is a lot of money.” The motion failed on a 3-2 vote.
Reicks said the resolution can be discussed and brought back in a couple of weeks for the council’s consideration.
Other business in brief
•A total of $841 million of federal dollars will be distributed in the state (Coronavirus Relief Fund outlined in the CARES Act to cover expenses incurred due to the pandemic); $467 million to counties, $350 million to cities, and $23 million to towns. Applications have to be submitted by September 15. Funds not expended by November 15 are to be returned. The city of Preston has access to $100,127. There are limitations on how this money can be expended.
•There have been four complaints concerning dust near the Trailhead Inn on Center St. Two quotes were obtained for dust control. The low quote, Calcium Chloride-Freeborn Coop, was approved ($260 Center St. and $300 Cottage Grove Ave. Hill).
•An application submitted by Blossom Hill to the EDA for a COVID-19 emergency loan in the amount of $3,000 was approved as recommended by the EDA.