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Peterson preps for project planning

By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Nov 15th, 2013
Posted in Peterson Government

As the massive 2014 County 25 project continues to take shape, Peterson is looking to further refine the overall scope of work. The project will contain a new roadway and sidewalks, but could potentially include a water main upgrade, as well as a handful of other items. For the small community, such a project represents a significant impact to residents and business owners and the council is taking a hard look at what is most needed. Last month, the council suggested the formation of a committee of two council members and at least two citizens, especially property owners along route, to “Iron out the scope of the project.”

At the Wednesday, November 13 council meeting, business owners Mike Eidenschenk and Colin Schroeder stepped up to be a part of the committee. Other names were tossed around, as the council attempts to get the best representation of the community, through a handful of people. Once the volunteer committee is determined, the group will work through proposed project details and hopefully bring back recommendations at the December meeting. Also suggested was having project manager Brian Holtz attend the committee meeting to offer input as details are discussed to avoid ruling out items that are required or are most feasible and favorable for the city.

Councilor Dick Lee questioned whether or not grant funding was still being considered for the project. “We might perhaps define the scope of project differently if a grant was available and could include other things. It might even make it more feasible to get grants if certain aspects of the project are included,” said Lee.

While grant funding is certainly a lucrative option for the city, engineers involved with the project have informed the city that there aren’t any available, according to Mayor Jennifer Wood. “It’s possible to get some funding from “Complete Streets” through the state. But, we have to have a plan, something to present. This falls under strategic planning,” noted Wood.

Another key discussion at the meeting was the hiring of a firm to assist the city in that comprehensive planning. Two firms put forth proposals; David Drown Associates and SHE. Both will include basic SWOT analysis, which aims to determine a framework for analyzing the city’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. David Drown Associates, a consultant firm specializing financial planning, offered a $2,000 proposal for the work, plus additional expenses not to exceed $300. SHE, an consulting and engineering firm came in with a $1,300 proposal, plus additional engineering fees should the city go that route.

Councilor Bill Grindland suggested that David Drown Associates may be better suited for the task, based up their past fiscal planning with the firm. Councilor Gail Boyum agreed and Councilor Barry Erickson suggested that if the city is able to secure grant funding, it could easily offset the cost.

The need for a comprehensive plan is clear. “It gives you an ongoing goal of where the city is going,” noted City Clerk Megan Grebe. “It’s a very fluid document that can be updated as things happen.” The council will hold two meetings, of at least four hours, to discuss comprehensive planning with the first meeting to be held in January.

A concern put forth by new Peterson business owner Colin Schroeder, of Turned Write Handcrafted Art, uncovered a discrepancy with the city’s utility fees for new utility customers. Prior to January 2013, the $150 amount was simply a deposit towards utility fees to protect the city from delinquent utility customers. However, new customers from January to November 13 were charged the amount as a non-refundable fee. While many municipalities have fees, as opposed to deposits, it is always significantly less.

“We need to make sure it’s really clear and that we get it written down,” noted Mayor Wood.

The council unanimously approved “flipping” the fee back to a deposit, retroactively to January 2013. New customers will be charged a $150 deposit, $125 of which will be refunded after one year, contingent on there being no delinquency, noted as the 60-day late shut off notice. The $25 amount will be retained for setting up the service. All new customers, who have recorded utility setup payment from January 2013 to November 11, will be reviewed, documented, and refunded if applicable.

The next regularly scheduled meeting is Wednesday, December 11, at 7 p.m., at city hall. The public is encouraged to attend.

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