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Preston Council looks at economic development matters

Fri, Dec 6th, 2002
Posted in Features

Joe Hoffman, Executive Director of the SE Minnesota Development Corporation (SEMDC) in Rushford, was before the Preston City Council on Monday night to discuss renewing the contract between his organization and the city of Preston for 2003.The city contracts with SEMDC for the services of Barry Kramer who acts as the Economic Development Authority (EDA) Coordinator. It was the consensus of the council to continue with the contract in 2003, pending approval by the Public Utilities Commission which pays 1/3 of Kramers salary. The 2003 contract with SEMDC calls for Kramer working for the city 11 hours per week at an annual rate of $15,444.Hoffman suggested that the council and the EDA have a joint planning session soon to help lay out priorities and schedules for the EDA Coordinator in 2003.In addition to the contract for professional services, Hoffman briefed the council on the Minnesota Micro-enterprise Technical grant that SEMDC recently received, which allows the agency to make available architectural and engineering services to businesses.Mayor Clarence Quanrud asked Hoffman about the First Home program, inquiring if money was still available. Hoffman responded that the Bluff Country HRA is presently conducting a county-wide housing study, which will help determine need. He also said that money is available if the right developers can be found. I think the hardest problem is finding developers interested in building homes for $130,000, which includes the cost of the lot, Hoffman said. If we can, then down payment assistance and low interest mortgage rates are available.Capital FundWith Hoffman and Kramer at the meeting, the council discussed the possibility of the city joining the Minnesota Community Capital Fund (MCCF). The purpose of the fund is to provide a flexible self-sustaining development loan fund as a financing resource for member projects.Noting that the Regional Revolving Loan Fund administered by SEMDC is limited in the amount of money that can be made available, Council member Jerry Scheevel said that by joining at the $50,000 level city sponsored projects would have the potential to raise $500,000 in financing.Kramer said that the fund is used primarily for secondary loans and gap financing.As soon as the loan is approved, it is sold on the secondary market, Kramer said. This frees up capital to be used again on other projects.The council approved using $50,000 in the Evergreen Fund, money which is restricted for economic development purposes, to fund the citys participation at the class B level ($50,000). Highway 52 ProjectRich Irish of the Preston Motor Mart talked to the council about some design changes he is proposing for entering and exiting his business after the highway is upgraded. MnDOT had proposed earlier that an alley-way north of the Motor Mart between Houston Street and County Road 17 be developed to handle the traffic load into and out of the convenience store. But Irish stated that the setbacks from the street and the right of way from the highway would put limits on what he could do with his property.Irish proposes placing direct access on Houston Street and County Road 17. This will allow Irish to keep his gas pumps where they are and continue to use the front of his building.Irish and Barry Kramer have talked about the proposal with Craig Lens, the engineer from MnDOT who is overseeing the project. According to Kramer, Lens seemed receptive to the changes. The council voiced support for the proposed changes.Other businessThe council voted to hire Helping Minnesota Cities, Inc. to conduct a review of city positions at a cost not to exceed $4,249.66. The firm will update job descriptions, evaluate jobs, for comparable work value, design a city-wide pay structure, and conduct pay equity review.The council authorized Police Chief Matt Schultz to purchase a new radar gun for $1500 as well as a new squad radio for $2200. Schulz told the council that the department is approximately $17,000 under budget for the year.The police department will carry out a study of uncontrolled intersections in the west part of the city. Schultz said that there have been three accidents recently at the intersection of Preston and Houston Streets.

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