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Paynesville Press - January 4, 2006

City council covers heavy agenda

By Michael Jacobson

The Paynesville City Council took the following actions at their meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 28.

*The council discussed the proposed Highway 23 improvement project for 40 minutes and agreed sending a letter to the MnDOT District 8 Office (Willmar), thanking them for the interchange at the west end of Paynesville and expressing concerns about speed, keeping a budget for amenities in the project, and making sure that a bypass is four lanes. (See related story.)

*The council corrected the minutes from their Wednesday, Dec. 14, concerning a motion to rescind the city ordinance prohibiting motorists from crossing double yellow lines to park in downtown Paynesville. The council minutes, as did the Press story on Wednesday, Dec. 21, reported that motion to rescind the ordinance as failing on a 4-1 vote, as Mayor Jeff Thompson had announced at the meeting.

Council member Jeff Bertram said that he recalled the vote being different, and council member Tom Lindquist, who seconded the motion to rescind, confirmed that he had voted to rescind the ordinance, along with Bertram. The motion failed with council member Jean Soine, Thompson, and council member Dennis Zimmerman voting against the motion (to keep the prohibition on crossing double yellow lines to park).

*The council discussed the proposed expansion of the Industrial Park with representatives of PayDelCo and the land owners. PayDelCo informed the city that they were not interested in pursuing the project as a partnership with the city for four reasons. First, the proposed costs - to purchase the land ($190,000) and to add infrastructure (estimated at $490,000) - would require lots to be sold at $150,000 per lot (whereas, PayDelCo currently has three lots for sale at $40,000 each). Second, the limited amount of usable land for the Industrial Park (of the 64 acres in the parcel, two-thirds lie north of the Crow River and would not be developed). Third, the parcel has an easement for a gas line, which PayDelCo was not aware of. And, fourth, were concerns about clean up of the old city dump.

The first three concerns were paramount, PayDelCo president Pat Flanders told the council. PayDelCo thought there would be more land available and didn't want their limited assets tied up for a long time.

PayDelCo is still interested in assisting with the project, added Flanders, but they have concluded that the best use of the land would be to find a single industrial user who would have need for the entire section, roughly 20 acres, south of the river. This would minimize the utility costs needed for development.

The city council agreed to tell the owners, the Ampe brothers, represented at the meeting, to look for another buyer with the knowledge that the city and PayDelCo would be interested in helping develop the property to industrial uses. A possible use for the northern part would be as a park, they added, and suggested that the Ampes contact the Ferches, who are developing land north of Paynesville and would have need for park space. Peter Ampe, though, said that they had contacted the Ferches, who had no interest in their property.

Lance Louis, another PayDelCo board member, said it was personally disappointing that this project was not feasible as currently planned. Another option, he said, would be to buy the property and sit on it until they could find an industrial user for the entire portion south of the river. The door is not shut, he stressed, as the last thing that Industrial Park businesses want is to come back to the city and explain reasons why residential housing next to industrial is a bad idea.

The proposal for the city and PayDelCo to jointly pursue this project came about after the city council gave a verbal rejection to a proposal to develop this parcel as residential. Since the city has said no to residential, this could only come about as residential housing in the township, where the parcel is currently located, said Thompson.

*The council approved an application to have the Minnesota Design Team revisit Paynesville. The design team originally came to Paynesville in 1990, and as a result of their visit the following items have been built: a new municipal airport, the area center, new community signs, and the Crow River Nature Park and the Lake Koronis Recreational Trail. A revisit is especially needed in view of the impact of a new Highway 23, the application states. The hope is that the Minnesota Design Team will revisit Paynesville in 2006.

City administrator Steve Helget said the committee that prepared this application has met every other week this fall and done a great job. Members are: Harlan Beek (trail committee); Todd Burlingame (school district); Maurice Dosdall (Lions Club); Helget (city); Keith Hemmesch (public works); Mary Janotta (EDAP); Lance Louis (Chamber of Commerce); vice chair Bob McDaniel (downtown enhancement); Pat Meagher (Paynesville Township); Pastor Dave Nelson (ministerial association); chair Dan Roberts (planning commission); Soine (city council); Bill Spooner (charitable trust); Bert Stanley (airport commission); Bevery Stowell (Paynesville Area Center); and Karen Whitcomb (Paynesville Area Health Care System).

*The council discussed the status of Quality Checked Plastics, which is storing a large pile of plastics outside in the Industrial Park. Another issue with Quality Checked is discharge of plastic particles, which are not biodegradable, into the city sewer system.

City attorney Bill Spooner told the council that outdoor storage probably is allowed by city ordinances and that the real problem is that Quality Checked does not contain these items to their property. The city would have several options to enforce a clean up, but it needs to research the matter. Any violations in the meantime should be documented by the city, Spooner added. Bertram told the council that Quality Checked had not been able to sell its St. Cloud property, which would have freed company capital for its Paynesville plant. Bertram said Quality Checked may now try to sell its Paynesville property.

Mergen said the city's contract with Quality Checked for sewer services expires in March 2006. If the city wishes to shut off the water to Quality Checked - thus preventing discharges into the sewer system - this would be the time to do it.

*The council was informed that the city had received written notification that its local initiative funding application to MnDOT District 3 - for a stormwater project on Service Road - has been denied. The letter states that MnDOT had projects of higher merit and considers the primary drainage issues on Service Road to be related to local zoning and land use, not runoff from Highway 55.

The city wants to correct a flooding problem on Service Road and had prepared the application in an effort to get funding from MnDOT for a portion of the runoff coming from Highway 55.

Public works director Ron Mergen told the council that he and new city engineer Chuck DeWolf have some ideas to solve the problem, which they will bring to the public works committee. One temporary was to try and keep snowmobilers from driving across the drain and plugging it with packed snow and ice, but MnDOT doesn't want any hazards in their right of way, Mergen told the council.

Whatever solution they devise will need MnDOT's approval to work in their right of way.

Bertram, disappointed by MnDOT's denial, said one idea would be to build a berm to keep in city runoff out of the ditch and keep the highway runoff in it. MnDOT then might see a greater need.

*The council accepted receiving three annual payments from Paynesville Township, starting in 2006, for $21,445.91 that the city overpaid the township for reimbursement of annexed property. The city reimburses the township for property annexed to the city for a specified number of years. The city identified an overpayment based on their using the total taxes on the property not just the township's share.

The city had notified the township board of the overpayment, and the township requested making three annual payments, deducting further due amounts.

*The council approved clarifying its personnel evaluation process, after getting advice from the League of Minnesota Cities. Under the policy, members of the personnel committee can review all performance evaluations of employees for the past four years. This will always be done at city hall, said Soine, a member of the personnel committee, and only for evaluations.

The council also adopted these reasons for the policy: to clarify the personnel committee's authority to review performance evaluations; to use the performance evaluations of employees when evaluating the performances of the city administrator and other department heads with supervisory responsibilities; and to allow new committee members to be able to review evaluations for historic perspective of staff performances during performance evaluations and for addressing disciplinary issues.

*The council was notified that the personnel committee had completed an evaluation of city administrator Steve Helget, including the individual evaluations completed by each council member.

*The council set a special meeting to meet with county and state representatives on Tuesday, Jan. 31, at 6 p.m.

*The council set a special meeting to set 2006 goals and objectives and to establish a city mission statement on Tuesday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m.

*The council approved two on-sale liquor licenses, $3,000 apiece, for 2006: Paynesville American Legion Post #271 and Queen Bee's Bar & Grill, Inc.

*The council approved 11 cigarette licenses, at $25 each, for 2006: Casey's General Store, Corner Drug, H&L Express, J&J Foods, Inc., Jim's Standard Service, Inc., Koronis Lanes, Paynesville American Legion Post #271, Paynesville Farmers Union Co-op Oil Company, Paynesville Municipal Off-Sale Liquor, Paynesville SuperValu, and Queen Bee's Bar & Grill, Inc.

*The council approved a one-year lease of half the tee hangar garage to Paul Hoppe of Tail Wind Aviation effective Jan. 1, 2006. Hoppe will rent half the garage for $30 per month, sharing the garage with the courtesy car. The lease automatically renews, unless either party gives notice within 60 days of the renewal of their desire to terminate the lease.

*The council approved changing its capitalization, setting a dollar amount, useful life, and depreciation method for the capitalization of assets as recommended by their auditor. The city did not change its actual policy, but it did update its list of capital assets, extending the policy of listing assets by depreciable years to sewage treatment equipment, water treatment equipment, and irrigation equipment.

*The council tabled again a proposal to change its zoning ordinance to allow the splitting of unplatted land in the city. The council had also tabled this item at their first meeting in December, requesting to know the pros and cons.

The proposed ordinance amendment would allow the splitting of unplatted land only to correct a boundary dispute at the discretion of the city council.

Flanders, a local real estate agent, told the council that this type of provisionwas very common and that Paynesville was uncommon for not having it. (The city ordinance does allow for lot splits to correct boundary disputes in platted land.) Flanders asked if the council really needed to have the specific authority to grant these, rather than delegating it to administration or to a committee.

*The council approved paying for any council member and for Helget to attend the Paynesville Area Chamber of Commerce's annual banquet on Tuesday, Jan. 10.

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