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Preston debates purchase of derelict properties

Fri, Aug 9th, 2013
Posted in Preston Government

The old POP gas station is located on the corner of St. Paul Street SW and Mill Street SW. Photo by Karen Reisner

Cathy Enerson, Preston EDA, presented details at the Preston City Council’s August 5 meeting for a possible land acquisition of three parcels. The potential purchases would be to further the EDA’s efforts to clean-up dilapidated properties near the Root River in Preston. Councilman David Harrison was absent.

The three parcels include the Hellickson rental house on Mill Street SW which could be purchased for $1,500 and the Preston Oil Products (POP) old gas station at the corner of St. Paul Street SW and Mill Street SW and the bulkhead tank area near the trailhead for a combined price of $3,000. The Preston EDA recommended the purchase of the three parcels for a total of $4,500 with Robert Maust voting against.

Enerson insisted that by removing the run down structures and cleaning up the property, there would be an opportunity for commercial development. In the end the intention would be to sell the properties for commercial development. She added that the present condition of the structures discourages business development in the area.

Councilman Robert Maust approved of purchasing the residential property, but was concerned about the potential expense for the city if the POP property was found to be contaminated when the underground tanks are removed.

Enerson said the properties could be kept as green space until redevelopment could occur. She said they could go into a voluntary clean-up program to get the ground tested. If clean-up cost as much as $50,000 with a cost share program, the city’s maximum exposure would be $12,500. Enerson explained the first issue would be to remove the tanks. The city would have a year to have the tanks removed after purchase. There are funds in the EDA budget to purchase the properties and to remove the tanks. She noted that since there has been considerable flooding in the area, any pollution may already have dissipated.

Mayor Kurt Reicks suggested the POP is probably the worst looking building downtown and that they have been talking about cleaning it up for years. He said why would you clean up the residential parcel with the dilapidated station still standing next to it. Maust maintained there are too many unknowns as to what the cost will be to clean up a brownfield area. He suggested letting it go to the state for non payment of taxes which could potentially be years from now.

Reicks said if we want the POP site cleaned up, the city will have to do it. He added it will be a buildable property as it is in the floodway, not flood plain.

A motion was made to negotiate a price to purchase the residential property and the bulkhead tank area. The POP and the bulkhead tank area are owned by a corporation. Enerson said there is no guarantee they would sell without the POP.

2014 Street Projects, Call for Public Hearing

Brett Grabau, Stantec, presented the feasibility study for the street reconstruction and utility improvements planned for 2014. The streets included in the fire hall area are portions of River Street, Main Street, Houston Street, Franklin Street, Washington Street, Preston Street, North Street, Spring Street, and Winona Street. Streets in the South Hill Area will included Matthew Street, Russell Street, and Judy Lane.

Grabau explained that curb and gutter will be replaced where necessary. There are a lot of water main and sanitary sewer improvements needed as well as improvements in storm sewers and catch basins. Most of the streets will be slightly reduced in width to 32 feet which is consistent with a residential road way.

The total estimated cost of the improvements is $3,295,754.07 which includes engineering expenses. About 26.9 percent of the total cost could be assessed or about $800,000. The city will be responsible for about $2.1 million and the city utility will be responsible for about $1.2 million.

The council unanimously adopted a resolution that calls for a public hearing at 6p.m. on September 3 and accepted the feasibility report. If the project were to go forward the next step would be to authorize plans and specifications. Construction could start in May of 2014 and be completed substantially by October 2014.

City Administrator Joe Hoffman offered some figures as to how this large of project will be paid for. He noted that the total project will be less than two miles of street. Hoffman said it can cost close to $2 million per mile to totally reconstruct a street. The bonding that would be needed to pay for the project will lead to a significant tax increase through 2020, roughly five percent per year.

Hoffman made it clear that tax rates will go up. He added that fortunately Preston’s utility rates are low compared to other cities in the area. Utility rates and tax rates give a more accurate picture of the cost of living in a particular city. The whole community will be faced with increased property taxes and those with improvements will have assessment costs.

Maust noted that only about 2.5 percent of the property tax increase will be due to the 2014 project, as the rest will be inflation or normal increases.

Other Business In Brief

•John Goos from Stryker EMS demonstrated the Stryker Power cot. He said the power cot will drastically reduce back injuries suffered by EMS personnel which are caused by lifting patients. The power cot can lift up to a 700 pound patient. Ambulance director Ryan Throckmorton said the cot can reduce the need for more on call staff for lifting assistance for larger patients. The power cot costs $11,696 with $1,500 for an expandable patient surface for larger patients.

A video was shown demonstrating a Lucas 2 CRP device which is used to give mechanical, consistent chest compressions. This too would reduce the need for additional staff. Throckmorton explained that giving CPR is physically and mentally exhausting for the EMT.

Throckmorton said they expect on call revenue of $21,000 over and above budgeted expenses. He added that he will continue working on grants for more equipment. The council approved the purchase of one Lucas 2 CPR and one Stryker Power cot. They will be used in the primary ambulance.

•John Goutcher, Preston Lion’s Club, noted their interest in partnering with the city to purchase four garbage cans to be located around the city square. The idea will be discussed at this month’s Lion’s Club meeting. He suggested they would like their logo on the garbage cans, “Preston’s Lion’s Club, We Serve.” The trash receptacles are being fabricated by Preston Iron Works for $575 each.

•Approval was given to adopt Law Enforcement Technology Group (LETG) web-based records management system. The city will connect with Fillmore County which has approved implementing the system. The city’s cost is $2,350.99.

•Hoffman reported a problem during the wet spring where water showed up on the floor of the city council room. He said that paving an area in the front of the building on the corner side of the library entrance and sloping that pavement toward the street could solve any future problem. No action was taken. He will get a quote for paving the area and bring it back at a later date.

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