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Preston City Council Report: Country Hearth Inn TIF bond extended until 2025

Fri, Jul 20th, 2007
Posted in Government

Dan Christianson from F&M Community Bank in Preston asked the City Council to "share the pain" at their regular meeting July 16 in regards to the recent Country Hearth Inn TIF District (Tax Increment Financing) changes.

Christianson explained that in 2000 the state legislature changed how they taxed properties. The changes decreased property tax rates, which then decreased the amount of taxes received for the TIF bonds.

According to Christianson, the taxes received from the Country Hearth Inn TIF bond are down to 64 percent of what they were originally. If the note continues as is, they will be short $124,000 when it is complete. Christianson requested that the city extend the note to the year 2025, at a three percent interest rate, down from seven percent. The council approved the extension, although they have no legal obligation to do so.

Christianson noted that the Park Lane Assisted Living TIF District was written differently when it was created, and the note will continue to receive payments until it expires in 2027. No action needs to be done with that district.

"This is something we have no control over," stated Christianson. "Both projects have been successful. This will stretch it out, but will minimize the loss. This is where the legislature is leaving us."

He added that the two projects, and Pro-Corn as well, would not have gone through without TIF.

Council member Robert Sauer agreed. "I think it's the best we can do in a bad situation. It's the reasonable, and the ethical, thing to do."

Police Department Requests

Police Chief Matt Schultz spoke to the council about a few issues during the meeting. One of the requests involved purchasing a software program for record keeping from USTI (United Systems Technology, Inc.). According to Schultz, the current record-keeping system used is very old and involves a lot of paper work. When doing background checks or other requests, files must be found by hand right now. Rick Dahly had requested a few bids on available programs. The start-up costs for USTI is $3,177, with an annual maintenance fee of $555. Smart System, which is currently used by the County Sheriff's Dept., costs slightly less at $3,000, but the maintenance fees are higher, and go up every year. Schultz added that the county is not happy with the system and is currently looking for a new one. They have not received a bid from the third company they looked into.

"This would allow for uniform record keeping, for background checks, citations and things, instead of a paper trail," stated Schultz. "It electronically files everything."

Mayor Kurt Reicks mentioned that when he worked for the fire department they changed over to electronic filing, and he found that it was well worth the costs.

The police department has some budgetary savings they will be able to contribute, and they are looking for $2,000 from the city. The council gave the go-ahead for them to look at their options, and approved an expenditure of no more than $2,000 for the management software.

Schultz also spoke to the council about the purchase of five bullet-proof vests. According to Schultz, the vests currently in use are 10 years old, and the life expectancy is around 5 years. He has applied for federal and state grants that will pay 100 percent of the costs. Schultz asked the council to pay for the vests out of the general fund until the grant money is received. At $1,200 a vest, the total cost will be $6,000. The council approved, with the amount not to exceed $6,000.

Skateboard Ordinance

Fans of skateboarding in Preston will have to be careful about where they skate downtown. City Administrator Joe Hoffman had a copy of a draft of a new skateboarding ordinance that will prohibit skateboards and scooters in the trailhead area and the courthouse square area. Schultz explained that there have been several property damage and nuisance complaints regarding skateboarders in the downtown area.

"Other than telling them to move on, we have no recourse," said Schultz. He added that most people will move on when told to, and most people who ride skateboards are respectful and cooperative.

"There are a few bad apples causing the problem," said Schultz.

Council member Dave Harrison asked where the kids could go to skate when they are told to move on. He mentioned that Lanesboro constructed a skate park to take care of their skating problems. Sauer stated maybe Preston should look at a skate park as a project in the future.

City Attorney Dwight Luhmann looked at the draft, as well as a copy of Lanesboro's ordinance, and suggested a few minor changes. The council approved the ordinance with the changes made to include scooters. The first offense is a petty misdemeanor with a fine of $25. The second offense has a fine of $50. The third offense is a misdemeanor.

Landscaping Request

Preston resident Cindy Mensink, who lives adjacent to the pool parking lot, has asked the city to put a barrier between her home and the parking lot. The city has put up fences on other properties that are near municipal lots. However, Mensink would like to have a lilac hedge put up instead of a fence. She gave the city two bids for the project, each of them around $2,000. The estimated cost of putting a fence in the same area would be around $450-500.

The hedge would be on private property and would be the responsibility of the owner after it was placed. Sauer noted the considerable cost difference between a fence and a hedge, and the fact that a hedge would take several years to grow.

Mayor Reicks had some concerns about why the request was being made at this time, and the cost of the project. "I think it's more than a city should have to spend on a barrier."

It was decided to have Mensink join a future meeting to discuss these concerns.

Other business

• The council approved the changes made to the Streets and Utility Assessment Policy. One of the changes made involved sidewalk repairs. When there is only a sidewalk on one side of the street, homes on both sides will be assessed.

• Preston resident Frances Galles asked the council if they had considered purchasing the old telephone building for use as a community center. The building is currently for sale at $250,000. Galles stated there is a lot of interest in the town for a community center, and the city could make some money with wedding receptions and other rental opportunities. Reicks told him that two council members would walk through the building and bring their report to the next meeting, which will be July 30.

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