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Lanesboro at a crossroads with dam project

Fri, Jun 6th, 2014
Posted in Lanesboro Government

Lanesboro City Administrator David Todd spoke to the council recently about their options when it comes to repairing the dam. For several years, the city has been struggling to find money to fund the $2.7 million project in order to save the historical dam.

Todd said they have about 46 percent of the total cost in grant money. They have attempted to have the project placed on the state bonding bill twice to no avail.

“The only option is to bond the rest ourselves or get a loan through the USDA,” said Todd. “Either way, it’s going to be a significant debt load to take on.”

The city needs to decide if they want to move forward with the project, or wait another two years and try for the bonding bill again. If they wait, however, they must start all over with the grant process. One of the grants expires this month, and after that, it’s a “domino effect” as they are all pulled off the table.

Councilor Ceil Allen asked how many times they were going to try for the bonding bill. “I think safety should be our number one priority,” she said. “Can we wait another two years?”

“But where are we going to get $3 million?” asked councilor Tom Smith.

Todd said they have a lot to think about. He said he will have Mike Bubany of David Drown Associates look into some bonding options.

Mayor Steve Rahn said he would like to have some public input.

Audit Report

Jason Boynton from Smith Schafer present the council with the 2013 audit report. He said it was a clean report, with no problems or issues.

Boynton explained the city received $433,417 from the tax levy, with LGA (Local Government Aid) making up 12 percent of the total revenues. The LGA amount has remained the same for a few years.

General governmental expenditures remained about the same at $156,365. Public safety expenditures were at $267,465, which includes ambulance, fire, and police. This does not include the purchase of a new ambulance. The public works expenditures went from $198,380 in 2012 to $278,747 due to the storm sewer project.

In Culture and Recreation, Buffalo Bill Days revenues totaled $36,888, with expenditures coming to $38,000. The general fund was $104,124 over budget due to the storm sewer project, and the fire department and ambulance expenditures increased.

As for the reserve funds, there is $184,470 in unassigned funds, which is 27 percent of total expenditures. Boynton said the state likes to see between 30-50 percent of expenditures set aside in reserves, so that is something the city needs to keep an eye on.

There is $92,758 built up from the sales tax, which is set aside for future infrastructure improvements.

Debts are being paid off in a timely manner, and two bonds were paid off in 2013.

Public Utilities

Theresa Coleman from the Public Utilities Commission updated the council on their recent meeting. She said the 700 block of Kenilworth has drinking water again, and the well drilling is continuing as scheduled. She also stated it looks as though the electric rates will be increasing.

Councilor Tom Smith asked Colemen about Mediacom using the city’s electric poles for their lines, and asked if they were paying the city as franchise fee. Coleman said they are not paying anything. Smith suggested they look into charging something for the use of the poles.

Coleman also mentioned the lease of a new backhoe. The Public Utilities Commission had approved their half of the cost. The old backhoe is around eight years old, according to Street Supervisor Andy Drake, and they are starting to have some issues. Public Utilities and the city would each have to pay $22,500 for the three-year lease after trade in. Drake said this is a good deal on the expensive piece of equipment. The council approved.

Street Vacation

Dan Anderson, developer of Church Hill condominiums, approached the council again about the city vacating 17 feet of land on the east side of the property. The property line goes through the middle of his parking lot, and he would like to have it paved.

At the previous meeting, Anderson was told he would need the signatures of all the property owners in the condominium for the petition to vacate the street. Anderson provided the signatures, and he also got a legal description of the property.

City Attorney Tom Manion found out that Anderson not only needed the signatures of the owners of all units, if a condo was owned by joint owners, as in a husband and wife, he would need two signatures from that unit. Anderson needed to have a majority of all property owners on the signature list in order for the petition to be valid.

Anderson wasn’t sure how many units were owned by joint owners, so he had to do some research to be sure he had enough signatures. When he brings back the petition, a public hearing can be scheduled.

DNR Lease

The Chamber of Commerce building has been home to the DNR offices for several years. A 30-year lease that was paid to the city is up this year, and the city and the DNR are negotiating a new one. The previous lease was paid in advance and came out to around $160 per month. Since that lease has been in effect, the DNR offices have moved from the original location at the museum to the smaller office at the Chamber.

Todd said he spoke with a lease specialist from the DNR, and they offered to pay $5 per square foot. Todd said this comes out to $120 a month. They also want utility payments included in that, and would like new carpet installed.

Todd spoke with Manion, who suggested he check around for the cost of leasing similar offices, and he found the minimum amount paid was $400 per month. He wrote a letter offering a price of $15 per square foot plus utilities, which would come out to around $300 per month on a five-year lease.

“We want to maintain our relationship with the DNR, but we don’t want to lose the farm doing it,” said Todd. He is still awaiting a response on his offer.

HPC district expansion

Todd explained the Heritage Preservation Commission was in the final phase of the district expansion, and they had received two proposals. One was from Tom Zahn, who had done the background and historical work for the expansion, and the other was from AWH in Spring Valley, owned by Alex Hacker.

Todd said the HPC was recommending they go with AWH even though his proposal was $1,200 higher. They were not pleased with some of the work Zahn did in the past, and felt more confident in AWH. After a grant of $4,350, the cost would be $3,200.

Councilor Tom Smith asked what the value was of expanding the district. Todd explained the businesses will get tax credits and have access to grant money once they are included in the district.

The council approved the contract.

Alley Repairs

The alley between Tom Manion’s law office and the Pastry Shoppe has had some water drainage issues causing damage to the buildings. Manion explained the water has been running right up to the building and seeping down into the foundation, causing serious damage to the brick. The contractor will put a trough in near the buildings so the water will drain down away from the building. The bid was accepted at $4,800.

Liquor License

An on-sale wine license was approved for Mrs. B’s Historic Lanesboro Inn. New owners Trish Capua and Matthew Vedder said they would like to offer their guests a bottle of wine or beer. They would also like to sell gift baskets with wine bottles.

“It enhances the whole experience of being a B&B,” said Vedder.

Vaccination Policy

Todd wondered if the city should have a policy regarding the Hepatitis B vaccine, which is required for the ambulance crew members. Because it is a requirement, the city has always covered this cost. Mayor Rahn didn’t feel the need to make a policy, but said the city will continue to pay.

Chamber Weed-Up

Councilor Ceil Allen said the Chamber is looking for volunteers for the upcoming Weed-Up on June 11. If anyone is interested, they should go to the Chamber office for a bag, choose a space, and start pulling up weeds.

“We want the city to look good for Art in the Park,” said Allen. She added they are also looking for volunteers to water flower baskets on the weekends.

Other Business

Ambulance director Lee Peterson informed the council of a $500 donation from Southeast Minnesota Hog Chapter, a Harley Davidson group that donates money to area Emergency Medical Services every five years.

The council approved reserving two parking spaces at the St. Mane Theater for Over the Back Fence.

A fishing permit was approved for the Fillmore County Development Center fundraiser.

The council approved a renewal of the copy machine lease. The city received a trade-in incentive with an update to color for a dollar more per month.

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