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Paynesville Press - February 1, 2006

Council receives Highway 23 letter, passes year-end budget revisions, and discusses ambulance garage

By Michael Jacobson

The Paynesville City Council took the following actions at their meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 25.
*The council briefly discussed a letter from MnDOT District 8 in response to their concerns about speed, aesthetics, and further changes to the proposed Highway 23 project in Paynesville. The letter reiterated that the speed limit will ultimately be determined by a speed study and included reassurances that if MnDOT changes the capacity (from four lanes to two lanes, say), the access (the number of exits and entrances), or location (the right of way to purchase) MnDOT would need to get municipal consent from the city again. Specific design details that do not alter capacity, access, or location would not require approval by the city. (See story on page 1.)

*The council adjusted its 2005 budget based on final year-end figures, as suggested by their auditor. The city's original budget for 2005 called for revenues and expenditures of $1.446 million. According to its year-end totals, the city had expenditures of $1.491 million with revenues of $1.761.

Major expenditure increases were in building inspector fees (due to a number of large projects this year) and purchases of aviation fuel. This was the first full year of airport operation, and receipts from the airport were also up, said city administrator Steve Helget.

The largest revenue increase was the sale of a city lot for $230,000.

*The council continued discussions about the ambulance garage, hearing an estimate from Jerry Mehr of M&M Lumber that just redoing the stucco could cost $50,000. Leaks in the stucco have caused a mold problem inside the building and structural problems.

"The whole building is not in very good shape," said Mehr. "How far do we want to go with an old building?"

For many years, the city has leased the garage to the Paynesville Area Health Care System to house the local ambulance service, and the city council instructed administration to ask PAHCS representatives to come to the next public works committee to discuss the building. PAHCS might be inclined to build their own garage, in which case they might have a need for the current garage until a new one is done.

The fire department might have a need for more space at its fire hall, and if the current ambulance garage is abandoned, expanding the fire hall might be an alternative use for the space.

*The council approved using a 10- to 12-foot boulevard on Washburne Avenue during next summer's street project, as recommended by the public works committee. A dozen of residents on Washburne Avenue had requested a shorter boulevard (six feet), while one resident expressed support for keeping the current sidewalks in the same place and extending the boulevard, the option the council backed.

*The council approved a final payment of $27,676.91 for the 2004 street improvement project to Duininck Brothers, Inc.

*The council approved a retainer agreement with Frauenshuh & Spooner, P.A., calling for a monthly retainer of $400 for reviewing council agenda packets, preparing for council meetings, and attending council meetings plus rates for handling other matters. The city had never had a written agreement with its city attorney before.

*The council approved spending up to $3,500 to repair a main lift pump. Last year, the city repaired its twin for $3,250. Repairing the pump should give it another ten years of life, said public works director Ron Mergen, while a new pump would cost at least $10,000. *The council approved paying a $700 bill to the Paynesville Veterinary Clinic for housing five cats for ten days at $14 per day - the clinic serves as the city pound - on a 4-1 vote, with council member Jeff Bertram, who pulled this item from the consent agenda at the council's previous meeting, voting against it. Police chief Kent Kortlever said the benefits of the Paynesville Veterinary Clinic still warrant using it as the city pound. They are working on a written contract for these services.

The city ordinance, Kortlever added, only requires at-large animals to be kept five days, while animals taken due to cruelty or neglect must be kept for ten days. Most pets are claimed in a few days, said Kortlever, and owners of licensed pets are notified if their cat or dog is caught by police (at night and weekends) or by the public works department (during the day).

Very few feral cats are claimed after being caught, said Kortlever. One suggestion is to put pictures of stray animals on the city's website, he added.

*The council approved a step increase for deputy registrar Alice McColley, after she completed her six-month probation period and her three-month promotion performance review.

*The council approved appointing Alan Habben to the Economic Development Authority of Paynesville board representing PayDelCo.

*The council referred a recommendation from the public works committee to split street lighting costs with developers 50-50 to the planning commission.

*The council approved an invoice of $11.13 from Paynesville Total Entertainment for five blank tapes for the police department. Council member Jean Soine, who owns this business, abstained.

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