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Preston looking at community gardens

Fri, May 22nd, 2009
Posted in Government

Councilman Jon Haugan encouraged the establishment of community garden plots at the city's May 18 meeting. He explained the gardens could be helpful for people that lack their own space for a garden during this time of economic woes. Haugan added, "It is a way for the city to give back to the community." City Administrator Joe Hoffman said Master Gardener Laverne Paulson is willing to act as an advisor.

Hoffman suggested they make twelve 20 foot by 20 foot plots by the skating rink near the fair grounds. He expects it would cost about $200 annually to maintain the garden plots. Each plot would be rented out for $20. Hoffman said the city would rent a tiller to work the ground. The plot rent would help pay for the city's out-of-pocket expenses.

The council voted to approach the Park Board to see if they would manage the gardens. Hoffman remarked there already has been interest in renting plots.

2008 Audit

Tom Wente from Smith-Schafer and Associates, Rochester, summarized the city's finances. He noted that the general property tax levy makes up 28% of the total government revenue for 2008. The Local Government Aid (LGA) decreased by $46,927 or 9% from 2007 to 2008. Property taxes and LGA are the largest sources of city revenue.

Joe Hoffman commented Preston is in the middle when compared with about 800 other cities in the amount of funds they have in reserve compared to the general fund expenditures. He noted it is also about in the middle when ranked with similar sized cities as to the amount of debt.

The city is servicing three bonds (2003, 2005, and 2007) totaling over $1 million. All debt service payments have been made on a timely basis. All revenue bonds which are paid through utility payments have all had timely payments.

The audit was approved as presented. Hoffman complimented Sheila Marzolf for her accounting work. Very few adjustments were made by the auditor.

Other Business In Brief

• Lease and maintenance agreements were approved by the council for the historic school house. The Fairboard is willing to basically give the school house to the city. The Preston Historical Society (PHS) will be responsible for its maintenance. The PHS will use it as an interpretive center. The city will lease the building and provide property insurance coverage and liability insurance.

City Attorney Dwight Luhmann explained it would be a 25 year lease ($1 per year) with an option to renew for an additional 25 years. Any improvements will be the responsibility of the PHS. Hoffman expects the insurance will be a minimal cost to the city.

• A Premise Permit was approved for the Serviceman's Club for pull-tab gambling. The Club will take over operation of the pull-tabs from Maple Leaf Services.

• The Minnesota Department of Public Safety has been leasing the city council room on Fridays for written tests and road testing. The lease rate is $1,040 per year. City Attorney Luhmann suggested some language be changed in the lease to better protect the city before renewing the lease. The council voted to have him amend the language.

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